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New Media Requires New Thinking on Cultural Policy

Canadian cultural policy has long relied on two levers to promote the development and market success of Canadian content.  First, regulators require broadcasters and cable companies to allocate a portion of their revenues to help support the creation of new Canadian content.  Second, that content is granted preferential treatment through minimum "Cancon" requirements for both television and radio broadcasting.  My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while these approaches may have worked for conventional broadcasting, the big question in the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications forthcoming hearings on new media is whether they can be applied to the Internet.  

Canadian cultural groups, the biggest proponents (and beneficiaries) of this policy approach argue that similar mechanisms can be adapted to the Internet by requiring Internet service providers to hand over a portion of their subscriber revenues for the creation of new media content. ISPs unsurprisingly oppose the proposal, arguing that an Internet tax is inherently unfair since it forces all subscribers to fund content in which they may have little interest.  Moreover, they note that such a scheme may also be illegal since it applies the Broadcasting Act to telecommunications activities. 

The CRTC adopted a new Cancon approach for the introduction of satellite radio into the Canadian market and similar creative thinking is needed for the online environment. 

One possibility would be to provide new media creators – whether independent film makers, digital photographers, musicians, podcasters, or bloggers – with the assurance of equal access to online audiences by mandating that Canadian ISPs treat all like content in an equivalent or neutral fashion.

In recent months, many Canadian ISPs have engaged in "network management practices" that degrades the bandwidth allocated to certain applications and content.  While the ISPs argue that such practices are essential to ensure quality of service for the majority of their users, similar activities in the United States have drawn a strong rebuke from the Federal Communications Commission and a promise from President-Elect Barack Obama to address the issue during his first year in office.  

This issue has been typically treated as telecom matter, yet there would be considerable benefits in assessing it through the lens of Canadian cultural policy.  Granting preferential treatment for Canadian content may have made sense in a world of scarcity when there were limited channels and bandwidth, however, it no longer applies in a world of abundance where the Internet offers virtually unlimited choice.

Canadian creators therefore do not need guaranteed space since there is room on the Internet for everyone.  Rather, they need guaranteed access – the assurance that their content can find an audience by being treated in an equal manner as any other video or cultural programming.  As ISPs move toward tiered access that grants preferential treatment (such as faster speeds) to their own content or to premium content promoted by deep-pocketed interests, an equal opportunity approach to new media content would effectively bring Cancon into the Internet era by asking for nothing more than a fair shake.

This approach would also address the funding side of cultural policy.  Many ISPs object to the equal treatment principle by maintaining that new media creators should pay for equal access and avoid using technologies such as BitTorrent that are viewed as transferring the cost of distribution from the creator to the network provider.  From their perspective, if a new media creator (or a public broadcaster like the CBC) wishes to use an application to distribute content that is subject to decreased speeds, a requirement to grant unimpeded access should be regarded as a subsidy from the network provider to the content creator.

If so, such a subsidy could be seen as the Internet equivalent of cultural funding.  Rather than adopting an ill-suited ISP tax, the costs associated with providing Canadian content with equal treatment could be treated as the financial contribution, thereby eliminating the legal concerns associated with an ISP tax and allowing the CRTC to extract support from network providers for the benefit of Canadian cultural production.

16 Comments

  1. What is unimpeded Access?
    Are you saying that you want deep packet inspection to look at the source of the content and if it is on a registered list of CanCon then it gets a “Get Out of Jail Free” card from any BitTorrent controls?

    Are you saying that a fair shake means that CanCon gets free access to bandwidth or mirroring? If connections get blocked, then the ISPs have to provide more connectivity in order to compete with those “deep-pocketed” competitors?

    Under what authority could the CRTC order ISPs to do this?

  2. New Media Creator says:

    “if a new media creator (or a public broadcaster like the CBC) wishes to use an application to distribute content that is subject to decreased speeds, a requirement to grant unimpeded access should be regarded as a subsidy from the network provider to the content creator. ”

    Everyone can be considered a new media creator so why not grant unimpeded access no matter what the content or artist, without reading the packet header.

