News

Sonic at the North Shore by Dan Bergstrom (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/59yoAZ

The Broadcast Panel Report and Canadian Stories: Take the Cancon Quiz

The Motion Picture Association – Canada this week promoted the Canadian link to Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the top grossing movie in the world at the moment. Much of the movie was filmed in British Columbia, generating millions in production spending and creating nearly 1,500 jobs. Normally, this would be viewed as a good news story and indicative of the global competitiveness of film and production in Canada. Yet the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report downplays the importance of this production, crafting policy recommendations that emphasizes the importance of supporting Canadian stories as a critical aspect of its approach.

Indeed, the willingness to violate net neutrality norms, impose discoverability requirements, and establish a global levy system for websites and services around the world is primarily based on the argument that Canadian policy must work to promote the production of Canadian content. This policy goal is framed as the need for Canada “to continue to assert its cultural sovereignty and Canadians can continue to express their identity and culture through content.”

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February 21, 2020 5 comments News
United Nations of smartphone operating systems by Jon Fingas (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/goVRFZ

Deja Vu All Over Again: Looking Back at Two Decades of Bell, Telus and Rogers Battles Over the Canadian Wireless Market

In the weeks leading up to the CRTC hearing on wireless services, there was no shortage of corporate lobbying, opinion pieces from telecom company consultants downplaying concerns about the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market, and comments from company executives threatening to reduce investment if the CRTC mandated new competitions through MVNOs. Those claims have continued this week throughout the hearing.

Independent studies from around the globe have for years (here, here, here, here, here) found that Canadians face some of the highest wireless prices in the developed world. Yet if the usual claims of a fiercely competitive, reasonably priced wireless market provides a sense of deja vu, consider:

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February 20, 2020 5 comments News
Image by Simaah from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/cbc-interview-people-outdoors-4729171/

CBC Leads Call for New Government Regulations to Support “Trusted” News Sources

Last month, the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report sparked an immediate outcry as it recommended that the CRTC identify “trusted” news sites and require news aggregators to link to them:

We recommend that to promote the discoverability of Canadian news content, the CRTC impose the following requirements, as appropriate, on media aggregation and media sharing undertakings: links to the websites of Canadian sources of accurate, trusted, and reliable sources of news with a view to ensuring a diversity of voices; and prominence rules to ensure visibility and access to such sources of news.

In fact, notwithstanding Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s attempts to walk-back initial comments that regulating news websites and services was “no big deal”, the reality is the regulatory structure envisioned by the panel also empowers the CRTC to require these organizations to disclose financial information, consumption data, and algorithmic information. It would also be given the power to regulate commercial negotiations between news providers and these sites and services.

Notwithstanding the public backlash against the proposals (including a House of Commons petition), there is another lobbying effort to get the government to regulate in support of “trusted” news sources. Led by the CBC, the initiative has succeeded in bringing the Toronto Star, Postmedia, Winnipeg Free Press, La Presse, Le Devoir, and others on board.

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February 19, 2020 11 comments News
Nordicity, International Benchmarking Study of the Canadian Television Production Sector, March 2019, Figure 1

Broadcast Panel Commissioned Report Found Canada Ranks First Among Peer Countries in Spending on TV Production, Domestic TV Production, and Employment Per Capita

The Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report calls for a massive overhaul of Canadian communications law – leading to increased consumer costs, violations of net neutrality, news regulation, CRTC intervention into discoverability, and USMCA violations – due in large measure to concerns about support for the creation of Canadian content. While the data confirms fears about the Canadian film and television sector have been overblown with record setting production in Canada, the panel insists that measures are needed to preserve Canadian jobs.

Yet what the panel did not disclose – in either its report or subsequent comments – are the results of benchmarking research on the Canadian television production sector it commissioned from Nordicity. That report was made available yesterday to those who asked (all the commissioned research can be requested from panel secretariat) and it reveals that Canada ranks first among peer countries with respect to expenditures on television production per capita, expenditures on domestic television production (ie. Cancon or equivalent domestic production) per capita, hours of television production per capita, and employment in film and television production per per capita. In other words, the panel had data that Canada spends more on television production, produces more hours of television programs, and employs more people per capita in the film and television sector than peer countries yet said nothing about the findings in its report.

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February 14, 2020 3 comments News
Please Pay First - sign by Gretchen Caserotti (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/aqdaPk

The BTLR and USMCA, Part Two: Why the Broadcast Panel Recommendations Could Cost Canadians Millions in Retaliatory Tariffs

My review of the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report (previous posts include an overview of concerns, news regulation, Guilbeault’s comments, net neutrality, discoverability claims, consumer costs, potential USMCA violations, and a podcast debate with panel chair Janet Yale) continues with an analysis of why the recommendations could cost Canadians millions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs. In fact, while the panel seemingly envisions free money with payments from thousands of Internet sites and services from around the world to pay for Canadian content, broadband funds, and news organizations, the reality is that the proposals could result in the U.S. being entitled to levy massive tariffs against Canadian products ranging from dairy products to steel. In other words, the real costs would ultimately shift to farmers, manufacturing workers, and many others with no connection to the cultural sector.

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February 13, 2020 3 comments News