Canadian TV Industry: Please, Regulators, Make The Internet More Like TV... And Have ISPs Give Us Money

from the how-to-break-the-internet-in-one-easy-step dept

Last week, we wrote about how the Writers Guild of Canada was pushing government regulators to force ISPs to fund content creation, with a specific focus on promoting Canadian content and trying to tone down or keep out non-Canadian content from online sources. This seemed pretty ridiculous, but the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is in fact holding hearings on the issue.

Perhaps the most ridiculous is Canadian comedian Colin Mochrie, who is making pretty much a mockery of the whole thing by whining about how Canadian content will get buried if ISPs don't pay extra to create and "broadcast" Canadian content. Perhaps Mochrie hasn't noticed, but ISPs aren't like TV networks. They don't choose what content they air. They are the conduit. Mochrie's complaints get more and more silly the further he goes:
Unlike television, when you are broadcasting through new media, the space for content is practically endless. However, being endless, content can easily get lost. So how do we make sure Canadians can find our own content? How do we make sure Canadian content is featured and given "shelf space"?
How about by making the content good so people want to see it no matter where they're from? Or, if he wants to go fund a website that just highlights Canadian content, he's free to do so. It wouldn't even cost that much, thanks to the wonders of the internet. And that's before Mochrie just starts making stuff up:
Most of what we do on the Internet falls under the definition of "broadcasting" and that percentage grows daily as we turn to our laptops, iPods and mobile phones to watch our favourite programs.
No, actually. Most of what people do on the internet falls under the definition of "communications." A small amount falls under "broadcasting," but even then it tends to be a lot more interactive than traditional broadcasting. The broadcasting companies have jumped onto the internet bandwagon (much too late, of course), but they should learn to adapt to the platform -- not force the entire platform to become TV 2.0.

Mochrie goes on to make the argument that basically anyone offering content in Canada needs to be regulated -- meaning forcing them to show Canadian content, and that ISPs and wireless operators should be forced to fund this content? Why? Who needs reasons! It's for the good of Canadian culture or something.

In the meantime, while we agree with ISPs like Rogers, who are protesting any such move, it is worth pointing out how hypocritical they're being as well. Rogers is protesting any such rule by claiming "We're a dumb pipe" who can't be expected to "regulate" the content shown over their network. However, as Michael Geist points out, when it comes to traffic shaping, Rogers has no problem claiming it's "smart" enough to figure out what to shape and block. So which is it?

This whole debate is rather silly of course. Starting to regulate content on the internet would serve to severely damage internet services and culture in Canada -- bringing all of the disadvantages of protectionist cultural policies and knocking out most of the benefits of the internet. Hopefully the CRTC knows better than to follow folks like Colin Mochrie.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:18am

    Huh?

    Colin Mochrie like all canadian entertainment professionals does the majority of his work in America, LA, NY and Las Vegas? I dont get this at all, Canada is just not as big a market as its larger same language speaking sister to the south (lovely country though it is)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:27am

    If only buggy-whip manufacturers could have had laws enacted forcing automobile manufacturers to make their vehicles more buggy-like. Or requiring every automobile driver to purchase his own buggy-whip.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Bill, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:49am

    Only in canada would someone think of something so stupid and then hold a national debate on on it and maybe even pass it! The result, if passed, will be to kill the internet in what is already a third world country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Greg, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Typically Canadian

    Good Canadian artists have always done well, although, they typically move to the US. Stuff like SCTV and The Kids in the Hall were popular because they were good, not because of CanCon rules. The government can certainly help in promoting them through websites, etc. but they always seem to want to jam them down our throats instead. (e.g. Nickelback - If I ever hear another Nickelback song I'm going to puke!) Usually this has the opposite effect: anything jammed down your throat immediately becomes incredibly lame. Canadian radio particularly sucks because of CanCon rules, which is why I only listen to internet radio and my iPod.

    Anyways, any such regulations will be laughable and will only serve to crank up costs while people work around them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Xander, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Wait, wait, wait . . .

    Colin Mochrie?!

