The CRTC’s 1999 order also exempts streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney from quotas for broadcasting Canadian content and funding its creation.
The Trudeau government came to power in the 2015 election, which saw all parties shy away from what the Conservatives called a "Netflix tax."
After years of coaxing web giants into voluntarily funding Canadian content, the Liberals say they now plan to beef up the rules for streaming services and social media.
However, the government is waiting for an international report to be finalized this summer on how countries can levy taxes on global Internet giants.
The Liberals have parked an election pledge to implement a three per cent tax on large online firms’ advertising and data sales.
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault promised last month his government will "quickly modernize pre-Internet laws so that web giants can offer more Canadian content, contribute to its creation, promote it and make it easier to find," though he did not say how.
The government is also set to receive a massive report on overhauling the Broadcasting Act and telecommunications rules.
That years-long review should include suggestions for updating the CBC’s 1991 mandate, which doesn't provides any guidance to the broadcaster on how it should operate online.
In any case, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter for Guilbeault included a task to "strengthen the regional mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada to broadcast more local news" and require CBC to share more digital content with journalism start-ups and community newspapers.
Guilbeault told the news site iPolitics last month that Ottawa will put up the cash to have CBC hire more local-news reporters.
Bernhard said he’s encouraged that the Liberals are shoring up the CBC’s regional offerings.
But he said Ottawa would have more cash to give the CBC if it passed simple regulations to fold web giants into existing CRTC rules, and tax them like any other company.
He feels Ottawa needs to rethink how it funds the CBC, instead of forcing the network to keep up various attempts to turn a profit, especially in the crowded English-language TV market.
"They keep failing. This approach of trying to be commercial, to then get the revenue, to then finance the public-service mission — it's not working, and it hasn’t worked for 30 years," Bernard said.
"CBC is really at a crossroads."
© Winnipeg Free Press