On June 15, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released its long-awaited report emanating from its study on the media and local communities. Entitled Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape, the 100-page report is the outcome of a study that began over 15 months ago, in February 2016, heard from 131 witnesses and received numerous written briefs.
The committee’s study was organized around two central themes: the media as a reflection of Canada’s cultural diversity and the media as a pillar of Canadian democracy. The report discusses Canadians’ access to local information media, including digital and print media and magazines, as well as the broadcasting and radio sectors; current policies, programs and regulations; the impact of media concentration; journalism in the new world; and the impact of digital media.
The report includes 20 recommendations with wide-ranging applicability to a number of sectors. Notable among the recommendations are:
- Creating an Indigenous journalism initiative,
- Improving affordable broadband Internet access for Canadians, with an emphasis on Northern Canada and rural and remote regions,
- Amending the Income Tax Act to allow for the deduction of digital advertising costs on Canadian-owned platforms,
- Ensuring that foreign news aggregators that publish Canadian news and sell advertising directed at Canadians are subject to the same tax obligations as Canadian providers,
- Recommending that the CBC/Radio-Canada eliminate advertising from its digital news platforms,
- Introducing a new section in the Competition Act to deal specifically with news media mergers, which would require a panel of experts in media to do a “diversity of voices” test to ensure there is no dominance in any media market.
The Heritage Committee’s report comes as work on the Department of Canadian Heritage’s review of federal policies and programs in support of Canadian culture, initiated in April 2016 by Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, continues. The new policy and program framework for Canadian culture is expected in September.