  3. how about
    you grant net neutrality and screw the lawyer speak.

    “you are sold or rented a bedroom, wtf you do in it as long as you dont destroy it is up to you”

    “you pay for bandwidth you are the distributor”

    like nice article on word twisting to furthar restrict my rights.

  4. “you are sold or rented a bedroom, wtf you do in it as long as you dont destroy it is up to you”

    -not entirly true, you still can’t run a meth lab or a grow op in it.

    “Everyone can be considered a new media creator so why not grant unimpeded access no matter what the content or artist, without reading the packet header. ”

    - hmmm, think that might be the whole point?

  5. Promotion of Canadian content more important than Net Neutrality?
    Yes – your solution to the CanCon problem is indeed the best one yet from the perspective of getting more eyeballs on Canadian content. It is also being used in other countries such as the UK and Australia.

    However, by suggesting it, you are:
    - saying that the promotion of CanCon is more important than Net Neutrality and
    - making the assumption that Net Neutrality is a lost cause

    UK and Australia (to name a couple) are both engaged in outright Internet censorship.

    I thought you were an advocate of Net Neutrality?

  6. To concerned
    I am an advocate of net neutrality and this is a call for net neutrality. The piece argues for the promotion of the Canadian content by treating all content equally.

    MG

  7. To M Geist
    Thanks for the prompt reply Michael :)

    Perhaps I’m confused, but in order for what you are suggesting to occur, preferential treatment or “premium access” would be given to those with “deep pockets” and also sites containing Canadian content(rightly so under this proposed tiered system)

    What happens to the rest of the content? – it certainly is not being treated equally. Suddenly the “mom and pop” sites (as Obama puts it) would be at a disadvantage and the mainstream would be given a very large advantage (much of which we likely do not understand as more online broadcast technologies emerge).

  8. I’m strongly for bringing in regulation on the ISP front. Both Bell and Rogers have a history of screwing the consumer. I don’t think however that regulation on CanCon or content is needed. If anything Canadian media has benefited greatly on a global scale on the internet. I can’t see the CRTC pushing forward with regulating CanCon online.

    I think that a broadcasting model for ISP’s is way overdue. While I don’t agree with an ISP tax being thrown onto the consumer, the ISP’s are making enough profits to provide some funding to the copy collectives. Radio and TV Stations pay into this pool, ISP’s as carriers of media should be required to do the same, however in order for this to work the CRTC needs to step in and regulate the pricing resieme so that the consumer doesn’t pick up the tab. Consumers should be left out of the copyfight.

    I agree with equal access to online audiences, however do disagree with: “a requirement to grant unimpeded access should be regarded as a subsidy from the network provider to the content creator”.

    As someone already pointed out, and Lessig has lectured on before, we are all creators. Everyone should have equal access to online audiences.

  9. ISPs worrying about content creators passing cost to network providers
    wait a sec, i thought the boatloads of money i pay for my internet access at a particular speed and total data usage was paying for me to utilize 100% of the speed and data usage cap to download/upload what i please(within reason and the confines of the law).

    Why should, say the cbc, for creating new content have to pay for me to be able to download said content, when my internet fees should more than cover it. Add to that any company with servers on the internet has to pay internet fees. If my fees as an ordinary home user and the server internet fees don’t cover upkeep and improvements on the network, how is it all the ISPs make so much money??

  10. Another BELL CANADA Lawsuit – Misrepresentation and Fraud
    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21417075-Agent-lied-to-me-and-switched-my-account-without-permission~start=20#21420668

    im finally pushed over the edge with bell an am going to pick up the paper work and file a lawsuit in small claims court, if anyone reading this site wishes to support or aid or has a storey they wish to share

    email me at chronoss2008@hush.com

    i have 160$ after rent to live on and these bastards are forcing me to spend 50$. They have htieved off my father , stolen outright from me hundreds a dollars when the only working service i have had since march was a telephone which in july due to there negligence was cut off temporarily. This incident btw facilitated my poor health , caused two trips to the hospital, of which a later third due to my psiatic nerve problems and i’ll add, added stress to my father whose elderly( they cut his phone off too )
    (I am in process of crteating a website off a subdomain. )

  11. as to the guy above
    anyone can start a meth lab if you get found out thats when its wrong and the landlord tenant act is like net neutrality, it assumes 1st that what you do in there is your business and legal.