    The same Colin Mochrie that acknowledges his internet exsistance and popularity due to amateur (for better or for worse) Amutations? You would think he would know about the value of fans over content much like rick astley. :/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Sean, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    ISP is like a utility

    ISPs are not "broadcasting" the content. In this context ISPs are more like a utility. Why don't they go after the electricity companies after all they enable us to view content on both the internet and on television.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Greg, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re:

    What a retarded comment. Have you ever been outside the US or are you just talking out of your ass?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Don't Do It, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Seriously, if the CRTC regulated the internet in anyway, I would leave, simple as that. I hate that our satillite radio is limited by Canadian content laws, if they attempt to expand this to the Internet, I'm gone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    y8, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:58am

    that's how it goes, eh?

    The fact is, that in Canada, they do force the 'pipeline' to pay for the 'product'. If you consider the cable company to be like the ISP -- they don't make the content, they just deliver all of the channels to your home -- the cable companies (I don't know if there are any other than Rogers) pay a huge tax that goes into the pockets of the writers, actors, producers, etc.

    When XM Radio was officially licensed in Canada, not only did they have to guarantee a certain percentage of all content is Canadian (meaning Canadian written, produced and acted) but they had to agree to give some huge amount of money to the guilds every year. Now Canadians don't get dozens of XM channels that Americans get because there isn't enough Canadian only content to make up the difference; and XM has to seek out Canadian content and boadcast it whether it's good or not. There's also a requirement that half of the Canadian content has to be French.

    XM also isn't allowed to provide channels such as ESPN in Canada because it competes directly with Canadian channels, and the Canadians are afraid that they can't compete on level ground with ESPN.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Doombringer, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    Grow up Canada!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Doombringer, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Grow up Canada!

    It sounds to me like the CRTC needs to grow a pair if you know what I mean. Canadian only content?!?! Give me a break. Like their artists are so inferior they have to regulate how much air time they get? Imagine if we did that down here in the States. The rest of the world would flip the f*** out, as we are a huge market. Come on guys you gave us Rush and Mare, just quit bringing shit like Nickelback to the table and everything will be fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Esahc (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Re:

    Last I checked Canada was still a first world country:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:First_second_third_worlds_map.svg

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Re: that's how it goes, eh?

    "they don't make the content, they just deliver all of the channels to your home"

    The huge difference is that the cable companies decide which content to deliver. They choose to offer HBO and Comedy Central and not to offer RFD-TV. So in a way they're no different than a broadcaster such as NBC, which decides which shows to broadcast. Certainly if Canada can tell a broadcaster how much programing has to come from Canada, it can compel a cable company to make similar requirements.

    However ISPs do not make such choices. They provide anything the internet has to offer. The choices are made by the end user to decide where he or she wants to surf. Thus, it makes no sense for Canada to tell ISPs what to transmit, because they're not the ones making the decision.

    Maybe Canada should enact laws telling its citizens where they can surf, sort of like China.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Enough already.

    As a proud Canuck of Canuckistan, the canadian content rules are dumb enough on television. Taxpayer dollars frittered away on terrible cbc dramas. Aanyone remember Riverdale? The Globe called it a "Dog of a Show" in a reivew that implied the dog was the best actor.

    Canadians pay a LOT of taxes, the top income tax bracket being decidedly low (the tax brackets haven't been updated in decades) and the top marginal tax rate is something like 43% (and most provinces have a sales tax of 10-15%). Some of these taxes go to wonderful social programs, and some of them fund idiotic canadian content.

    Now these guys want to apply cultural protectionism to the internet. How's that working out in China? And where will these costs go, who will really pay for them? I'm sure Bell and Rogers will just absorb this... NAWT!! (à la Borat)

    While cultural funding from tax dollars is sometimes a very good thing (Just for laughs, for e.g. receives some funding, can be very high quality, and does a lot for the economy in Montreal), the last thing we need is an online Dog.

    Do we Canadian content creators really need MORE funding? Aren't there hundreds and hundreds of content creators living succesfully south of the border, having "made it"? So who's starving? The two-bit hacks coming up with Riverdale and its ilk. Sorry, not interested in funding their beemers. They can get bloody Nissans if they can't be bothered to produce schlock totally devoid of interesting or entertaining material.

    And this doesn't even touch on the mechanistic non-fit of trying to force content in a pull model like the net, as opposed to the push model of tv.

