Thank you very much, Chair.
As you heard, my name is Michael Geist. I'm a law professor at the University of Ottawa, where I hold the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law. My areas of specialty are in digital policy, including e-commerce, privacy, and intellectual property.
I appear today in a personal capacity representing only my own views. I'm particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak before this committee on this study. My interest in the issue extends beyond my academic research into new business models and the laws and policies that often follow.
For more than 15 years I've written regularly for a wide range of Canadian media. This includes large media organizations like the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, specialty and local publications such as The Hill Times and Vue Weekly, and newer online publications such as The Tyee, The Huffington Post, and iPolitics. In that capacity, I've witnessed first-hand the different readers, the different business models, and the different approaches to content. I've also been on the receiving end of cuts due to shrinking budgets as well as the conflicts that sometimes arise between editorial and business departments.
My comments today are divided into two sections. The first section is my take on the current landscape and the second is a discussion of potential policy reforms.
With respect to the current landscape, I've been following this study and the committee hearings closely. I note that you've heard from a wide range of witnesses who have offered up a dizzying array of suggestions and recommendations for reforms. Much of the commentary emphasizes the critical link between strong independent media on the one hand and citizen participation and holding governments at all levels to account for their actions on the other.
While there is little debate over the essential role of journalism, the tougher questions are whether policies are needed to save or assist existing news organizations and whether emerging digital alternatives can provide an effective substitute. I'm reminded that people like Clay Shirky, a well-known media professor in the United States, predicted the current struggles many years ago.
Indeed, in a widely read piece in 2009, Shirky wrote about the media concern with the digital world. He said:
|| Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.
While there are policies that merit consideration, Shirky's point is that the general public newspaper, as we have known it, can't compete with the Internet. It's not solely a function of lost revenue, such as classifieds, or declining readership; rather, the newspaper's role in aggregating diverse content is less relevant today, and that package has far less value than it once did, given that there are now other alternatives.
Moreover, newspapers face far more competition than ever before. In my view, some newspapers are disappearing not because of too few voices but because, at least under their economic model, there are too many. With few exceptions, the content they produce has substitutes from cheaper online organizations, NGOs, bloggers, and a myriad of other sources. We can debate the quality and editorial product, but there are alternatives for virtually all forms of information traditionally published, sometimes almost on an exclusive basis, by newspapers in the past.
When there is no substitute or premium placed on the content, experience shows the market will pay. Hence the success of financial and some sports information, as well as some specialty paywalled publications. For general interest publications, though, I think the question is whether digital news organizations, which enjoy low entry barriers, a reach into new audiences, and innovative business models, can in some instances replace some of those traditional organizations. I believe that there is some evidence to suggest that it can, at least in some areas.
For example, political news coverage is often viewed as most critical in holding governments to account. Some have pointed to the regional decline of membership in the Parliamentary press gallery as evidence of the crisis. I think it's more instructive to see how many new digital-only organizations are investing in original political reportage.
The current gallery membership includes newcomers such as The Huffington Post, Tyee—who I know you heard from—rabble.ca, National Observer, and VICE News. Moreover, there are a host of experienced freelance journalists whose work appears in many venues alongside specialty digital publications such as iPolitics, Blacklock's Reporter, and The Wire Report.
The work of journalists at these publications, along with the niche print sources and experts who blog or write independently, offers us the chance to reach different audiences and to cover specialized issues in greater depth than is often found in larger newspapers, which frequently emphasize big-picture concerns.
That's my take on the landscape. With that, I'd like to turn a little bit to some of the policy issues.
In the face of the obvious decline of some well-known news organizations, the temptation to do something is unsurprising, and there are, I believe, steps that can be taken to assist in the digital transition. However, we should be very wary of reforms that simply prolong the life of some unsuccessful entrenched entities or that have serious unintended consequences. Some of those—the ones that I'm concerned about—include proposals for taxes on Internet providers as a source of new revenue. This would be the equivalent of a digital tax on everything, making it costlier for Canadians to access the Internet and exacerbating the digital divide.
