FRPC’s comments on Bill C-11, now before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications

The Forum’s submission to the Senate Transport and Communications Committee concerning Bill C-11 sets out its reasons for supporting its passage — provided changes are made to ensure that the new Broadcasting Act that it creates will strengthen, not further weaken, Canada’s broadcasting system, and that it serves the public interest insofar as transparency and accountability are concerned.

The Forum’s main concerns are that

a) Bill C-11 re-politicizes broadcasting by enabling Cabinet to issue directions to the CRTC concerning nearly all of the latter’s regulatory powers.

b) the proposed legislation does not ensure that Canadian programming services are able to have reasonable access to Canadian audiences, and that

c) Bill C-11 appears – its text is unclear – to subject programs uploaded by users to regulation by the CRTC.

FRPC’s submission also addresses the gaps in Bill C-11 with respect to transparency (no requirement for CRTC to publish annual reports about its implementation of Parliament’s broadcasting policy for Canada; decisions by the CRTC to not publish dozens of decisions each year) and accountability (will Canada’s courts readily hear challenges of Cabinet’s Directions to the CRTC or treat it deferentially?).

Finally, given the lack of any objective evaluation in the last four decades of the CRTC’s performance of its responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act along with the CRTC’s history over the past twenty years of disregarding or sidestepping certain requirements mandated in the current, 1991 Broadcasting Act, the Forum recommends that the Senate review the CRTC and its role in broadcasting empirically.

FRPC’s submission includes the specific amendments it proposes to Bill C-11.

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