Ian Scott to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
May 31, 2022
Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Thank you, Madam Chair, for inviting us to appear before your Committee today.
With me today are:
- Scott Hutton, Chief of Consumer, Research and Communications
- Sheehan Carter, Director General of Strategic Policy, and
- Rachelle Frenette, General Counsel and Deputy Executive Director of Legal Services.
We are pleased to appear before the Committee to speak about the need for Bill C-11.
The modernization of Canada’s Broadcasting Act is long overdue. Created in the early 1990s, the Act was a product of its time. It fostered the creation of a series of tools that were appropriate for the public-policy goals of the day, namely to protect and encourage the development of Canada’s broadcasting system. In the walled garden this system created, Canadian films, music and television programs were given the opportunity to flourish.
I don’t have to tell you how that reality has changed with the Internet. Those goals supported by the Broadcasting Act and the tools it created became less relevant as Internet technology embedded itself deeper into the homes, and onto the phones of Canadians.
As regulators of the broadcasting system, we paid close attention to these changes. We judged these changes were complementary – rather than detrimental – to Canada’s broadcasting system, while we continued to keep a closer eye on the trends and innovations those technologies created.
Each passing year brought new changes in the system, giving Canadians the welcome ability to consume content in new ways. Digital platforms have created – and continue to create – opportunities for Canadian artists and content producers, but also challenges, particularly for traditional media.
In 2018, at the request of the government, we conducted an in-depth study of this environment and issued our report, Harnessing Change. In it, we laid bare a simple truth: Canadians will rely increasingly on the Internet to discover and consume music, entertainment, news and other information in the coming years.
Our report therefore recommended that future policy approaches should:
- focus on the production and promotion of high-quality content made by Canadians that can be discovered by audiences in Canada and abroad,
- ensure that all players benefitting from the Canadian broadcasting system participate in an appropriate and equitable manner, and
- be sufficiently nimble to enable the regulator to adapt rapidly to changes in technology and consumer demand.
We made similar recommendations to the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.
All of which brings us to Bill C-11, which the CRTC views as a much-needed piece of legislation. More effective tools, such as those proposed in Bill C-11, are needed to ensure Canadian stories and music can be enjoyed by audiences in Canada and across the globe.
In our view, the Bill proposes three important things
First, C-11 builds on the existing Broadcasting Act to clarify the CRTC’s jurisdiction regarding online broadcasters. It would give the CRTC new regulatory powers to deal with online broadcasting services, including non-Canadian ones.
Second, it would give us a more flexible approach to regulation. The current Broadcasting Act does not specify how traditional players in the Canadian broadcasting system must contribute to the Act’s policy objectives. Bill C-11 would allow us to make that determination as it regards online broadcasters and put in place the regulatory frameworks to support those goals.
Finally, it would modernize the CRTC’s enforcement powers. Although the Telecommunications Act allows us to impose administrative monetary penalties to address non-compliance, no such provisions exist in the Broadcasting Act.
Madam Chair, the need for modernization of the Broadcasting Act has only become more urgent.
Once Bill C-11 receives Royal Assent, we will immediately start work to develop a new regulatory framework for the broadcasting system. We do not intend to apply the traditional regime to the digital environment.
The CRTC has been regulating the broadcasting sector for over 50 years. Over that time, we have established policies that have nurtured and guided a system that has supported a world-class music industry and television production sector.
It does not matter whether content is accessed over the air, through cable and satellite companies or now over the Internet. We will do as we always do to ensure the evolving needs of Canadians are being met. We will hold public consultations, build public records that are as complete and representative of diverse views as possible and issue evidence-based decisions in the public interest.
There is one issue, in particular, that has attracted some attention, and that is user-generated content. In our view, Bill C-11 draws a distinction between the users of social media and the platforms themselves, and its intent is to exclude individual users, often referred to as digital creators, from regulation. Our powers would include requiring that social media platforms support the development of Canadian programs, make content discoverable and accessible to persons with disabilities. Beyond that, our powers to regulate social media platforms would be limited by Bill C-11.
Madam Chair, honourable members, I have spoken about the necessary changes proposed in Bill C-11. While we are supportive of the Bill and its aims, we believe that there is always room for improvement. There are some areas of the legislation that are good ideas in principle, however, they would not be easy for the CRTC to implement and could create unintended consequences. We would be pleased to further explain our concerns during our appearance today.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. We would be pleased to answer your questions regarding Bill C-11.
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