Another source of concern, I think, are the proposals we've seen at times for what might be seen as link taxes on digital aggregators, who drive traffic to original sites and only aggregate content that is made available by the originating source. These proposals have serious free speech concerns and run the risk of reducing the diversity of voices.
Third, we've heard of some proposals to reform copyright fair dealing by dispensing with the long-standing rule that copyright protects expression, not ideas. This runs the danger of protecting facts, excluding others from reporting, which I think would undermine reporting and add costs to other groups. Indeed, I think suggestions that somehow fair dealing and the expansion to include education have any implications for this are simply wrong. I believe these changes could have serious detrimental effects on the Canadian digital landscape and ultimately harm new entrants that offer hope for more media choice.
What can be done? I think the policy goals should be premised on levelling the playing field, with the priority being good journalism regardless of the source.
I'd like to identify five possible steps.
First, the foundation for a robust digital media world is access for all, as both participants and readers. This means addressing the digital divide with world-class broadband that is accessible and affordable to all Canadians. We still aren't there in Canada, and experience suggests that the market alone will not solve the issue. Our emphasis should be on affordable equipment and affordable Internet access, along with digital skills development.
Second, with respect to Canada's public broadcaster, I know that the CBC's emphasis on digital delivery of news content has created frustration with many established news organizations. Reconciling the need for the CBC to remain relevant by embracing digital delivery with the financial impact on private sector news services could be addressed by requiring the public broadcaster to adopt an ad-free approach to its online news presence. That would ensure that it reaches its digital audience but does not compete directly with the private sector for advertising dollars.
Third, there have been, as I pointed out earlier, what I believe are harmful tax policy suggestions, but I think there are some useful possibilities as well. Private news services could benefit from a change to allow tax deductions for advertising on Canadian websites. Online services, I believe, should remain unregulated and free from mandatory contributions, but should be subject to general sales taxes. Levying GST or HST on Canadian services such as CraveTV while leaving foreign services in the media space like Netflix tax free would create a tax revenue shortfall and place domestic services at a disadvantage compared to their foreign counterparts.
Fourth, remove access barriers for journalism. This includes access to information rules at all levels of government and better recognition of journalists from all organizations in press conferences and availability.
Finally, focus on journalism, not organizations. For example, I believe the recommendations that you heard from the Canadian Association of Journalists on the value of embracing non-profit journalism, which has worked elsewhere, are excellent. While state subsidies for newspapers should be rejected, funding models for journalism projects as a media equivalent of the Court Challenges program, for example, might be helpful.
In conclusion, the uncertainty associated with digital models, the loss of jobs, and the future of some of Canada's best-known media organizations unsurprisingly elicit sadness, apprehension, and concern. However, emergence of new voices and innovative approaches of older ones point to the likelihood that journalism is neither dead nor dying. The trick is to avoid policy reforms that may do more harm than good and to trust in a transformation that has more access and more voices as its foundation.
I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here today to talk about my research.
I launched The Local News Research Project after I left daily news reporting and became a member of Ryerson's faculty back in 2007.
I should preface my remarks by saying that I'm going to talk specifically about local news, which is news produced by a local news organization that focuses on producing news about people, places, and events in a particular community. I'm not talking about national news or international news.
My interest in what I call local news poverty grew out of my observations about how some communities have a rich range of local news media to choose from and others do not. Toronto, for instance, has four dailies and many online television and broadcast outlets. By comparison, a nearby city like Brampton, which is Canada's ninth-largest city and has more than 500,000 people, relies pretty much exclusively on the Brampton Guardian, a community newspaper owned by Metroland Media. There's no local radio, no local television, and no local daily newspaper that focuses exclusively on news from that community.
The reality, as you well know, is that there has been a major disruption in the news industry. People who live in smaller cities, towns, suburban communities, and rural areas have fewer options to begin with, and in recent years their choice has become even more limited. The question then, of course, is whether this matters. The research suggests that the answer is yes.
In the United States, the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy concluded, as it put it, that “Information is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health.” It went on to explain that news and information help communities develop a sense of connectedness, provide access to information for holding public officials accountable, and give people the information they need to work collectively to solve problems.
