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.