CRTC head talks Bill C-11 before Senate standing committee

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Ian Scott spoke of the strengths in the Online Streaming Act and concerns that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has about it.

A s Bill C-11 moves through the Senate, where it’s now at the second reading, the chairperson and CEO of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has reiterated the proposed legislation’s important elements but also expressed some concerns about it.

Ian Scott spoke about the need for the bill, also known as the Online Streaming Act, to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications last week after C-11 was passed in the House of Commons.

Scott noted “Bill C-11 is not a perfect document” and outlined several areas the CRTC would like to see amended. Among them: that the bill would require the CRTC to afford special procedural rights to English and French linguistic minority communities when making decisions that could adversely affect those groups.

“Although we have always worked hard to support these communities, our view is – and has always been – that no single party is more important than any other when we conduct our work,” said Scott. “The additional steps described in this particular section of Bill C-11 run contrary to 50 years of well-established legal principles and precedent. We therefore recommend the Committee remove this provision.”

Scott also said C-11 has gaps when it comes to the CRTC’s “powers to address certain situations in the traditional broadcasting system and similar situations in the digital environment.”

Furthermore, the CRTC would like to see the bill amended to not only give the Commission the ability to require online broadcasting services to offer Canadian programming services, but that it could also ensure that Canadian programming services are able to gain access to online streaming platforms under fair and equitable terms.

Scott also suggested the Committee remove the requirement that would mandate the CRTC to consult with Canadians and review its regulations and orders every seven years. While the CRTC is wholly supportive of the notion of accountability, a mandated review every seven years would require the Commission to consult with Canadians about every single decision it makes, he noted.

Overall, the modernization of Canada’s Broadcasting Act a “is long overdue” measure that will help Canadian stories reach the globe and “allow the CRTC to respond quicker than ever before to changing market conditions,” said Scott.

He touted three main strengths of the bill: that it would give the CRTC new regulatory powers to deal with online broadcasting services; its ability to give the Commission a flexible approach to regulation; and its attempt to modernize the federal regulator’s enforcement powers.

For the broadcasting industry, C-11 will lead to a new regulatory framework that “will enable the system to better achieve public-policy objectives,” he said.

Scott also addressed ongoing criticism over the subject of user-generated content in the bill. He called it a “misconception” that the Online Streaming Act would give the CRTC regulatory power over user-generated online content, reiterating Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez’s remarks earlier this month that the Commission’s powers under C-11 would not extend to regulating individual users.

Photo courtesy of the Senate of Canada website