While local journalism is the subject of increasingly intensive scrutiny in the United States, there's much we don't know about what's going on in Canada. I think the committee has heard from some witnesses who have pointed this out, including Carleton University professor Dwayne Winseck, who earlier this year said there are “a lot of opinions and little data to act upon” in terms of what's happening with local news.
I and colleagues Jon Corbett at the University of British Columbia and Jaigris Hodson at Royal Roads are trying to fill in some of these gaps. We launched our investigation into local news poverty last summer, and we've just now started to have our data ready for discussion with you.
The project's goals are to develop a tool that can allow us to track changes in local news sources, to measure the extent to which some communities are better served than others, to determine whether social media and digital-only news sites are filling the gap created by the loss of more traditional media, and to investigate why some communities are better served than others. We are also, in the longer term, interested in looking at the impact of the loss of these news organizations on civic and political engagement and in exploring the possible solutions.
Our project is basically divided into two main parts at this point. The first is the local news map. It's a crowdsource map that allows users to add information about changes to local news organizations: the launch of a new one, the closure of another news organization, services increases and service decreases. This is for local broadcast, online, and print media.
We launched the map in June. We wanted to do this to spark debate about what's happening to local journalism and to generate some data to inform that debate, as well as to help us identify trends and patterns if any emerge. The map, in general, can paint a big picture idea of what's happening to local journalism, but you can also zoom in on local communities and see what's changed at the local level. You can see what's happening to a specific type of news organization, such as what's been happening on the community newspaper scene or what's been happening in television or to local radio.
You can also monitor changes by media ownership. The map, of course, is a crowdsource map, so it's only as good as the information that people add to it, but we moderate the map and we think that the information is reliable and that the trends we're seeing reflect reality.
What are we seeing? Three months after its launch, the map tells a pretty powerful—and disturbing, I think, for many people—visual story of newsroom closures that far exceed the number of new ventures being launched.
When we examined the data at the end of September, there were 307 markers on the map highlighting changes going back to 2008, because we wanted to provide a historical perspective. Of those 307 markers, 164 documented the closure of a local news outlet in 132 different communities across the country. By comparison, there were only 63 markers highlighting the launch of a new local news source.
The second part of our project examines how local news outlets covered the contest for members of Parliament during the 2015 federal election. We were interested in election coverage because the race to represent a community in the House of Commons is a major news event that would warrant news media attention. As such, we think that in some ways it can be thought of as a proxy for the overall performance of local news media in general.
We looked at local news media and their coverage of the race for MPs in eight communities: Peterborough, the City of Kawartha Lakes, Oakville, Brampton, and Thunder Bay in Ontario; Brandon, Manitoba; and Nanaimo and Kamloops in British Columbia. We identified the local news outlets in those communities, and then we collected all of the stories that they did about the election race for their member of Parliament in the month prior to the vote.
I have some figures in the brief that I submitted, and they show significant differences in the number of local news sources in different communities. For instance, in Brampton there are three news outlets, which is 0.14 news outlets per 10,000 registered voters. At the other end of the spectrum, you have Kamloops, where there are 1.25 news outlets per 10,000 registered voters. There are nine altogether there.
This measure suggests that big suburban cities are relatively underserved in terms of the number of news outlets in them. Likewise, the data shows rural communities, such as the City of Kawartha Lakes, are also relatively underserved. At the same time, intriguingly, in medium-sized communities such as Nanaimo, Thunder Bay, Peterborough, and Kamloops, there's quite a variation. The question is, why? Why are some of them better served than others?
There is a second major observation that we can make at this stage, and I would emphasize that our data here is really preliminary and that we just got it in the last two weeks. The second observation is that there are significant differences in the number of stories about the local races to be an MP. Again, Brampton was relatively underserved with 43 stories in total, but more to the point, there were only about two stories for every 10,000 registered voters. If you lived in Thunder Bay or Kamloops, you were looking at 20 to 25 stories per 10,000 registered voters. Again, there is quite a disparity in the available stories.
