Scott Shortliffe to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications


Ottawa, Ontario
May 2, 2023

Scott Shortliffe, Executive Director of Broadcasting
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Check against delivery

Thank you for inviting us to appear before your Committee today.

I am joined today by my colleagues: Dan Pye, Director of News Remuneration, and Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel.

If it receives Royal Assent, Bill C-18, the Online News Act, would establish a framework for digital platforms and news businesses to enter into agreements regarding news content that is made available online.

Those agreements will also need to respect journalistic independence and provide for investments in a diversity of Canadian news outlets. Should parties be unable to reach such an agreement on their own, they may turn to mediation or binding arbitration to resolve the impasse.

Under the scope of the proposed legislation, the CRTC would perform several functions.

Specifically, we would develop, implement and oversee the regulatory framework under which new commercial agreements would be negotiated.

We would also assess which online platforms the Online News Act would apply to and which news businesses are eligible to negotiate under the Act.

We would oversee negotiations and mediations, and create a roster of qualified external arbitrators for final offer arbitration.

We would also establish a code of conduct to support fairness and transparency in bargaining, and we would deal with complaints relating to unjust discrimination, undue preference or undue disadvantage as it relates to the Bill.

Finally, we would engage an independent auditor to publish an annual report on the Act’s impact on the Canadian digital news market.

The CRTC has been preparing for the coming into force of this legislation, should Parliament decide to enact it. We are ready to respond.

We have significant and extensive experience overseeing dispute resolution processes, assessing complaints and enforcing codes of conduct. Mr. Pye, as Director of News Remuneration, is setting up a structure to allow us to perform this work, and dedicated resources from our Legal Services and other areas of the CRTC are assigned to this project.

However, it is important to understand that successfully negotiated agreements won’t happen overnight. The CRTC has a legal duty to gather input from news businesses, platforms and Canadians on how to create this new regime. The CRTC will base its decisions and regulations on the evidence it gathers through public consultations, and that takes time. We will work diligently and quickly, while respecting our obligations.

I would note that in the specific case of C-18, we are being asked to administer a process to help parties reach commercial agreements. We are not being asked to regulate the news industry nor to determine what news Canadians receive or how they receive it.

The CRTC stands ready to move quickly should Bill C-18 receive Royal Assent, and proceed with the public consultations we will need to hold to set up the framework and implement the legislation.

Mister Chair, Honourable Committee members, my colleagues and I would now be pleased to answer your questions.


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