Friday, June 2, 2023

Chris Selley: Canada’s two solitudes starkly apparent on issue of media independence

In a way you have to hand it to the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. Freedom-loving Canadians were well prepared for many of its terrible and unnecessary ideas — notably forcing streaming companies like Netflix to invest in Canadian content, which they’re already doing because people actually want to watch it. If a positive outcome hasn’t been achieved by regulatory fiat, the panelists seem to believe, it hasn’t been achieved at all.

The notion of government-subsidized print journalism having won such favour in Liberal Ottawa, perhaps it’s also not surprising the panel proposed taking money from internet giants like Facebook and Google and using it to establish an (ahem) “independent arm’s length program … to support the production of news,” with membership open to any outlet meeting unstated standards of “ethical journalism” and (double-ahem) “editorial independence.”

But even the most keyed-in observers seem to have been staggered by Recommendation 73: To have the CRTC draw up a list of “accurate, trusted, reliable” Canadian news sources, and to force “media aggregation and media sharing undertakings” — that’s everything from Yahoo! News to YouTube — to link to those sites in such a way as “to ensure visibility.”

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