I just wanted to draw your attention to Nanaimo, where there are about 15 stories for 10,000 voters. There were 103 stories that we found, but 57 of those stories were produced by the Nanaimo Daily News, which closed earlier this year, so those are 57 stories that a local news outlet is no longer producing.
Similarly, an online news site—quite a vibrant news site—in Kamloops called NewsKamloops, which was started after the closure of the daily newspaper in that community, also closed earlier this week. It produced, I believe, about 35 or 40 stories out of those 105 stories available to voters there.
We're seeing a significant lack of diversity, in some communities more than others. We did one more measure, which was to look at the variety of voices. Again, what we found was that in Brampton just one local news producer dominated the production of news, whereas in places like Thunder Bay and Kamloops the news coverage was spread more evenly among the different news organizations there, so people were able to hear from a greater variety of news organizations.
Our data so far indicates that news coverage of local contests for MPs varied significantly according to where you lived. By all three measures, people who lived in a place like Kamloops enjoyed relative local news affluence compared with people who lived in a city like Brampton or a rural area like the City of Kawartha Lakes.
The next step in our research is to take all these measures and reduce them to a single number in an index that we can use to create a ranking of communities in terms of the existence of local news poverty. In other words, the single number will reflect relative levels of news poverty, and then we can look at the characteristics of poorly served communities and try to figure out why they are more poorly served than others. There are some possibilities of lines of inquiry I can talk about, if you like.
Let me pick up from where my colleague from the NDP was talking about the system in shock.
Failing John Oliver from HBO's Last Week Tonight appearing before this committee, I'll quote him on a superb piece that he did on the future of journalism, in which he said:
||Now that level of confidence is almost tempting fate. He is like a citizen of Pompeii saying, “what I love about this city is how volcano proof it is.” Not a year goes by without our having to have our horrified reactions captured in ash forever.
He brings up a very good point about the importance of local news, which he describes as the media. He says:
|| It's pretty obvious without newspapers around to cite. TV news would just be Wolf Blitzer endlessly batting a ball of yarn around....The media is a food chain that would fall apart without local newspapers.
This is a good way to look at how often newspapers are cited and where stories begin.
What I found more chilling, and he cited this, was a similar hearing that is happening south of the border at Congress. David Simon appeared. He is the creator of the critically acclaimed show The Wire. He was a beat reporter at city hall in Baltimore before that. He never lost those lessons. His description is more chilling. He says:
|The next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon era for state and local political corruption. It is going to be one of the great times to be a corrupt politician.
His argument is that unless you're at that level where property is zoned, where development is determined, then you're not going to figure out the rest of it. I know myself that I can't watch Spotlight. I haven't got through it. I find it too frustrating, because that in-depth investigative journalism that's incredibly important to a democracy doesn't exist anymore.
John Oliver said:
|A big part of the blame for this industry’s decline is on us and our unwillingness to pay for the work journalists produce. We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free...Sooner than later, we’re going to have pay for journalism, or we are all going to pay for it.
It does come back to a point that we spoke of earlier, and that's revenue. When we talk about copyright, and as my colleague was speaking of, an aggregation, I think any journalist wants his or her pieces to be read or to be seen or to be heard as much as possible. As you've said, that's not the issue; the issue is how you make a living from it. How do you pay for excellent journalism?
I congratulate you both on your presentations today. Yours have been some of the most substantive we've heard. The difficulty we're having is attempting to square that circle. It's a question of “show me the money”.
Do you have any further thoughts on revenue particularly?
Thanks for the invitation.
Nearly six months ago, my colleagues and I—the Canadian Heritage group of representatives—were the first ones invited to appear before your committee, as you were beginning your study on the media and local communities. Since then, you have probably been able to appreciate the complexity of the subject and the diversity of perspectives.
When we appeared, last February, we provided an overview of the newspaper industry and its challenges, especially those related to changes in consumer behaviour, revenue losses, the impact of the digital era, and the emergence of different business models. We finally talked about the federal government's policy toolbox.
We understand that, at this stage in your work, you would like to ask the department representatives other questions. However, before we do that, the document that has been distributed to you contains certain initiatives I would like to talk about because, since February, measures have been taken, and I would just like us to have the same information.
