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Flawed Arguments and Inappropriate Analogies: Why Netflix Taxes and Cancon Requirements Should be Rejected

CBC President Catherine Tait recently sparked a firestorm with comments to an industry conference that likened Netflix, the popular online video service, to the British Raj in India and French in Africa, warning about “imperialism and the damage that it can do to local communities.” The comments were rightly criticized as shockingly inappropriate, as if any video service can be reasonably compared to the subjugation of millions.

My Hill Times op-ed notes that some in the Canadian creator community rushed to defend Tait, however, viewing the comments as a strong assertion for Netflix regulation, the creation of a “level playing field”, and the need for all stakeholders to contribute to the broadcast system. Supporters of Netflix taxes and content requirements – who were joined in the Hill Times last week by Sheila Copps – present a vision of Canadian content at risk without regulatory intervention, leading to the loss of Canada’s “authorial voice” from film and television production.

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February 12, 2019 3 comments Columns
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CRTC on OpenMedia’s Site Blocking Campaign: “Contributed to a Better Understanding of the Issues”

The CRTC released four cost awards yesterday arising from the Bell coalition’s proposal for a site blocking system. The Commission rejected the proposal last year on jurisdictional grounds and has now followed up with significant cost awards to public interest groups that participated in the process. The FairPlay coalition challenged the cost awards to OpenMedia and CIPPIC, arguing that its citizen engagement was “deliberately misleading and cannot represent responsible participation in the proceeding.” It also argued that the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s participation was “irresponsible in nature” since it included arguments questioning the harm of piracy, which FairPlay maintained encouraged the Commission “to disregard the basic tenets of the Copyright Act.”

The CRTC soundly rejected these arguments, ordering the FairPlay coalition to pay over $130,000 in costs as part of four applications (OpenMedia/CIPPIC, PIAC, FRPC, UDC). The Commission’s analysis on the value of the OpenMedia/CIPPIC public campaign is particularly noteworthy given efforts by some commentators to question it:

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February 8, 2019 4 comments News
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Government Service Delivery in the Digital Age: My Appearance Before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Ethics and Privacy

Last week, I appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics as part of its study on government services and privacy. The discussion touched on a wide range of issues, including outdated privacy rules and the policy complexity of smart cities. I concluded by noting:

“we need rules that foster public confidence in government services by ensuring there are adequate safeguards, transparency and reporting mechanisms to give the public the information it needs about the status of their data, and appropriate levels of access so that the benefits of government services can be maximized. That is not new. What is new is that this needs to happen in an environment of changing technologies, global information flows, and an increasingly blurry line between public and private in service delivery.”

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February 7, 2019 1 comment News
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The Real Over-the-Top: CBC President Likens Netflix to Cultural Imperialism Such As the British in India or French in Africa

CBC President Catherine Tait appeared on a panel of Canadian media leaders earlier today at the Prime Time in Ottawa conference devoted to “a look ahead.” After cutting off the Netflix representative at one point and complaining that his comments were running too long, Tait concluded with a stunning and wholly inappropriate analogy to characterize the impact of Netflix in Canada:

I was thinking of the British Empire and how if you were there and you were the Vice-Roy of India you would feel that you were doing only good for the people of India. Or similarly, if you were in French Africa, you would think I’m educating them, I’m bringing their resources to the world, and I’m helping them. There was a time where cultural imperialism was absolutely accepted and, in fact, if you were a history student you would be proud of the contribution that these great empires gave.

I would say we are at the beginning of a new empire and just as it is probably the most exciting time in terms of screened entertainment, that I certainly in my career that I’ve ever experienced in terms of quality. When I watched “My Brilliant Friend” I was so moved to see a fantastic Italian language show with an Italian dialect. So unbelievable to be able to experience this cultural sharing. So for this we are very grateful to Netflix. However, fast forward, to what happens after imperialism and the damage that can do to local communities. So all I would say is let us be mindful of how it is we as Canadians respond to global companies coming into our country.

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January 31, 2019 17 comments News
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Hidden in Plain Sight?: The Search For Canadian Content on Netflix

The call for Internet and Netflix taxes are not the only demands raised by Canadian cultural groups regarding online video services. Many groups argue that the services should be required to make Canadian content more prominent, citing the challenge of “discoverability” of Canadian content in a world of seemingly unlimited choice. While the ACTRA call for government sanctions against search engines that refuse to prioritize Cancon in search results is an extreme example, many have asked the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel to either mandate that a certain percentage of the Netflix library consist of Canadian content or that it more actively promote Cancon on the service.

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January 31, 2019 8 comments News