OTTAWA, Nov. 3, 2020 - Watchdog group FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is raising serious concerns that changes to the Broadcasting Act, which are supposed to bring Big Tech into line, are woefully inadequate. After having high hopes that the government would implement crucial recommendations from the Yale report, FRIENDS is calling out what appears to be the government's continued deference to foreign media companies like Facebook and Netflix, whose interests are well-served by this bill.
"This bill is bad for Canadian media and for Canadian democracy, but it is great for Facebook, Google and Netflix", said FRIENDS' Executive Director Daniel Bernhard. "It is clear that the Liberals have capitulated to these platforms and their lobbyists. These companies can continue to operate in Canada and make billions here tax free, and contribute precious little to Canadian culture and society."
Also missing from the bill was any mention of the Liberals' election promise to buttress CBC local services.
FRIENDS is highlighting that Netflix and their ilk will be able to send their lobbyists to negotiate personalized deals with the CRTC, in secret. The CRTC will have no obligation to regulate them, but will be able to do so at their discretion. Penalties for non-compliance are minimal.
FRIENDS is also concerned by the fact that multiple sections of the Broadcasting Act have been repealed or amended to remove protections for Canadian culture. For example, the bill moves from mandating "maximum or predominant use" of Canadian creative resources to using Canadian resources "to the extent that it is appropriate." It also removes language that the broadcasting system should be owned and controlled by Canadians, opening the door to foreign companies to buy up what's left of Canada's traditional broadcasting system.
Finally, FRIENDS was disturbed to read that the bill appears to explicitly exempt companies like Facebook and YouTube from liability for illegal content they broadcast and recommend. Facebook and YouTube can continue to allow violent events, like the Christchurch massacre, to stream on their platforms without any consequences.
"This bill bakes Big Tech's interests into law while scrubbing out Canada's interests," adds Bernhard. "The Liberal government appears to have surrendered to Big Tech without even a fight, at the direct expense of Canadian culture and journalism."
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