Monday, March 2, 2009

CRTC - A Threat AND A Nuisance

Andrew Coyne weighs in on the CRTC decision to conduct hearings on regulating the internet:
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.

You get the picture? When we had five channels, we had to have regulation, because there were so few of them. Now that there are potentially millions of channels, we have to have regulation, because there are so many of them...
The hearings themselves are being live-blogged on Wagmedia blog. And it's sure frustrating to see all those parasitic organizations that already consume more than enough of our tax dollars, demanding money, money and even more of our money in form of taxes, levies and licensing fees to be imposed on the ISPs and the new media. Not to mention a bunch of elitist snobs from the National Film Board, ACTRA and other similar groups demanding more regulations so they could shove their production down our throats at our expense...
2. Intervention in the name of maintaining professionalization
I have been particularly struck by the way "professional, high quality" production has become a key motif in these hearings. No one is interested in regulating what people put up on YouTube, everyone says, it's just those productions which are professionally rendered for commercial benefit. The Canadian Conference for the Arts suggested that it could help the commission in this regard, as it had drafted its own criteria for what constitutes a commercial artist in its submission to the CRTC. The Canadian Independent Record Producers Association (CIRPA) declared that making a professional level as a musician is harder today than it used to be. What's interesting about such developments is that it seems to be asking the commission not only to become a promoter of Canadian content, and to provide economic safeguards for the industry, but to also act as a body that defines guild membership. This is important in the new media age, since more people can produce audiovisual works of varying qualities at relatively little expense. What would happen if the CRTC brought down a levy on ISPs to a create a fund that any Canadian could access to produce works for new media -- not just those who do this for a living? Now that would be interesting, wouldn't it?
I agree with Suzanne - average Canadians are definitely not represented at those hearings. It almost looks like the CRTC officials have already made up their minds and now they're just looking for more excuses for their actions. So it's quite likely that we may soon have to petition our MPs and the government to intervene and to overturn any taxes and regulations which the CRTC may impose.

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