On Canadian content and the internet

A recent article at Canada.com asks if Canadian media content is getting enough visibility online. The author argues that it isn’t, and he argues that new media (the internet) is the same as old media:

“You see, just like television, new media is simply another platform for viewing and distributing programming content.”

He then asks how Canadians can find “their own” content… Heres where my cosmopolitan self comes out and I scream “why would I want to prioritize Canadian content over any other international content?” The idea here is that our industries need help and support to compete with larger ones – ala Hollywood. I understand this perspective, and think subsidizing Canadian film and TV has worked for the better – creating some really great shows that would not otherwise exist. Not to mention I hate Fox news and would be happy to put an enormous levy on its bullshit. When it comes to associating the internet with traditional broadcasting, I start to spazz. There is more Canadian content available now than ever before – and this is because of the internet. Google even helps us find Canadian content by searching “for pages in Canada”.  The blogsphere is filled with Canadian content. So no, the internet is not the same as broadcasting… Content is created more by amateur canadians than professional ones.

“The bottom-line is, whether you are watching an episode of Corner Gas on your TV or ctv.ca, you are enjoying a “broadcast” and the CRTC is obligated under the Broadcasting Act to regulate it.”

No, actually when you watch a tv show online, it is NOT a broadcast in any way whatsoever. It’s completely different. You can broadcast information online, but when it is streamed to individual people, at individual times,  it is not a broadcast. The author continues to call it “new media broadcasting” and hopefully someone will correct him. So let’s look at the authors suggestions:

First, those who are streaming live programs from Canada, through the Internet or to mobile receiving devices, must be licensed and subject to rules equivalent to conventional TV broadcasters. Second, those who are using new media to make programs available from Canada for viewing at a time and place chosen by the viewer must be licensed and subject to regulations equivalent to other “on-demand” programming undertakings. Third, if the CRTC is going to create space for Canadian stories in new media, there must be stories to fill that space. To that end, a levy should be imposed on Internet and wireless service providers to fund new media production, modelled on the levy on cable companies.

Huh? An internet levy? What is that? Some tax for an internet connection? What if I play more video games than I watch TV? Is it really that hard for Canadian content to compete with American content? If so, then tax the American content, not the internet, which is used for so much more than TV. I would be more sympathetic of these Canadian content companies if they would at least try to get their content online. Right now, it’s easier to pirate tv shows than to pay for access to them online. If they can’t even make the shows available on the internet in 2009, then they certainly do not deserve an internet levy!

Do you feel Canadian content needs help being found online? Do your surfing habbits cause you to miss out? Do television companies deserve government help, or are they lazy bastards who haven’t bothered to put their content online? [are legal issues in the way of letting them do this? Are they locked down by cable/satellite companies perhaps? (hey wait, those are the internet providers too... hmmm)]

4 responses to this post.

  1. I agree with you fully Owen, but I need to make one note about something that bothered me for quite some time:

    * Why is there no Canadian equivalent of WordPress or blogger, hosted and managed in Canada? Why do we almost always have to use free American services, when they are free?

    * Rather than more Canadian content — you and I are Canadian content for that matter — I want to see more Canadian infrastructure and less dependency.

    This is not meant to indulge in nationalism: when we use American services, we are subject to American laws, and our information can be readily turned over to American authorities. This would possibly still be true if there were a Canadian WordPress, seeing what avid mimics, clones, and boot lickers we are.

    The broader issue of Canadian content is: what is the content of “Canada”? It is always “news” to me when I hear someone speak of there being a Canadian identity — if there is, I am unfamiliar with it and have no idea what it refers to.

    Reply

  2. Yes, this 2008 NYT article supports Max’s important point about information having the potential of being turned over to US authorities when using US services – a problem that affects us Europeans and other ROW (a US acronym referring to the Rest of the World) citizens as well:

    “Indeed, Internet industry executives and government officials have acknowledged that Internet traffic passing through the switching equipment of companies based in the United States has proved a distinct advantage for American intelligence agencies. In December 2005, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had established a program with the cooperation of American telecommunications firms that included the interception of foreign Internet communications.”

    See
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/business/30pipes.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3

    Reply

  3. Dear Max and John,

    Yup great points. Personally, I assume some government, or some hacker, is constantly scanning through my files online and off. At the level of governments, I don’t think they give a shit where the server is, and I’m sure they can walk through the average routers firewall at will.

    So I don’t worry about where my data is, or who is looking at it. When I want privacy, I use PGP (encryption) which I’m sure they can walk through as well, but I figure it takes more time. I treat all information as being accessible by everyone… If I did have sensitive information, I would never store it online regardless of where the host was located.

    In Canada, the media companies own most of the ISP’s, and all the infrastructure. They used to have to invest in it themselves, but I do not think the CRTC expects them to do that anymore.

    Traffic shaping is the key to this strategy.. this is how Bell will force everyone to use its own media gateways (which it plans to offer at full speed). Some video games share information directly between players – but these games do not function properly on Bells networks, as bell considers all traffic “between users” to be less important than traffic “between a user and a paying server”.

    By shaping traffic, they don’t need to expand their networks. They simply slow us down, and force us into special gateways sponsored by big media.

    I wonder why competition doesn’t spring up, in terms of laying fiber optic networks in big cities… Almost every ISP in Quebec runs through Bell… why is there so little competition?

    Not knowing enough on this subject, I think theres a need to separate ISP’s from the influence of big media companies.

    Reply

  4. Was just reading Enkerli’s latest post, where he points to Wikipedia’s entry “Canadian Content”, which links to some interesting advocacy organizations both for and against the CRTC media policies.

    Reply

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