The Online News Act: Next Steps
GATINEAU, July 10, 2023
The Online News Act received royal assent on June 22, 2023. The legislation requires that digital platforms that make news available and have a strategic market dominance bargain fairly, and in good faith, with Canadian news businesses for the use of their news content on their services.
The Online News Act levels the playing field between news businesses and large digital platforms to enhance fairness and contribute to the sustainability of the news sector. It encourages voluntary commercial agreements between platforms and news businesses with minimal government intervention. It includes several safeguards to preserve the independence of the press.
Obligations under the Online News Act will come into effect no later than 180 days after June 22, 2023, the day Bill C-18 received Royal Assent. When elements of the Act come into effect will depend on regulations from the Governor in Council (GIC), and the implementation of processes by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
The GIC, on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, can make regulations regarding which digital platforms the Act applies to and how the CRTC interprets the criteria in the Act for platforms to obtain an exemption from mandatory bargaining and final offer arbitration.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to propose regulations that would:
- Establish a financial threshold for contributions to sustainability of the Canadian news marketplace, outlined in subparagraph 11(1)(a)(vi) of the Act. The threshold would be based on a platform’s estimated Canadian revenues and would be specific to each platform and their position within the news marketplace.
- Reaffirm language from the Act that non-monetary offerings to news organizations, such as training or other products, be included in the CRTC’s evaluation of exemption criteria.
- Consider existing agreements that the digital platforms have reached with news businesses, provided that they reflect the criteria outlined in Section 11 of the Act.
- Provide clarity on what constitutes a “significant portion” of independent local news businesses, Indigenous news outlets, and official-language minority community news outlets under subparagraphs 11(1)(a)(v), 11(1)(a)(vii), and 11(1)(a)(viii), respectively.
- Provide more details on the thresholds that fulfill the requirements outlined in section 11 of the Act.
The development of these draft regulations is currently underway. This entails a multi-step process that must be approved by the GIC and conform to the Statutory Instruments Act. Regulations are subordinate to the Online News Act and must conform to the provisions set out in the relevant sections of the Act. They will be published in the Canada Gazette Part I for a public consultation. Stakeholders, interested groups, and Canadians will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations.
At the end of the consultation period, Canadian Heritage will assess the comments provided and prepare a final set of regulations for GIC approval. Following this approval, the final regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette Part II and will come into force on the date prescribed by the regulations.
Once finalized, the regulations will make clear which platforms are captured by the Online News Act and what the agreements negotiated between news businesses and platforms must do to get an exemption.
The CRTC will be responsible for overseeing the Online News Act and has its own regulatory authorities. It is expected to implement the Act. For example, it will clarify the process by which requests for eligibility by news businesses are treated. It will oversee the bargaining, negotiation, and external final-offer arbitration processes between platforms and news businesses. It will create a code of conduct to support fairness and transparency in bargaining and establish processes regarding undue preference or discrimination.
For a more detailed breakdown of the regulatory development process, please review the Treasury Board of Canada’s website for the Policy on Regulatory Development.
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
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