Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has stated that news websites, along with social media companies, could be forced to obtain government licences to operate in Canada.
The minister, who has been tasked with updating Canada’s broadcasting laws using the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), stated that internet news sites will be “asked” to obtain a government-approved licence, broadcaster CTV reports.
The report, entitled “Canada’s communications future: Time to act”, was released on January 29th and included 97 recommendations. It details how the CRTC would be vastly expanded to not only regulate radio and television broadcasters but news websites as well.
“If you’re a distributor of content in Canada and obviously if you’re a very small media organisation the requirement probably wouldn’t be the same if you’re Facebook, or Google. There would have to be some proportionality embedded into this,” he said during a CTV interview.
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When asked directly how the legislation would affect foreign websites, with Breitbart News specifically named, Guilbeault said that he did not think foreign sites would be blocked in Canada if they did not comply with the CRTC.
“Frankly I’m not sure I see what the big deal is,” Guilbeault said. He added that other foreign companies in other industries actively comply with Canadian regulations.
“We recommend that the existing licensing regime in the Broadcasting Act be accompanied by a registration regime. This would require a person carrying on a media content undertaking by means of the Internet to register unless otherwise exempt,” recommendation 56 of the report states.
Current CRTC regulations include forcing commercial radio-broadcasters who primarily play music to have at least 35 per cent of their content per week come from Canadian artists.
Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chairman in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa labelled the report “candidly extreme” and added it has no “physical boundaries”.
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Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner has also expressed concern over the proposals in the report saying: “It’s very paternalising and also very frightening to think that the government would try to impose or say that’s the role of the government to control. That puts us in league with countries that control the media.”
Similar moves toward limiting free speech online have been made in Europe in recent months as well, with an October ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union allowing governments to force social media giant Facebook to remove content.