    Canadian content creators already get funded by straight-up taxes. It's enough, put this Dog of an idea to bed. It doesn't hunt, Mon Seigneur.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Esahc (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re:

    Damn it! I also should have checked the maps date . . . (hangs head in shame)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Tyler C Hellard, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    CanCon

    While the push for CanCon regulations for the web are misguided at best, CanCon rules over the last few decades have been a positive for Canadian arts and culture. The regulations aren't perfect--there's the brutal radio broadcasting loophole known as Nickelback, previously known as Celine Dion and Bryan Adams--but they do serve a purpose. You have to remember, it's a lot cheaper for broadcasters to just buy and run with American content rather than focus on creating their own. Were it not for CanCon, I can't imagine how ignored Canadian artists and producers would actually be.

    Still, expecting ISPs to fork over cash and manage content is patently stupid. Ideally we'd look at other ways to invest in home-grown programming to help it stand on its own. Right now it's a misunderstanding of how the web works, in terms of both who delivers the content and how people want to access it. That being said, I think it is important that a discussion around how Canadian content can be delivered to Canadians online is an important one and I'm glad we're starting to have it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Mark, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Canadian Hulu

    Making a walled garden out of the internet is not only wrong but it will be very difficult to enforce and why should be become like China anyway. What they should do is make something similar to a hulu.com where people can enjoy content for free and maybe see an ad or 2. If they want to do this kind of thing they at least have to build a site first, then if they market it right then people will choose to watch it.

    Personally I would love to have a site open to Canadians that offer video / audio content (especially HD) since I get most of my entertainment from watching stuff on sites like youtube and would watch a lot more if I was able to watch HD content. That in its self is a selling point for me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Lickity Split, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Re:

    Right, your going to up and move to the US and try and get a green card and try and eventually become a citizen, just because they fucked with your pron surfing. Let me know how that goes...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 10:14am

    Re: Wait, wait, wait . . .

    Seriously, Animutation is the only reason why I know the name of that comedian.

    1) Exposure
    2) Popularity
    3) Demand
    4) Profit!

    Insert "Act like a moron" in there somewhere, and #4 starts to disappear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: CanCon

    "Were it not for CanCon, I can't imagine how ignored Canadian artists and producers would actually be."

    Where these laws responsible for Dan Akroyd, the SCTV crew, Jim Carrey, William Shatner, John Candy, Mike Myers, Rush . . . . Bare Naked LAdies . . . etc . . . were they responsible for the success of ANY of these people? It seems Canadians have done very well in entertainment for better then 30 years? If these CanCon laws are actually responsible for giving these people a shot then I agree with you completely. If they are however only responsible for Nickleback, Tom Green or Celin Dion . . . well I think they are doing alot more harm then good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: CanCon

    "Where these laws responsible for Dan Akroyd, the SCTV crew, Jim Carrey, William Shatner, John Candy, Mike Myers, Rush . . . . Bare Naked LAdies . . . etc . . . were they responsible for the success of ANY of these people?"

    Imagine where these people would be if the UNited States had laws similar to CanCon?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    "Imagine where these people would be if the UNited States had laws similar to CanCon?"

    Doing guest shots on the Red Green show?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Mogilny, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    What a joke!

    I think they should subsidize the canadian online porn industry! CANPORN!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Canadian Hulu

    Canadian Hulu -- grass skirts and flannel shirts?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Super TV, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    With so many regulations on the horizon, I'm just happy I was able to find a reliable way to wathc premuim channels on my computer. Be scammed to many times trying to find a legitimate Satellite TV for PC software that actually worked. I found one last week and must say I am shocked to see all the channels the software delivers. It proof, if you search hard enough, you will find what you are looking for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Mogilny, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: Canadian Hulu

    AND beaver pelts!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    "Doing guest shots on the Red Green show?"

    Ok, that was funny. Unfortunately, there are probably only about 23 Americans who know what the Red Green Show is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    Knock off the astroturfing, dickball.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    "Ok, that was funny. Unfortunately, there are probably only about 23 Americans who know what the Red Green Show is."

