Heritage Minister Commits to a “Free and Independent Press in Canada”

OTTAWA – Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s initial comments to reporters on regulating media landed the rookie cabinet minister in hot water. On Monday, the Minister clarified his comments and assured Canadians and media that the Government of Canada is committed to a free and independent media.

Minister Guilbeault stated, “Let me be clear. Our govt has no intention to impose licensing requirements on news organizations nor will we try to regulate news content.”

Canada like many other countries has witnessed enormous changes in the reporting of news and information in the digital age.

Under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, one of the fundamental freedoms is that of a free and independent media. The Charter states, all Canadians have “Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

On Monday, Minister Guilbeault stated, “Let me be clear. Our govt has no intention to impose licensing requirements on news organizations nor will we try to regulate news content.”

The Report Released by Panel to Ministers

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, made the following statement on the release of the final report of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review, Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act.

Backgrounder
In June 2018, the Government of Canada appointed an external panel to review three pieces of legislation that govern Canada’s communications sector: the Telecommunications Act and Radiocommunications Act, and the Broadcasting Act.
This panel conducted extensive consultations with industry officials and academic experts, covering issues such as digital content creation and net neutrality.
After extensive research and consultations, the panel issued an interim report in June 2019 and was mandated to deliver a final report to Minister Guilbeault and Minister Bains by the end of January 2020.

“Today we received the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel Final Report, Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act. This fully independent body was set up to inform the modernization of the Broadcasting Act, the Telecommunications Act, and the Radiocommunications Act, three key laws that govern Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting sector.

We would like to thank panel Chair Ms. Janet Yale, the panel members and their support staff for their ambitious work. They have worked tirelessly to conduct extensive consultations across the country and developed this report, and its 97 recommendations, for our consideration.

We will carefully consider each one of the panel’s recommendations and act as quickly as possible to modernize Canada’s legislative framework in the broadcasting and telecommunications sector.

Reforms are needed to level the playing field on which conventional broadcasters and digital media companies compete. Our priority is to ensure that all media companies that operate in Canada develop Canadian content and contribute to the Canadian system. Canadian stories should be accessible to all.

Our government is committed to promoting affordable, high-quality Internet and wireless services, and net neutrality. We will use this report to strengthen our agenda, which is already underway.

We recognize that, for Canada’s culture to keep flourishing and for our economy to keep growing, we need to ensure that Canada’s telecommunications and the broadcasting landscape are properly aligned with today’s digital age.”

From the Report Recommendations:

We recommend that the policy objectives currently contained in section 3 of the Broadcasting Act be modernized to reflect the changing environment and be replaced by the following:

  • Canadians should have access to trusted, accurate, and reliable sources of news reflecting national, regional, and local perspectives from diverse sources and across all platforms.
  • Canadians should be able to find and access a wide range of media content choices, including Canadian choices, that are affordable and reflect a diversity of voices.
  • Canadians should be able to access and consume media content safely and securely and be assured that their data and privacy are respected and protected.
  • Media content undertakings should have a responsibility for the media content they provide.
  • The media communications sector should:
    • invest in the development, creation, and distribution of high-quality Canadian content that competes at home and abroad and reflects Canadian diversity, with each undertaking making maximum use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of media content, taking into account its circumstances;
    • ensure the creation of and access to content by and for Indigenous Peoples, including Indigenous languages content;
    • ensure the creation of and access to content by and for official language minority communities;
    • meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities and ensure the creation of and access to content by and for Canadians with disabilities;
    • consist of Canadian-owned and -controlled companies alongside foreign companies; and
    • promote the development of a strong Canadian production sector, including a robust independent production community.