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media content regulation, sovereignty, transnational digital platforms, broadcasting regulation, McLuhan, Canada, personal data, privacy, technological neutrality, net neutrality, discoverability


This article examines the legal and normative foundations of media content regulation in the borderless networked society. We explore the extent to which internet undertakings should be subject to state regulation, in light of Canada’s ongoing debates and legislative reform. We bring a cross-disciplinary perspective (from the subject fields of law; communications studies, in particular McLuhan’s now classic probes; international relations; and technology studies) to enable both policy and language analysis. We apply the concept of sovereignty to states (national cultural and digital sovereignty), media platforms (transnational sovereignty), and citizens (autonomy and personal data sovereignty) to examine the competing dynamics and interests that need to be considered and mediated. While there is growing awareness of the tensions between state and transnational media platform powers, the relationship between media content regulation and the collection of viewers’ personal data is relatively less explored. We analyse how future media content regulation needs to fully account for personal data extraction practices by transnational platforms and other media content undertakings. We posit national cultural sovereignty—a constant unfinished process and framework connecting the local to the global—as the enduring force and justification of media content regulation in Canada. The exercise of state sovereignty may be applied not so much to secure strict territorial borders and centralized power over citizens but to act as a mediating power to promote and protect citizens’ individual and collective interests, locally and globally.