    Hehe well I was hoping someone might get it and you did. Techdirt can usualy be counted on for a pretty esoteric audience.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    Red Green is a little obscure, but thanks to the magic of YouTube, anyone can learn how to hold a car together with duct tape...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    My favorite was the one where he tried to build his own satellite dish using old potato chip bags. God, I thought I was going to pass out I was laughing so hard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    or build your own elevator out of an old phone booth and duct tape LOL, now that I think about it, all his DIY tips involve copious amounts of Duct Tape LOL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    or build your own elevator out of an old phone booth and duct tape LOL, now that I think about it, all his DIY tips involve copious amounts of Duct Tape LOL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: CanCon

    or build your own elevator out of an old phone booth and duct tape LOL, now that I think about it, all his DIY tips involve copious amounts of Duct Tape LOL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Jerrrry, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: CanCon

    FYI Anonymous Coward. Tom Green has been doing a professional live-broadcast show out of his house in Hollywood since 2006. Like it or not he is a broadcasting pioneer and entrepreneur. He's a totally independent broadcaster free from CRTC, FCC, or television executive regulation. That freedom and resourcefulness is something to be applauded and is an example of what can be accomplished on the unregulated internet as we know it right now. tomgreen.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    pat donovan, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 4:44am

    a subscrition based web means you all just got unpersoned.
    welcome to web 3.0 facebook doesn't need a reason, and like cable, what theISP's let thru is gonna be really arbitary.

    web 2.0 got the news sanitized by killing off political opposition. (like tamil.com)

    more to the point, the dayobama arrived, a ottawa sex-toy got included in the oscar grab-bag. On the same page?
    safe to say they're all in bed together.
    pat

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Joe Bunda, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 12:18am

    Canadian Culture?

    What the hell is Canadian culture anyway? Eating back-bacon and gravy on your french fries, saying "Aye", playing Canadian Tire dollars at the poker table, and whining about the Québécois does not constitute a culture. If you dropped every Anglophone Canadian into Fargo, North Dakota no one could tell the difference from the locals. Canadian culture is a myth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    maik, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 7:05am

    APOLOGIES THE TERMS, DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH WELL ... BUT TRY TO HELP.

    Until now, when sailed over the Internet, we were forced to watch a bunch of ads on most Web pages, but no one for it.

    Today is taking a new revolution within the network companies are starting to pay money for advertisements that make us see while browsing. So over the past few months have been paid by companies that you see your ads while you're browsing, or to receive or send e-mail.

    Moreover these companies are interested in having the maximum number of Internet users viewing their ads, and therefore encourage you to make more people know the existence of this activity. In reward for this collection of sailors we offer more money for the hours of browsing customers received. See, if you decide to join the program to offer any of the companies using associate telling you that my recommendation, you will pay for the hours navigated X dollars, and I am paid (not as much as you do) for the hours you sailed. If you do not register as my referral andalusia join you only pay you X dollars for the same time you've sailed, but the money they had charged me for your hours do not receive your navigation, it keeps the company. Therefore, you do not lose anything indicating that you are referring to my partner and I if I can win.

    The page that I'm making money is


    Bux.to



    The first step to opening an account is absolutely free and safe in alertpay because through this account you will pay them.
    Once your account alertpay
    enter here
    (http://bux.to/?r=ferreyro076) and if you register that you register as referred to me not lose anything, but I helped raise something else, like what will happen when others are referring to yours, for it must make ferreyro076 in the box that says referral once registered revenue by your username and password and you are going to begin to SURF ADS.
    The process seems simple, simply click on a link is a website for 30 seconds and you're making money.
    Pay $ o.o1 you see for each site and $ 0.01 for every site you see people you mean.
    The minimum pay is $ 10 via paypal and you can charge every day.


    This is the example they give you


    You make 10 clicks per day = $ 0.10
    You refer 20 people who make 10 clicks per day = $ 2.00
    Your daily earnings = $ 2.10
    Your weekly earnings = $ 14.70
    Your monthly earnings = $ 63.00.


    Not bad for starting and using about 5 minutes per day of your time.
    Besides the example is to refer 20 people, imagine what happens if people mean more than that.
    Today I could do 8 clicks and they will clarify that some days have more and other days will have less but what is really important here it seems the number of people can relate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Spudd86, Mar 15th, 2009 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Canadian Culture?

    Have you actually been to Canada?

    We have totally different attitudes and veiws from Americans,
    you might not notice a differnce right away but wait a while and you'd see.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Gen, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 6:24am

    Why Canadian TV such a crap?

    I subscribed to Rogers Basic Cable ($ 33 per month). And every time I turn on the TV I’m wondering why I pay so much for the garbage I see on the screen. There is 35 channels:

    1 channel shows stupid programs for little kids, people speak like cartoon characters, and cartoons look like figures where caught from cardboard.

    2 channels are in French – no value for me.