First, you have likely heard people talk about changes in the industry on several occasions.
How do we know the quality of journalism? Is everything that we're reading on all those websites true?
A partnership was announced a few weeks ago between Twitter, Facebook, and 20 other media companies. It is designed to improve the quality of online news. I guess the message here is they are not stupid either, and they realize everything that is circulating on their platform is not necessarily accurate or reflective of reality.
Facebook has also launched Instant Articles, which is essentially a model whereby publishers post content on Facebook, and Facebook shares the ad revenues with those publishers. There's Facebook 360, a video application incorporating virtual reality technology, and it is used by many publishers.
When we talk about Amazon and Facebook and Netflix, the word that always comes with it is “algorithm”. Facebook has modified its algorithm to avoid what we call “clickbait”. Essentially, clickbait means that whenever there's sensationalist news or a sensationalist event, it appears in flames on Twitter or on the various platforms, but at the expense of accuracy, so Facebook has changed its algorithm to avoid such clickbait.
With regard to Postmedia, we've certainly heard in the news that Postmedia has restructured its debt, and the company reports that they want to invest any savings from the restructuring in their digital projects.
Mr. Nantel talked about the restructuring of Rogers, which has divested itself of some newspapers and decided that some of them will be available only online. Changes have been made at Rogers.
Last week, you heard from a Quebec newspaper coalition. The representatives put forwards a host of proposals, including a fund to help with the transition. You are talking about a tax credit. Those are all the kinds of measures you have probably heard about through other individual presentations.
What Mr. Geist was saying earlier about copyright is interesting, as the coalition's list of suggestions included the strengthening of the Copyright Act to protect journalists' copyright.
So it's a proposal submitted to the federal government. About 10 days ago, VICE Media announced that it would expand the scope of VICE Québec.
I admit that this is a bit of a
my favourite highlight, because when I was reading this article, I saw that VICE Quebec was saying that they care about local news. It's not often that we hear news sites like this talking about the importance of local news, so I just want to draw your attention to that.
The Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada—I can't get used to this name; it used to be Industry Canada, but now it's ISED—have procured a fairly important contract with the Public Policy Forum to provide the government with expert advice on the newspaper situation. They've run some research, round tables, and we're waiting for their report sometime in December with some policy options, just so you know that this is ongoing.
You have probably noticed that has launched public consultations on Canadian content in the digital world, and I'll ask if Helen wants to address this aspect at this point.
I am here to provide you with an update on the consultations on Canadian content in a digital world.
In terms of process, there was a pre-consultation launched in April 2016 with the release of a document and an online questionnaire to get feedback on the issues of importance to Canadians. That ran until May 27, and we had approximately 10,000 participants. In terms of high-level results, 85% of respondents said that it was “somewhat” or “very” important to have access to Canadian content in a digital world, and 88% of public respondents said that it was “somewhat” or “very” important to have access to local content in their communities.
Those are obviously findings of interest to the committee.
The minister has also appointed an expert advisory group to support her in June. The group will carry out its mandate until February 2017. They operate as a sounding board for the minister. They provide insight into policy directions. They do not have any decision-making authority, nor are they required to draft a formal report.
The second phase of the formal consultations was launched in September with a consultation paper and a web portal, as well as the results of the pre-consultation survey. The scope of the consultations includes information and entertainment content as presented on television, radio, film, digital media and platforms, video games, music, books, newspapers, and magazines.
What are we trying to achieve in terms of the consultation? I'll quote from the actual documents that have been published.
While it's about evaluating the existing ways, we support creators and cultural entrepreneurs to adapt to a new environment, strengthening Canadian content, creation, discovery and export in a digital world and empowering Canadian creators and cultural entrepreneurs so they can thrive and contribute their best to Canada's economy and quality of life.
