To download the full Yale Report, and for links to other commentaries and reactions, please go to the bottom of this page.
The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel has issued its sweeping report: the first in nearly 30 years to comprehensively examine Canada’s communications system.
With Canada’s print and broadcast media facing extinction at the hands of unregulated digital competitors like YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix, FRIENDS had high expectations. And the panel, led by former Telus executive Janet Yale, did not disappoint.
The report’s title says it all: Canada’s communications future: it’s time to act. Yale and her esteemed colleagues accurately captured the crisis wracking Canadian media, and they called on the government to act urgently to preserve Canadian voices in print, on air, and online.
But with 97 recommendations spanning 235 pages, it can be tough for non-specialists to grasp the full weight of what this seminal report is proposing. So I thought it would be helpful to distill the report’s findings into six simple principles. But first, some context.
Why do we need this report?
Canadian media, both private and public, are in free fall. We’ve lost more than 16,000 journalists since 2016. More than 250 media outlets have closed. Just last year, there were layoffs and restructurings at CBC, CTV, Torstar, The Globe and Mail, La Presse, and Groupe Capitales Médias, to name just a few.
There are many reasons for this downturn, but the main culprit is the flight of advertising revenue away from traditional media in favour of online platforms like Google and Facebook. When it comes to entertainment, we must also factor in the flight of subscription revenues. Canadian streaming services like Crave are competing with foreign giants like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Disney who pocket sales taxes, pay no income taxes, and have no obligation to finance Canadian content.
The heart of the problem are the laws and policies that perpetuate this disadvantage. Netflix doesn’t sidestep sales taxes because it is a criminal enterprise. They do it because the government allows them to.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of sovereignty: will Canada govern the Canadian digital economy according to our democratically-determined laws and rules, or will we continue to allow foreign digital behemoths like Google and Facebook to impose their rules, morals, and standards on us?