by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
canada, colin mochrie, content, internet, regulations


The Goldilocks Argument For Regulating Online Content In Canada

from the too-much,-too-little dept

The attempts by some Canadian TV writers and actors to get Canadian regulators to regulate internet content is seen by many as pretty ridiculous. The arguments make almost no sense, and seem to center on the idea that there's so much content online, that no one can find Canadian content unless (a) ISPs pay extra to fund it and (b) certain sites are forced to promote Canadian content. What's never explained is what's wrong with option (c): make good content that people want to see. That option would solve all the other issues.

That said, Rob Hyndman points us to a great analysis showing just how ridiculous it is to think that the CRTC needs to regulate online content:
Once upon a time there were only four or five television channels. Hardly anyone had the money to broadcast a television signal, and if anyone did, there were only so many spots available on the dial.

In such a world of "spectrum scarcity," it was argued, government regulation was essential to ensure a diversity of content--and, in Canada, to ensure that some of that content was Canadian. Or as the cultural nationalists had it, to make it possible for Canadians to "tell ourselves our own stories." This was the world in which the CRTC was born.

Flash forward 40 or 50 years, to a very different world. Not only are there now hundreds of conventional television channels catering to every conceivable taste, but with the advent of Internet broadcasting the constraints of cost and spectrum have disappeared. There are literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian websites, each of them, post-YouTube, potentially a broadcaster in its own right. It is now possible for any Canadian with a video camera and a laptop to transmit to every other Canadian. And the cultural nationalists' response? This just makes the case for more regulation.
It's a great point, and it's something I call the "goldilocks argument" for regulation. The original content regulations were because there was "too little" content that could be delivered over TV. Thus, there "needed" to be regulation to ensure that in that limited and scarce space, that some of it would be Canadian. But the argument now is the reverse. It's that there's "too much" content online, and thus it's hard to find good Canadian content (apparently, some people up north haven't discovered Google). So, the argument seems to be that the CRTC is needed to make sure the content is "just right" whether there's too little content or too much content available.

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  • identicon
    Emmet, 27 Feb 2009 @ 4:30pm

    segmenting based on geography

    As someone who runs a number of websites, and who is currently building a website that I hope to target a Canadian audience specifically, I agree that this kind of protectionism is silly. Develop content that is catered to your geographic region, get a dot.ca domain name, and you'll start showing up on Google.ca AND whenever people in Canada go to Google, we are generally directed to Google.ca where Canadian results are given more preference. Check out this interview on an Australian blogger who carved out a nice little nice for himself down under:


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

  • identicon
    Anshar, 27 Feb 2009 @ 5:49pm

    "What's never explained is what's wrong with option (c): make good content that people want to see."

    Speaking as a Canadian I have to say this was a problem long before the Internet was a factor. Until very recently most Canadian-made TV was just... bad. Nevertheless, it got air-time in Canada just because it was Canadian.

    Even with all the regulation that we have, competition from the Internet and other sources has forced Canadian artists and producers to improve. We're producing better content all around but I'm sure the CRTC (which no one in Canada really likes save for big businesses) will take the credit. They'll cite their regulations rather than the extra competition which they've been too slow to prevent.

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

  • identicon
    bigpicture, 27 Feb 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Canadian Content

    I am a Canadian and I watch very little Canadian content, because apart from sports, these other productions such as movies etc. just plain don't cut it.

    Completely forget about the viewer (audience) and get all wrapped up in "exploring the artistic side", and forget all about that production / content is for the viewer and without an audience an "artistic" production is pointless.

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

    • identicon
      Steve, 2 Mar 2009 @ 10:44am

      Re: Canadian Content

      I make my living in television and I fully believe that if Canadian content was actually any good, it would need legislation to prop it up. I'm looking at you CanWest Global.

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

  • identicon
    Chad Allard, 1 Mar 2009 @ 2:02pm

    That's strange..

    I live in Canada and I see myself being force-fed Canadian content far too often. Google.com automatically redirects to Google.ca on any internet service I've used (a feature from Google), and if you do a simple search for something generic like "dogs", you will get force-fed Canadian content before any Worldwide content. In order to prevent this, you have to manually tell the browser to use Google.com rather than Google.ca... then you see the popular content.

    The same can be said about Youtube, another Google-owned site. By default it searches the "Canada" video content before any other popular content. I have to manually click "Worldwide" which I believe should be the default, having Canada as a personal choice if I choose it.

    Sounds like no regulation is needed in my opinion, because we're being forced to look at the Canadian content first anyway. Someone facing the same situation as myself MUST be seeing the same Canadian content as I am... in fact you have to look hard enough to find anything else. This needs regulation? Ha!

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

  • identicon
    Spudd86, 15 Mar 2009 @ 6:45pm

    This is typical of Canada

    In our desperation to be 'not American' we do very dumb and pointless things.

    If you want cable or sattilite here certain popular stations are bundled with other stations you will probably never watch, in the name of promoting Canadian content.

    All Canadian TV and radio stations are required to play a certain minimum amount of Canadian content. (The definition of Canadian content is sometimes stupidly loose...)

    The CBC has a tendancy to get government funding to go make a bad miniseries no-one wants to watch (they also make good ones... but the bad ones are OBVIOUSLY not going to be popular).

    Most Canadian artists and actors don't find people willing to pay them until they leave Canada and get some American media company to pay them (Trailer Park Boys for example).

    In other words we end up exporting all our talent to the States.

    This thing with mandating Canadian content on the internet is more of the same stupid crap.

    (Language laws in Quebec are even more stupid...)

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

  • identicon
    Article Traffic Link, 29 Aug 2009 @ 11:26am

    Canadian content

    I agree that this kind of protectionism is silly but I have to say that no regulation is needed in my opinion, because we're being forced to look at the Canadian content first anyway.

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

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