    2 channels are news: CBC and CityTV NewsNet, I can watch those. But problem is they show same stories, often with the same footage and with the same comments. Another thing is they have news for 30 min per day maximum. They show them in the merry-go-round mode. I often wonder how on planet earth, where we have 6 bln people they can’t find anything better then Iraq war, Afghan war and Obama which take about 80 % of the time.

    1 is a shopping channel, selling you things you don’t need for the price you can’t afford.

    Other 28 channels are absolutely indistinguishable from each other, they show “Friends”, “One and a half man”, “King of Queens” and similar soaps running there for the last 10 years at least. When they reach last part they start from the beginning. Most of the other air time is dedicated to Court Room shows, Cooking shows, Quiz shows and the like. This is for the people with IQ level of a dog, thoug I saw dogs smarter then this.


    And do not forget that whatever channel you chose you really watching commercials and they are interrupted by some other broadcasts with a ratio of 5 min commercial - 7 min other programming.

    Usually I switch channels for 15 min and I turn off the TV, and always I ask myself this 3 questions:

    Am I too smart that I can’t watch this crap?
    May be Canadian audience is dumb they find it entertaining?
    Or if there is a conspiracy between Government and Media companies trying really hard to turn all Canadians into vegetables?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Michael Cowie, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    Canadian con-tent.

    A very late post - but what the heck!

    The history of the Can Con strife up here in the great white north is a long one, and it's driven by one thing: the proximity of Canada to the USA, and the knock-on effect of Canadians being paranoid about their inability to address that large foreign audience, or appeal to their own countrymen.

    Canada is essentially a country with 3x the land mass of the USA and less than the population of California. This means (until the rise of the internet) Canada has always been an isolationist culture, as 1/2 of our TV and most of our radio was only available to Canadians and was mostly created by Canadians (something the Can-Con laws shored up, to prevent all our media being bought). US TV and radio was receivable if you lived close enough to the border (as was the case for most of us) so it was easy to justify that Canadian networks did not need to show US produced content, as it was already freely available. Even with the advent of Cable, it was easy to regulate how many channels were available, as it was the cable providers who ultimately controlled what was piped to your TV, and they could compete better in a market where unique packages of Canadian speciality channels were available. This means, for the most part until the 1990s, it was easy to ensure that Canadian Content was delivered to Canadians by Canadians, and this resulted in a significant amount of investment in training programs to create a skilled community of artists and technicians, as well as heavy subsidization of a Canadian network of media outlets.

    Ironically, the CanCon that has always been most successful is the work that is inspired by things outside of Canada. For the most part, Canadian culture has no problem celebrating it's international successes, no matter how minor (hence the constant references to the "Canadianness" of people like Keanu Reeves, who was born in Israel and only went to school here for a few years) while generally regarding good work limited to a particular region as second-rate. Government funding of live arts outside the country is generally limited to "safe" art, meaning the most exciting and challenging work almost never leaves the country, or is under-funded when it does (as Canadians are now quite comfortable with the idea that all arts are naturally government funded, those artists which do not gain government funding are somehow less useful/professional/likely to succeed). This has led the international artistic community to regard Canada as "the great white waste of time", producing very beautifully produced art that is of little relevance to anyone outside Canada. This has consequently made it harder for Canadians to succeed internationally, and the parochial nature of our artistic communities doesn't help when we do get to work abroad and are faced with artists who are much more comfortable with competition and criticism.

    The rise of the internet means two things to Canadians - our art can be spread to the world more effectively and cheaply, but at the same time we can now access any broadcast medium available, legally or otherwise, and there is no more control over the quality of what leaves our shores to represent us abroad. This is why, as a Canadian, I am considered the worst type of media consumer because I do not consider my nationality to have any impact on my desire to see/read/watch something. I have eschewed the CBC for years because of it's piss poor content, and now use a VPN to get the BBC and Hulu in the US. To many Canadian artists I am considered a kind of traitor for not consuming more Canadian media, and it exactly the people like me who frighten most Canadian creative professionals.

