Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Canada Looks To Modernize Broadcasting Rules

Canada's rules around broadcasting and telecommunications are set to undergo a sweeping review as the Liberals look to cut the price of mobile phone plans and force streaming services to lend more help to Canadian content.

According to the CBC, an expert panel will have the next year and a half to help modernize the country's broadcasting regulations to respond to growing concerns about an uneven playing field between domestic providers and online streaming giants like Netflix and Spotify.

The panel will craft recommendations on a new mandate for CBC/Radio-Canada with a view to keeping future governments from slashing its public funding. It will also revamp the role and powers of the national broadcast regulator and focus on net neutrality, say the panel's terms of reference posted to a government website.

The marching orders for the seven-member panel said the decades-old regulatory regime is unsustainable in the digital age, as Canadians more and more are turning to streaming platforms for content.

"There is an opportunity to consider whether there are new ways that Canadian content creation, distribution and discovery in both official languages can be supported in this new digital communications environment," the document said.

On telecommunications rules, the government asks the panel to recommend changes that promote competition in a sector with a "high degree of concentration" in order to reduce the consumer costs. The Liberals, though, say they are "not interested in a proposal that reduces Canadian ownership."

The panel will have 18 months to complete its work, but will be required to provide an interim report to the government next June. The timeline for a final report means detailed legislative recommendations will not arrive until weeks after the next federal election in October 2019 — ensuring the interim report, among others recently presented to the government, will likely make internet and Netflix taxes election issues

The Liberals have faced a growing chorus of voices to regulate online streaming services before and after that November meeting, including last week when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recommended the government consider forcing any online video or music service pay to create or better promote domestic content.

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