OTTAWA -- The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would get sweeping new powers and responsibilities, including oversight of foreign streaming services, if the government adopts an expert panel's recommendations.
The 235-page report was released Wednesday after more than 18 months of consultations and research by the federally appointed Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel headed by Janet Yale.
Among other things, it recommends the CRTC's mandate be broadened to include some foreign and local issues.
For instance, the report says the CRTC should be responsible for a new registration process for internet companies such as Netflix that distribute media content in Canada, whether the provider is domestic or foreign.
"Under this approach, any media content undertaking with significant Canadian revenues and delivering media content by means of the internet would be required to register," the report says.
It also recommends that the federal government immediately require foreign media content suppliers to collect the goods and services tax on subscriptions, in order to eliminate a disadvantage faced by their Canadian competitors.
The reports says the registration process, similar to licensing, would give the CRTC powers to collect fees at a corporate level rather than at the consumer side.
"We want to be clear that we are not recommending that Canadian content be supported by the so-called `Netflix Tax' -- charging consumers an extra levy on subscriptions to such services as Netflix."
The report says that its proposed regime would require online streaming services that benefit from operating in Canada to be registered by the CRTC and required to invest in programming that will "attract and appeal to Canadians."
"This approach would ensure a meaningful contribution to Canadian cultural policy objectives and the production sector. It need not result in higher prices for consumers," the report says.
The Liberal government has been under pressure to require a growing number of foreign companies -- such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple -- to help fund Canadian content, as required by traditional domestic broadcasters and distributors.
The Yale panel was assigned to to consider a vast array of issues beyond the role of foreign streaming services such such as: future mobile phone service, internet and mobile services in rural and remote areas of Canada, competition and affordability and the future of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The government is not required to implement any of the recommendations.
Recommendations from the report include:
-- amend the Broadcasting Act require the federal government to provide five-year funding commitments to the federal broadcaster, the CBC/Radio-Canada.
-- remove the specific reference to radio and television in CBC/Radio-Canada's mandate, so a broader range of media content is included.
-- eliminate advertising on any of the CBC/Radio Canada platforms over the next five years, starting with news content.
-- give the CRTC sole jurisdiction to mandate and establish terms and conditions of access to wholesale wireless services.
-- assign the CRTC the explicit responsibility for the administration of databases related to the functioning and location of telecommunications networks.
-- create a more consistent, transparent, and predictable process for appeals of individual CRTC decisions to the federal cabinet.