    I know my dad had a tenant who had a grow op get busted. He sold stuff , they find out he goes to jail.
    Almost sounds like what would happen if you sell cdrs now. So again the ISP rents you the ability or capacity , what you do is largely up to you, that is how a free society works. By your analogy , all pencils and guns can be used as weapons so quick lets be rid of them? Not so, and we go from there.

  12. landlord tenant act or Anti-Circumvention
    in fact my father once put a foot in a tenants door thus impeding it and they ARRESTED HIM, and the tenant was 3 months behind in rent.

    Its totally reversed in internet cases and most IT.
    We are assumed to be guilty hence DRM exists.
    Imagine if you will the technological protion anti circumvention as worded was so vague that the room you rent the land lord owns the lock and may thus under that section, challange the land lord tenant law and enter your residence( his lock not yours he can do as he pleases ) OH MY no one thought a that angle did they.

    have to get ready picking up some court papers….
    AND i really didn’t want with my health the way it is to go sue someone but a 850$ phone bill when it was 0 owing as of march tells you all i have nothing to lose but my 50$

  13. grunt
    http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/11/wipo-broadcasting-treaty-back-dead

    the broadcast treaty is back.. AND for the internet, too.

    some road-kill rage can be found at.

    http://ipower.ning.com/profiles/blogs/relationships-assinations-and

  14. @chronoss that link you provided was enlightening to say the least.
    that conversation someone had online with bell “customer support” on the 1st page was hilarious to read.

    as far as your situation goes, ive been on the other end of a similar situation.
    renting a room paying for internet phone etc but I didn’t bother signing any legal documents (mistake) to live there. One day the landlord decided she didn’t like me not talking to her anymore and decided to phone the police and make up a story on the spot to get me taken out in handcuffs until it was sorted out, but by then I had just been robbed 2 months rent and no longer allowed to live their. to make matters worse ROGERS decides I didn’t give them 30 days notice so I owed them an extra bill on top of the bill at the end of the month.
    So it does go the other way landlords can screw over tenants just as easily.

    Best of luck with your suit. Litigation wont be any easier on your health I suspect as you could be sitting on this for months.

  15. It has happened in China, UK, Australia…
    Internet censorship is coming…

    The first step will be the implementation of a tiered system as suggested in the article. Premium access will be given to those who pay big bucks and to Canadian Content as part of the Broadcasting act.

    The CTRC is set to rule any day on the CAIP vs. Bell case. CAIP and the majority of internet users will not like the result. Throttling will be allowed to continue. In order to not be throttled, sites will have to cough up the dough. Those who can’t will be relegated to throttled access.

    Once this happens, the corporations and governments will be only a hop, skip, and a jump away from implementing Internet censorship that is taking place in China, the UK, Australia and rumours are: the U.S. (I know that for both the UK and AUS; first came the tiered system and then came Internet censorship.

    The excuse will be child porn, but because of future “generated crisis”, Government issues of National security will call for censorship of all sites that threaten “patriotism.”

    There goes free speech and the only way to learn about what is really happening in the world and not just what the mainstream media would have us believe.

  16. very good

    i have 160$ after rent to live on and these bastards are forcing me to spend 50$. They have htieved off my father , stolen outright from me hundreds a dollars when the only working service i have had since march was a telephone which in july due to there negligence was cut off temporarily. This incident btw facilitated my poor health , caused two trips to the hospital, of which a later third due to my psiatic nerve problems and i’ll add, added stress to my father whose elderly( they cut his phone off too )
    (I am in process of crteating a website off a subdomain. )

    very good, thanks admin.

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