Netflix/CRTC To Showdown Over Confidential Business Information The Government Refuses To Protect
from the northern-fights dept
We recently wrote about recent developments in Canada regarding the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications Commission looking to apply the same “culture tax” to Netflix and other internet services as is done to broadcasters of television programming. In case you’re not aware, there are taxes in place in Canada, which broadcasters of mostly foreign (read: American) programming are required to pay, that go into a fund supposedly used to create more “Canadian” content. If that sounds strange and convoluted to you, you’re not alone, but more on that later.
It appears as though things are getting a bit testy, with members of the CRTC Commission requesting Netflix hand over data on its subscribers, the content they watch, and hosted “Canadian” content, all while refusing to protect that proprietary information from the competition’s eyes. Needless to say, Netflix refused.
A Netflix executive told the country’s broadcast regulator on Friday before being ordered to hand over the confidential company information that regulating the internet to help boost Canadian content will only hurt consumers. In an occasionally tense appearance before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Corie Wright urged the broadcast regulator to let market forces dictate what consumers can watch.
Chiefly at issue was the Canadian government’s refusal to affirm that it would keep Netflix’s data confidential. In other words, the government was asking a private company to hand over sensitive business information with no assurance that the information wouldn’t then end up in the hands of surely interested competitors. They might as well have asked the company to punch itself in the crotch, for all the sense it makes. All this, keep in mind, is geared towards determining if that committee will levy a tax on Netflix for the sin of having a lot of content Canadian consumers really want. Screw the market forces, just prop up our own culture from the outside.
And that really makes no sense. First of all, if Canadian content is bought and paid for with American dollars, how Canadian is it, really? It’s practically begging for cultural diffusion, the very thing the tax is supposed to stave off. And the whole concept leads to some really silly comments, such as:
“Netflix’s kind of late-1990s view of the internet as some unregulatable space was dragged into the 21st century and was put on notice,” said Carleton University journalism professor Dwayne Winseck, who characterized Wright’s appearance as “theatre.” “The CRTC has a Broadcasting Act to live up to and Netflix … has to have a respectful conversation in that light.”
Ah, yes, the CRTC wants to pretend that the internet is a walled broadcasting system, like television, and it’s Netflix that is living in days gone by? Beyond that, think of this from Netflix’s point of view. The CRTC falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Parliament. It’s government, in other words, answering to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is in turn responsible for Canada’s arts, culture, media and sport. So, put simply, the part of the Canadian government that is responsible for encouraging the creation of Canadian arts and culture instead is saying, “Fuck it, just make Netflix do it.”
And you can understand why. After all, actually doing the work themselves in creating a cultural marketplace, in fostering the Canadian arts, in promoting the education and training of film-makers and artists such that their work is desired by the Canadian public, sounds quite complicated. Telling someone else to do it for you must be much easier.