What does Bill C-18 actually do? 


Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez participates in a news conference on Bill C-18, the Online News Act, in Ottawa, on July 5.
Contributed image

Recently you’ve probably read the words “Bill C-18″ online followed by a discussion on the availability of news in Canada. But what is Bill C-18? 

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, was first introduced by the Liberal government in April of 2022, and received royal assent on June 22, 2023. It outlines flexible framework for revenue sharing between social media corporations hosting news content and the news organizations creating the content. 

Essentially, if companies like Google and Meta want to post links to Canadian news organizations, they must now negotiate a deal with the Canadian news organizations for compensation. If they cannot reach a deal, then the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is brought in for mediation until a deal is reached.  

The bill outlines its purpose as one that centres on regulating “digital news intermediaries with a view of enhancing fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contributing to its sustainability, including the sustainability of news businesses in Canada in both the non-profit and for-profits sectors, including independent local ones”. 

According to the parliamentary budget officer, the bill will bring in $329 million for the Canadian news industry. However, the media corporations are beginning to push back. 

Tech companies Google and Meta are two of the biggest parties affected by the bill and they have made their opposition known. Google believes the bill is “the wrong approach” and has announced plans to remove links to Canadian news. 

In a similar move, Meta will start removing Canadian news links and has also begun an advertising campaign against Bill C-18. Other criticisms of the bill are that it provides a threat to the free flow of information online and could lead to trade retaliation with the United States.  

As affected corporations are campaigning against the bill, those who work in the industry are praising its success. One of those industry employees is Barry Rooke, executive director of the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA), who played a part in the lobbying that resulted in the bill’s passing.  

“The campus and community radio stations are making the news, why shouldn’t they be compensated or at least acknowledged” said Rooke. “We know that community radio stations, campus stations, Indigenous radio stations are often really at the heart of their community”. 

Rooke sees Bill C-18 as a success for the Canadian news industry, citing the rising amount of disinformation on social media platforms: “We’re in a place where an incredible amount of disinformation is being shared, and organizations like Google and Facebook [Meta] who are pushing back on this are in their own way, adding to that process”.  

On Google and Meta’s pulling of Canadian news links, Rooke explains that Canadian news information will still be available, just not sharable. He encourages those whose main source of news is social media to seek out other sources such as “newsletters, podcasts, blogs, etc”. 

While those in the Canadian news industry view the bill as a clear success, some in Canada’s legal industry have mixed feelings. Brandon Mattalo, assistant professor of strategic management at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics shares such feelings. 

“I see both sides of it”, said Mattalo. “On the one end, there are issues with revenue generation at news, primarily caused by the advent of the internet”. As advertisements moved from news publications to the social media sites themselves, revenue generation for news organizations dropped. “The issue is, how do we properly fund journalism, which is a very important part of our democracy”, explained Mattalo.  

Mattalo goes on to explain the reason for his hesitancy is the response from Google and Meta. He outlines the possibility of Canadian news losing importance in the sites’ algorithms, which in turn has an opposite effect than intended.  

Despite Mattalo’s concerns, he sees a possibility that Google and Meta ease their opposition, similar to when Australia enacted similar legislation. He also believes this is only the beginning, saying “the nature of the world is changing very quickly”.  

As the internet continues to develop and remains a source of information and news, more regulation seems inevitable. Bills such as Bill C-18, or Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, are paving the way for more legislation outlining how the internet should act as a tool. 

While Bill C-18 begins to take effect, broaden your news sources. Rooke emphasized the importance of news organizations, and how you can support them as key parts of the community: “Thank a journalist, thank a staff member, thank a broadcaster, and just try to keep acknowledging that they’re putting their best efforts forward”.  

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