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CRTC New Media Hearing Finished, Waiting Begins

March 25, 2009

With the CRTC hearings on new media now over, Canadians will wait for the regulator to determine whether and how to manage content on Internet and wireless platforms. It is not expected that the policy of exclusion for new media will continue.

Surprisingly, the CRTC deemed from the outset that net neutrality was not of consequence to this discussion. Since P2P transmission is one of the largest distribution channels of culture and could be an elemental part of any promotional campaign, including the distribution of Canadian music. This is why discussion around traffic shaping, as it pertains to the distribution of Canadian media is relevant, and I do hope that the CRTC will recognize the relationship of neutrality to contemporary content consumption as they deliberate.

The biggest story was the likelihood of the CRTC’s adoption of the ACTRA’s proposed ISP levy, meant to leverage the production of Canadian Content. Any taxation handed to ISPs would likely be passed on to customers, and stories about more taxes for Canadians always get attention. This would most likely be settled in the courts, so it would not take effect for some time.

Despite the disproportionate coverage of this proposal, it was actually only one of the ways the regulator could proceed in order to fulfill its mandate of protecting Canadian culture. Some groups are pushing prioritization of can-con by ISPs. The fundamental problem with this would be how anyone could determine what is and is not can-con without mass deployment of deep packet inspection. This would rightfully alarm anyone concerned about privacy. Moreover, it would result in ISPs being mandated to enforce an untenable policy by spying and then shaping traffic, ultimately annihilating net neutrality in the name of Canadian culture. This approach would be unwieldy, adversarial and unnecessary.

Michael Geist suggested a sensible sounding solution (unsurprisingly); exclude can-con from network bandwidth caps. Instead of promoting culture by means of an arbitrary cash grab, or a difficult to implement two-tiered system, it could be promoted by a win-win open-skies policy on Canadian media. By checking can-con from increasing bandwidth limits, the CRTC would enable Canadians consume it in greater quantity. This would drive advertisers to look to homegrown media, and making it a self-supporting industry. Domestic content providers will more clearly identify themselves in order to be included more seamlessly, helping promote and establish the Canadian brand.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sergei permalink
    March 28, 2009 7:33 pm

    A few corrections: the CRTC didn’t deem net neutrality not of consequence — instead they are devoting a whole separate hearing to nothing but that; the levy scheme was proposed by a number of groups, not just ACTRA; and no intervener has seriously proposed that the CRTC prioritize Canadian content (nor is the CRTC considering it, despite the rantings of one off-beat Commissioner): the Gazette article you link to is wrong.

    • nmboudin permalink*
      March 30, 2009 11:16 pm

      Hi Sergei,
      Thanks for your well-informed comments. You are correct that the CRTC is holding net neutrality hearings. I welcomed this news in my November 2008 post “Network Neutrality: The First Word is In.” I just felt that the issue was important to this discussion; as one of the most effective distribution channels is P2P sharing, I was a bit disappointed that the net neutrality element was not seen as pertinent to this discussion, which was about the preservation of Canadian new media, whose health can be gauged by its natural proliferation.

      As for the levy scheme, good call on that one. I had not meant to single out ACTRA, as the idea has broad support from creative groups Songwriters Association of Canada, the Writers Guild of Canada, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association et al. At the time of writing, I admit I was not thorough enough on that head, and I appreciate your vigilance.

      As for the prioritization/regulatory issue, though it is not a likely contender for becoming policy, I did mention it since it was one of the options going in. I mostly brought it up for purposes of comparison, and because I thought it was an interesting concept in terms of discussing what it could mean. Though the Gazette article may have not been my best choice of reference (they don’t actually mention any of the artists’ groups by name), this was actually proposed on day 2 of hearings by a contingent of Quebec-based artist groups. University of Ottawa student Frances Munn’s excellent coverage can be read here.

      It has also been recommended by ADISQ. This PDF of an Ottawa Citizen article discussing it is available from their site: (English version, French version).

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