The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will likely draft a new national code of conduct for newsrooms before the next election.

The announcement of a possible new code of ethics was confirmed by Cabinet on Thursday, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.  

“The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) may regulate the following areas: ‘Creation of a code of conduct [and] a complaint process pertaining to how groups of eligible news businesses are to be structured and their conduct under the Act,’” reads a notice in the Canada Gazette, the federal government’s official newspaper.

Canadian newsrooms are required to follow CRTC guidelines on ethics, under Bill C-18, also called the Online News Act. 

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge told reporters that there will not be any political interference at the CRTC regarding the new regulations. 

“They are independent, but the legislation is pretty clear,” said St-Onge. 

Passed in June, Bill C-18 took effect on Dec. 19. The law forces tech companies including Google and Facebook to pay media outlets if news links are posted on the platforms. Google has agreed to pay Canadian news outlets $100 million annually in compensation for ad revenues generated by links. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has instead opted to ban links to news. 

The federal government published its final regulations for the Online News Act on December 15, dictating who is deemed to be a news outlet and thus who is eligible for  payment under the scheme. 

News outlets who apply for Google money must comply with a code of ethics under clause 27.1.b.iv of Bill C-18, however, currently there is no nationally recognized code of ethics for journalism or media in Canada. 

“We will have to get precise on that,” said CRTC Executive Director of Broadcasting Policy Scott Shortliffe. “It puts frankly a bit of an onus on us to define that.” 

Shortliffe said the CRTC must provide clear definitions of what the code of ethics will be, while remaining neutral politically. 

“They should not be written in such a way they either include or exclude a particular kind of news organization as long as that news organization can show it is a credible news organization,” said Shortliffe. 

However, there are critics who remain skeptical of the CRTC having no political leanings, like Pamela Wallin a Saskatchewan senator and former television journalist. 

“I am told by sources close to the matter that there is almost daily contact between the leadership of the CRTC and the Minister’s office,” said Wallin.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the attribution on a quotation from the Canada Gazette.