Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has suggested news websites and social media companies could be forced to obtain licences in order to operate in Canada.
CTVNews.ca reports that Guilbeault, who has been working with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to update the country’s broadcasting laws, expects news websites and social media companies will be “asked” to obtain the government-approved licence, although smaller outlets may not be subject to the same rigors as social media giants.
“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,” the minister told CTV.
Released on January 29th, the minister’s report, titled “Canada’s communications future: Time to act”, includes 97 recommendations designed to modernise the country’s broadcasting laws.
Recommendation 57 states: “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.”
The report also makes clear that all companies that deliver “audio, audiovisual, and alphanumeric news content” to Canadians should be regulated by the CRTC or a similar body, through a licence or registration.
Although foreign websites are unlikely to be blocked in Canada if they don’t obtain the licence, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner told CTV that Canadian outlets were being treated in a “frightening” fashion.
“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,” Garner claimed.
Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, also told CTV the recommendations are “candidly extreme” and have no “physical boundaries.”
The recommendations will now be “carefully considered” by the Canadian government, according to the Heritage Minister.