Strengthening Canadian content creation, discovery, and export in a digital world means creating pathways to markets so that creators can share compelling and engaging stories that positively shape an inclusive and open Canada. It means that Canadians take pride in their creators and actively seek out content produced by Canadians in both official languages and that Canadians can participate in our democracy by having access to high-quality news, information, and local content that reflects a diversity of voices and perspectives. Abroad, it means that global audiences are drawn to content produced by Canadians because it is unique and world-class.
Above all, it means we value the social and economic contributions of our creators and cultural entrepreneurs, recognizing that creativity is at the heart of innovation and key to a strong middle class and Canada's success.
If you want to participate in these consultations, there are a number of in-person events being held in six cities across Canada. The schedule is posted on the website. One has already been held in Vancouver. Coming up are Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, and Nunavut. Some of those events will be on Facebook Live, and Canadians of all walks of life can submit ideas and stories via the web portal. They can also submit any ideas on how to promote and support Canadian content in a digital world.
The consultation, as you have no doubt realized, is pretty multi-faceted. It is broad in terms of content, but it is also multi-faceted in terms of ways of engaging people. There are the six in-person events that the minister will hold, and I believe three of those are also going to be on Facebook Live. Even if you are not in the room itself, you can have an opportunity to participate through Facebook Live.
The web portal is also there for Canadians to submit their ideas and so forth. There is also something called a consultation kit, which has been developed so that people can go out and organize their own consultations and then report back through the web portal. It's a way of spreading it out. We wanted to make it easy for people—MPs, interest groups—to engage Canadians, and to give them a tool, because there are many consultations happening. As you go out in your ridings or as creators or industry stakeholders do their thing, there is an easy way to engage Canadians and to get feedback on where this consultation should go.
In terms of what we are trying to achieve.... I know I was speaking incredibly quickly, because I was trying to get as much in as I could, and I thank you for indulging me in that. What I was really trying to do was give you the key points that are already in the government's consultation paper. It sets out a very high-level agenda for what we are trying to achieve overall. In that list of things, you may have noticed that the government says that Canadians “participate in our democracy by having access to high-quality news information and local content that reflects a diversity of voices and perspectives.”
I think this consultation process is relevant for you, certainly, because the local content issue is there, and the consultation process allows an opportunity for all Canadians to speak up on that aspect. As we noticed in the results from the pre-consultation online survey, Canadians thought that having access to local content was very important.
I think that's enough for me.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses for being with us today.
You appeared before the committee at the very beginning of our study to help set the stage for us.
We've heard many troubling comments. I think every member of this committee is trying to bring grist to the mill and consider the issues carefully. We're glad to know that you are reading the transcripts of these meetings and paying close attention.
We shouldn't lump all the issues together in the same basket. Regional media and media in general are having a revenue problem. Advertising is no longer what it used to be.
What's more, our cultural content is also suffering from a lack of visibility. You need only look on Netflix, under the Kids category, to see that. Of the nearly 600 choices listed, only 15 to 20 of them, at best, are Canadian. That's something we need to discuss. Products come and go, but overall, why is that the case?
It may have less to do with a lack of co-operation on Netflix's part than it does with the fact that our production and distribution system has been very carefully managed from a supply and demand standpoint. It's a very tightly woven system. Someone looking to make an audiovisual production will already know who will be distributing it in four years' time because that group has assumed the distribution costs and included them in the production budget. It's normal that Netflix not be involved, since the company wasn't there when these productions began. Netflix wasn't part of the system, and the rights of over-the-top service providers may not have even existed when the production was made.
Today, I'm glad we're talking about the revenues being lost by our local media. That's clearly the purpose of the study. It ties into the feeling of appreciation that every Canadian can experience when tuning in to their local media. Instead of being made to feel isolated and cut-off, they can feel that they are part of a real community that's being talked about, a community where life matters, whose young people and local businesses matter. That's a factor that comes into play.
Ms. Kennedy is here to talk about the consultations. I think there is a communication issue. I hope the government is going to say that recess is over. It has to stop for a minute and recognize the fact that we have a tightly knit system and that it's in everyone's best interest to protect it. I'd like for everyone to come and give their input and for no decisions to be made right away.
