After saying that the government would require media outlets to get a license, a Liberal cabinet minister is now denying the idea.
On CTV’s Question Period Sunday, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said that the Trudeau government would require licensing for media outlets if it accepts a commission’s recommendations.
“If you’re a distributor of content in Canada and obviously if you’re a very small media organization the requirement probably wouldn’t be the same if you’re Facebook, or Google. There would have to be some proportionality embedded into this,” Guilbeault said.
“We would ask that they have a licence, yes,” Guilbeault continued.
On Monday morning Guilbeault backed down from his remarks, saying that the government will not demand news organizations to get a license.
“Let me be clear, our government has no intention to impose licensing requirements on news organizations nor will we regulate news content,” Guilbeault said while reading from prepared notes.
“We are committed to free and independent media which is essential to democracy.”
When he was asked who asked him to clarify his position, Guilbeault said, “I did that all by myself as a big boy.”
The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, a commission led by former telecommunications executive Janet Yale, recently recommended the government should suppress independent media content using regulations or licensing.
“We recommend the Broadcasting Act be amended to ensure the CRTC can by regulation, condition of license or condition of registration impose codes of conduct,” the commission’s report reads.
According to Yale, the CRTC should “have the ability to exempt” certain media based on unspecified rules.
The commission also recommends increasing the $1.2 billion in annual funding the CBC receives from the taxpayer, saying the state-owned media has a “critical role to play” in fighting fake news.
Fighting “fake news” has been a focus of the Trudeau government since first being elected in 2015. While the government has not yet accepted any of the commission’s recommendations, they have attempted to censor independent media in the past.
In the leadup to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals threatened social media companies with regulations and financial consequences if they failed to combat “misinformation” on their platforms.
During the election, the Leaders’ Debates Commission, a body created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attempted to ban True North from covering the leadership debates.
A judge later ruled that the government’s attempt to ban True North was not logical or justifiable.