    The Canadian national response to the internet's impact on our culture has been to make it more difficult and expensive for the average Canadian to produce much of anything. Our regulatory body (the CRTC) has approved the throttling of commercial and wholesale connections to the internet by Bell (which owns and maintains most of the country's phone lines), creating a virtual monopoly, and the highest connectivity prices in the world priced by a company which has just admitted that it has woefully under-invested in it's ability to manage the demands of it's customer base. The performers unions have (with the recent exception of Actra) taken a protectionist stance, and demonized low-cost high-efficiency methods of distribution like BitTorrent and p2p software (essentially, criminalizing anyone who does not have a large production budget) giving credence to the corporate monopoly argument that bigger is always better and innovation only damages everyone else's ability to get "the best deal". In a country where most of the news media is owned and operated by the same corporations that own the major ISP's, most of the coverage of these issues is biased and incomplete, leading the public to either misunderstand the issues at stake, or duped them into taking the side of the same people charging them a premium price while limiting their ability to use the net.

    In short, Canada is already an isolated nation, disallowed from sharing in other online cultures by it's "national independence", and limiting the creative abilities of it's citizens. Those that are active in the debate, and who also create professionally, are ranged into a disjointed anti-protectionist sector facing off against a larger, more ignorant but better funded body spearheaded by people like Colin Mochery (who ironically, got his start on the BBC, a public broadcaster, but is now an ardent commercial artist here in Canada, where he suggests our public broadcaster's inability to stop his act from getting onto YouTube requires new laws to be put in place - clearly not a man with any sense of gratitude!) and other major figures who place self-interest and profitability above the freedom of their countrymen.

    If the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had been funded like the BBC (in a more reliable, less politicized way) Canada would already have a bastion of Canadian Content instead of a tiny, frightened, bullied broadcaster that CBC has become - saddled with the responsibility of justifying its subsidy, yet with its hands tied by the government's insistence that it create populist work. Instead of creating a Canadian iPlayer and making their network content easily accessible (including an enormous back-catalogue of programming that would easily fund a subscription service), the CBC has been resisting becoming an online presence because of concerns over copyright agreements with it's mostly out-sourced drama and comedy productions. I say this having argued with the head of CBC's podcasting unit, who made it very clear to me that opening up CBC content to listeners/viewers outside the country for free is anathema to the Corporation's current mindset (despite numerous releases of sub-par nation-building shows like "Who wants to be the next Prime Minister" via bit-torrent, most of which were fruitless ventures thanks to the throttling of p2p in Canada mentioned above).

    Unfortunately, because it is a media outlet that is as commercially driven as any other broadcaster in Canada, and is now bound by its mandate to produce work that is only the most popular, most of the production companies creating work for the CBC are also concerned about their product being shown for free (like Mr. Mochery) and so they also favor regulation as it will gain them a secure, captive audience base in Canada. How this is supposed to improve international sales is beyond me, and beyond most people who have ever lived outside of Canada. The CBC's position seems to be: putting more of their content online would be expensive (not with p2p for distribution, although that is not possible now thanks to Bell) and risky (assuming an inordinate number of people will try to steal/torrent work that could generate cash - a backwards argument considering how tiny that amount is, or how beneficial it would be to seed little-known work to an international audience to create buzz). If you look at the success of the BBC's online work, it's almost like the decision-makers in Canada look at that success and think "nope - not for us - we'll do the opposite."

    So in short - the Canadian audience IS dumb, because they have been trained to be after 50+ years of an over-reliance on "local" work that is celebrated because of it's origins and not it's relative merits. This ingrained ignorance is probably what has led to four major corporations curtailing Canadian's ability to make the most out of the next ten years of net growth, and the common view that highly efficient means of distributing content are somehow unfair to the public and quasi-criminal. This has produced a nation of professional creatives who resent the internet's ability to distract their previously captive audience, and who have no problem with curtailing the ability of their country to rise to the challenge of a 21st century where the world throws it's culture into one big pot and lets the cream rise to the top. Whereas before, Canadians would leave their country to participate in a cultural industry with a broader, more diverse and larger audience, now they are in a position where they must leave in order to find the resources they need to start-up any kind of digital production company - much less peers to work alongside who won't see them as a threat to the status quo.

    So the rest of the world shouldn't be concerned - Canadians with lots of training will be leaving in droves if the regulation comes in, and those that come your the USA or UK's way will probably love the freedom of being able to get-on with their creative work without having to constantly justify themselves or their ideas. Those Canucks that stay behind will either get a steady stream of work, or spend their lives waiting tables in hopes of their next "big break" while eyeing their peers with suspicion and calculating how many shows they need to be seen at this month to qualify as "active in the community" and ensure that next peer-reviewed grant comes through. You can be sure they will be happy to embrace their miserableness, and call you un-Canadian if you try to help them out of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This