The past few months have felt like recess. The Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office made changes to its rating system, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission made changes to its evaluation of Canadian content, Shomi shut down because it wasn't profitable, the publications L'actualité and Châtelaine could be sold off, CBC is improvising, and the Canada Media Fund decided to post our content on YouTube for Canada's 150th anniversary.
An all-encompassing view of the big picture is needed, but doesn't exist. I would expect the and the to take responsibility for that. But I was pleased that, in your presentation, Mr. Bernier, you referred to the study commissioned by Canadian Heritage and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, or ISED for short, because it's important. ISED paid no attention to the matter for 10 years, on the pretense that it was strictly a heritage issue. I'm glad it's now at the table.
Ms. Joly has often said that everything was on the table. In that case, then, can we bring everyone to the table? Many people have called me to say that they would like to participate but that they weren't invited to the meetings. Must they go through Ms. Guindon and Mr. Smith, submit a four-page brief, stand up at the microphone, and say what they have to say? That doesn't work.
As I see it, I have no choice but to put my faith in you and Ms. Joly. You are both professionals who have been doing a very good job for some time, but the fact remains that the situation is critical. I shouldn't be mistaken for some paranoid person who's afraid of thunder. The truth is that our system is in jeopardy. The cracks are showing, and people are taking advantage of that. Foreigners who view Canada as just another market to conquer are capitalizing on the cracks in our system. I understand that mentality since it's in their best interest; they have to answer to shareholders looking for a return on their investment.
Regardless, we have a system in place, and I'd like to know what the formal process is in order to get an invitation to the table. I'm not one of the ones who want to participate, but many stakeholders would like to know that everyone is at the table.
One of them is George Cope from Bell Canada. He's at the helm of a company we have always been very proud of, one that leverages the benefits of spectrum for its wireless business. He's a major player representing a key public company.
Pension funds are at stake. Everything is important. Bell isn't some monster, but a hugely important player. It nevertheless has a responsibility to Canadians. The same goes for the family of Ted Rogers.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Earlier, I mentioned the Rogers family, which is at the helm of a Canadian company that chose to build networks such as Cantel. I have been a Rogers customer for 22 years, because its system is reliable and well-designed for our country's needs and geographic location.
Nowadays, the same companies are trying to tailor their products to Canadians' tastes. But we shouldn't expect Canadians to scratch their heads and ask for more Canadian content; we shouldn't expect that to be something they are concerned about. Nor should we expect them to stand up and proclaim they don't like James Bond movies or the show Orange Is the New Black, which everyone watches.
There seems to be a certain naïveté about this consultation, which, I would remind everyone, is anonymous. I don't see the point in that. Earlier, Mr. Breton said that we should be able to get more information. You mentioned that the province of residence of the survey respondents was known. I find all of this extremely frustrating, because, for a long time now, I have had high hopes for this consultation.
Whenever the opportunity arose to meet with one of our major players, I would tell them that I knew they wore several hats but that it would be beneficial to hear them talk about each of their roles. It would be beneficial to hear from the person in charge of media content and television production, to hear from them that they were having a rough time, that the competition was taking over the market. It would be beneficial to hear from the person in charge of broadband service hookups, to hear them say that, from a Netflix standpoint, everything was going quite well. That's the reality of these companies.
Bear in mind also that, a year or two ago, sat on this very committee. He asked a Bell representative about FACTOR and the steps that needed to be taken in the case of MUSICACTION to bring in money, because there were no radio transactions.
The Bell representative basically said that Internet access functions could potentially be sufficient. Today, that's what ADISQ is calling for. Online merchants anticipate the need to regulate the service and collect a tax. Bell and all the big media companies are asking to be on a level playing field with the big providers. Could they at least pay sales taxes? That is rather basic, after all.
With that in mind, I have three questions for you. Before the consultations end, will we find out who is sitting at the adults' table and who is sitting at the kids' table? Will we find out who is invited and how to get an invitation? We need to make sure that all of our stakeholders are represented.
How does the process work? Many people are wondering, and many realize that the situation is urgent. It's as though we're dancing on the Titanic. What are we doing, then, to fix the hole in the ship's hull?