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Michael Geist's Blog

Ethics Committee Releases Study on Privacy and Social Media

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics has released its study on privacy and social media. The report includes recommendations for new Privacy Commissioner guidelines. The NDP supplemented those recommendations with nine additional legislative proposals that include mandatory security breach disclosure, order making power for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the inclusion of privacy issues as part of a national digital economy strategy.
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The Mandatory Distribution Hearing: The CRTC As Last Hope for Failed Broadcast Business Models

The CRTC kicked off its two week broadcast hearing on mandatory distribution yesterday with a steady stream of proposals hoping to hit the jackpot by winning mandatory distribution (and guaranteed millions) from cable and satellite distributors. I've written (here and here) about why mandatory distribution should be dropped altogether, but yesterday's hearing provided the best evidence yet. CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais started the hearing by making it clear that the Commission would establish a very high threshold - consistent with the Act - before forcing any Canadians to pay for channels they may not want. Over the course of the day, no one came close to meeting even a low threshold.

As the hearing veered from proposals backed by studies suggesting consumers weren't interested in their product to claims that broadcaster costs were "totally retarded", it became apparent that the mandatory distribution process is a last gasp for many failed, failing or never started broadcast proposals. The Commission heard from channels that broadcast distributors won't carry, that advertisers won't support, that few subscribers pay for, and that don't have any content (user generated content was the answer for two such proposals leading one Commissioner to ask why people wouldn't just watch YouTube). Even the Sun News Network, the headliner of the day, acknowledged that its complaints about undue preference by other distributors would not meet the legal standard, that it is already available to 70% of cable subscribers, and that Videotron, which shares the same parent company, has not placed the channel on basic service, even though it is seeking an order from the CRTC requiring everyone else to do so.  


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Government Reveals Thousands of Data and Privacy Breaches

The federal government has responded to a question from MP Charlie Angus on privacy and security breaches by revealing that there have been thousands of breaches over the past decade. The stunning response acknowledges over 3,000 breaches that have affected over a million Canadians.
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CRTC Should Force Broadcasters To "Compete Just Like Any Other Sector"

Last month, Jean-Pierre Blais, the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, delivered a much-discussed speech at the Canadian Media Production Association's annual conference. The CMPA is Canada's leading organization for the production of Canadian film and television programming and Blais' message was intended to both congratulate and challenge the industry.

On the congratulatory side, Blais noted the Canadian film and television production had a record year in 2012, growing by over $500 million over the prior year, by far the highest total and fastest growth in over a decade. Canadian television production led the way, increasing 21.3 per cent in 2011/12, for a ten-year high of just under $2.6 billion. Most of the increase was due to English-language programming, with fiction production growing by over 41 per cent.

Blais' challenge came in several forms, but my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the comment that attracted the most attention was his remark that "under my watch, you will not see a protectionist. I'm a promotionist." Most observers took the comment to mean that the CRTC will not focus on mechanisms such as Canadian content requirements and foreign restrictions as a means to advance Canadian culture.  Rather, with billions being spent on the creation of Canadian programming, it is better to concentrate on marketing and promotion of those works.

Yet there was a second comment that garnered less attention, but that may ultimately prove more important. After encouraging the industry to become more innovative and entrepreneurial, Blais warned "you will need to compete, just like any other sector."


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Rogers: We Don't Expect an Industry Canada Decision on Shaw Spectrum Until September 2014

Rogers Communications held its quarterly results call yesterday, leading to a question on its expectation with regard to an Industry Canada decision on its proposed acquisition of spectrum from Shaw. Industry Minister Christian Paradis has signalled his concern with the proposal. Perhaps hoping for a delay in the decision, Rogers indicated that it does not expect Industry Canada to decide until roughly September 2014 (or well after the spectrum auction later this year). According to Ken Engelhart:

The 5-year limitation period for Shaw to sell the spectrum to an incumbent does not come up until September of 2014. So I don't expect a decision from Industry Canada until September of 2014 or thereabouts. Obviously, it's very useful spectrum for us to provide LTE services, so if we're not allowed to buy it, we'll need to figure something else there.

When asked in a follow-up whether there wouldn't be some clarification of that prior to the spectrum auction, Engelhart responded that he did not expect that to happen.
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