Despite the sense of urgency behind the Liberal government’s push to implement Bill C-18, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) newly released timeline suggests that deals won’t be reached with big tech companies until 2026.
When passing the bill in the House of Commons, the Liberal government rushed to see the Online News Act become active as soon as possible – even introducing an amendment to take effect within 180 days of receiving royal assent.
However, the CRTC recentlypublished their plans to implement the bill, which includes a public consultation period.
According to the CRTC, mandatory bargaining between Canadian media companies and social media platforms that continue to share their content will not take place until 2025.
University of Ottawa Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law Michael Geist recently wrote in his blog that the actual date could be even later.
“Given the bargaining process envisioned by the law (90 days to negotiate, 120 days for mediation, followed by arbitration), if the issue goes to arbitration it is unlikely that there will be any payments before 2026,” wrote Geist.
“Even if arbitration is avoided – Meta and Google would likely block all news links before that could happen – it will take at least 18 months for any agreements to be considered by the CRTC under the law.”
According to Geist, the current plan “creates the worst of all worlds.”
“This creates the worst of all worlds: either news link blocking by the Internet companies in order to comply with the law or no deals until the system is fully operational in 2025 and into 2026,” wrote Geist.
“Moreover, if Google joins Meta in news link blocking, the CRTC will be developing a bargaining system that does not apply to any Internet company. It’s a confusing process, but one thing is clear: Canadian media outlets take a significant hit under a law that has been poorly conceived, badly implemented, and has not made sense from the very outset given options such as independent funds or taxation that could have resulted in actual, more immediate support to the sector.”
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has already blocked access to Canadian news content on all of its platforms.