CRTC Releases Plan to Implement Online News Act

CRTC Releases Plan to Implement Online News Act
The social media page of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on a cellphone in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Matthew Horwood

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has released its plan to implement the Online News Act and create a bargaining framework for negotiations between Canadian news organizations and the largest social media platforms.

“The CRTC will oversee the mandatory bargaining process once it is in place. The CRTC will launch a public consultation to gather the views of Canadians and interested parties,” the commission announced on its website on Aug. 24.

The Online News Act (Bill C-18) mandates that major tech companies pay Canadian media outlets for news content linked on their platforms. The bill received royal assent on June 22.

On Aug. 1, Meta began the process of ending news availability in Canada on its Facebook and Instagram platforms saying Bill C-18 was “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers.”

Google also said it would respond to the new law by removing links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products.

According to the CRTC, the public consultations will take place in the fall of 2023. Affected parties, industry representatives, and the Canadian public will be invited to comment on how the bargaining and arbitration process will work, a code of conduct parties will follow to support fair negotiations and the eligibility process for news organizations.

Comments are also invited on how complaints from news organizations will be addressed when platforms act unfairly and what data the CRTC should collect to fulfill its mandate.

During that period, the CRTC will also invite proposals for an independent auditor who will prepare an annual report on the impact of the Online News Act on Canada’s digital news marketplace.

Beginning in the summer of 2024, the CRTC will publish the framework and code of conduct, recruit qualified independent arbitrators, consider applications for eligibility from news organizations, and begin the information-gathering process.

In late 2024 and early 2025—once eligible news organizations and arbitrators are in place—mandatory bargaining will begin.

Since Meta began blocking news in Canada in response to the Online News Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the tech giant for blocking the flow of information updates to Canadians fleeing wildfires in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

“Right now, in an emergency situation, up-to-date local information is more important than ever,” he said during a press conference in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island, on Aug. 21, adding that Meta was making a decision to “put corporate profits ahead of allowing Canadians to access the news.”