Monday, February 16, 2009

Canada Doesn't Need a National Firewall

I found this article via, the CRTC is apparently considering, once again, whether to regulate Canadian Content online. The short answer is no (actually that's the long answer too. From the Financial Post:
"At issue, according to some, is the very future of Canadian content available on the Internet. Since 1999, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has exempted programming broadcast over the Internet from the same regulations that apply to conventional broadcasters, which include everything from licences, to the percentage of Canadian channels and programs aired - and at what hours those shows are on - to foreign ownership restrictions.

Part of the reason for this exemption was that the regulator believed "the effect of new media on television audience size would be limited, at least until such time as high-quality video programming could be distributed on the Internet."
That time is upon us."
The only way to regulate Canadian content online is to regulate the entire internet and everything that happens there. It means building the Canadian equivalent of great firewall of China. It would mean the CRTC having a say in everything you might put on your own blog, or Facebook, or twitter or whatever. Even then it would fail, there are ways around the Great Firewall of China. It would set up, in other words, an adversarial relationship between broadcasters and the CRTC on one side and consumers on the other. It would be phenomenally expensive and ultimately futile.

Even having this discussion assumes that the CRTC has hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars to spend regulating the Canadian internet. If they do then Canadian content would be far better served if they put that money into subsidies for the production of Canadian content rather than dumping it into a hole trying to block non-Canadian content.

It has often been said that one of the problems with Canadian television is that there are no natural predators. The argument goes that Canadian television is a club and that, succeed or fail, the same people keep making shows. If one fails they just make a different one. Those days are over. The predators are here. Regulating internet content, in a democracy, is a fantasy. If you are a Canadian content producer you are now in competition with the entire planet. You will never find a more vocal and devoted supporter of Canadian arts and culture than I am, but the free ride is over, the walls that protected you for so long are coming down. It's time to step up and show the world what you've got.

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