Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Money Grab, A Censorship Or Both?

Yes, I'm talking about the recent initiatives by the "cultural" groups (such as ACTRA) and the CRTC to regulate the content which is being posted on internet. For now they say, all they want is a levy to be imposed on the ISPs so that they could make access to Canadian content online a little easier. So far, they claim, we shouldn't worry about censorship.
While the call "doesn't mean the CRTC should regulate videos of kids or singing dogs on YouTube," said actor Colin Mochrie, inaction could mean "our stories will get lost and our culture will drown in a sea of non-Canadian content."
Hmm... Has this guy ever heard of Google? Could someone please show him the option which allows users to search only pages from Canada? It's right there, under the search bar! All you need to do is to check that small radio button - and you'll get Canadian content, plenty of Canadian content and nothing but Canadian content. So why would they need the CRTC to intervene?

They want to persuade us that all they want is this is all about money and about paying the artists and the producers their "fair share". So they propose a special levy on the ISPs, one that will be passed to the consumers driving the price of a high speed connection from $47.95 to something like $59.95; one that is going to offer nothing in return except a cheerfully decorated website featuring TV shows I never watch and songs I never listen to for a price I'd never consider paying. So, even if they are going to stop there, even if this money grab is truly all they want - still we shouldn't allow it.

But it doesn't look like they're going to stop there. Here's how Colin Mochrie pictures a perfect world in which the "old media" would become competitive again:
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.
Here you have it. Licensing. But why should we even bother licensing internet broadcasters? Are we running out of web hosting space? Of course not; as Colin Mochrie himself admits, the space for content is practically endless. So what other purpose could there be beside censorship?

After all we already know what the CRTC priorities are: a porn channel is in, a Christian channel with 10 times as many signatures is out. So, even if they allow individual blogs to continue (for a while), a streaming media portal like The Miracle Channel will have to apply for a license. Which will most likely be denied on the grounds that The Miracle Channel is not "inclusive" enough or for some other similar reason.

If the ACTRA and the CRTC have it their way, every independent media portal will eventually be forced to choose between compromising their identity to provide "fair", "balanced" and "inclusive" coverage - or forfeiting its right to broadcast altogether. In other words, it will be a choice between censorship and self-censorship. A choice nobody should be forced to make in a democratic country.

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