The CBC could make $172 million as a result of deals signed with social media giants under the Online News Act, or Bill C-18, passed this year by the Liberal government.
It would make CBC the largest beneficiary of the law which has been described by critics as a shakedown of social media companies like Google and Facebook.
According to the draft regulations, media companies can receive compensation for news links shared on the social media platforms based on the number of full-time journalists they have employed.
Former Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission vice-chair Peter Menzies has done an analysis of estimated payouts and found that CBC employed the largest share of journalists in all of Canada, meaning it would likely be the biggest beneficiary of the law.
The CBC already receives $1.2 billion in taxpayer funding from Canadians each year.
“I’m a big fan of having a public broadcaster, but not a large commercial competitor eating everybody else’s lunch,” Menzies told the Globe and Mail.
According to University of Ottawa internet law expert Michael Geist, the way the law is written means that smaller independent media outlets will see little to no benefit relative to large companies like the CBC.
“On the relative compensation issue it’s a clear advantage for the CBC and other big broadcasters, but the smaller players – hundreds of independent media outlets – will lose out,” said Geist.
When the law was being debated in the House of Commons, Conservatives argued that the CBC should not be eligible under the bill because it is already publicly subsidized.
“CBC from day one should have been excluded from funds from C-18. I have heard from many smaller media organizations that they simply can’t compete with the public broadcaster,” said Conservative MP and former journalist Kevin Waugh.
CBC spokesperson Leon Mar has since stood by the public broadcaster’s inclusion under the bill.
“It will help ensure that all Canadian media organizations, regardless of their size, are able to receive fair compensation for the content they produce when that content is used by digital companies to attract and keep people on their platforms and generate revenue,” Mar told the Globe and Mail.
In response to the legislation, Facebook has completely stopped sharing news in Canada altogether which technically means it is no longer subject to the regulations.