My review of the The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age, the Public Policy Forum’s report on the future of media continues with a comment on long-overdue recommendation that unfortunately falls short of the mark (my first post on copyright reform recommendation is here). The report tackles the future of the CBC with three recommendations: increasing the emphasis of the CBC’s mandate on news, moving to an ad-free approach online, and adopting a Creative Commons licence for news content to help broaden distribution.
The recommendation of increased emphasis on news is a good one as is the call for an ad-free CBC online. I wrote in support of the CBC becoming an ad-free digital news competitor last year and while Ken Whyte offered up arguments against it (noting that the Canadian market needs more ad choices, not less), the online advertising competition has been a longstanding source of frustration for online media competitors who resent public support for CBC’s online presence.
The recommendation that I would like to like is the adoption of a Creative Commons licence for CBC news content. I have similarly argued for open licensing of CBC content for many years as part of its role as a public broadcaster. In 2014, I noted:
Read more ›
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage wrapped up its lengthy hearing on the media and local news last week with appearances from Facebook, Google, and the Globe and Mail (I appeared before the committee last month and my opening comments and review of the discussion that followed can be found here). The high profile witnesses sparked another round of debate over the ongoing troubles in the newspaper industry with intensifying criticism of the CBC’s emphasis on digital news services, including a new opinion section and its acceptance of digital advertising, which are both viewed as direct competition for the struggling private sector alternatives.
For example, Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley told the committee that the CBC is the Globe’s largest competitor in the digital ad space. He expressed concern over the inclusion of opinion, which is viewed as further encroaching on newspapers’ turf, and pointed to the BBC’s approach, which faces government-backed restrictions on accepting digital advertising on its domestic websites. The CBC criticism has emerged as a common theme for several years with many media organizations and commentators arguing that CBC should not be in the business of competing with newspapers.
The CBC responded on Monday with a letter to the committee titled “limiting access to the digital public space is not in the public interest.” The CBC argued that given the struggles of smaller papers, its online presence is more important than ever. Further, it tried to downplay the significance of its digital advertising revenue, arguing that it amounts to $25 million annually, a very small share of the total digital advertising expenditures in Canada.
Read more ›
Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s digital CanCon consultation is likely to spark calls from the cultural establishment for new levies and taxes to fund the creation of domestic content. The Internet will be the primary target with demands for a Netflix tax along with legislative reforms that would open the door to additional fees on Internet providers.
Yet an unimaginative approach that seeks to regulate the Internet imposes costs that would make Internet access less affordable and create a regulatory environment that runs counter to fundamental principles of freedom of speech and access to information. Joly should reject efforts to recycle stale policies and instead embrace the opportunity to shake up Canadian cultural policy.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that the starting point should be a shift in funding for Canadian content creation. The current model, which relies heavily on mandatory contributions from the Canadian broadcasting community, is in decline as revenues from the sector slowly shrink (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently reported that conventional television revenues declined by 2.4 per cent in 2015).
Read more ›
The Supreme Court of Canada issued its long-awaited decision in SODRAC v. CBC today, a case that has major implications for the role of technological neutrality in copyright. As I noted when it was argued before the court, though the case was about whether CBC should be required to pay royalties for incidental copies necessary to use new broadcast technologies, at stake was something far bigger: the future of technological neutrality under Canadian copyright law. The case offers wins and losses for both users and creators, but the manner in which the court strongly affirmed the principle of technological neutrality runs the risk of actually undermining technological adoption.
Read more ›
Hubert Lacroix, the president of the CBC, recently placed the future of the Canada’s national public broadcaster on the electoral map with comments aimed sparking a renewed debate on future funding models. Lacroix disputed claims that low ratings are to blame for the CBC’s financial struggles, instead pointing to the need to consider alternative fee schemes, including new levies on Internet providers or supplementary charges on television purchases.
While disagreement over CBC funding is as old as the broadcaster itself, the more uncomfortable discussion for the CBC is its coverage of the current election campaign – particularly its approach to national debates and political party advertising – which raises troubling questions about its relevance in the current media environment.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) suggests that most would agree that the CBC features an excellent group of reporters and boasts insightful analysts for its panel discussions. However, rather than working to make itself an invaluable resource for the election, the CBC has been unnecessarily restrictive in its broadcasting choices and in the use of its content.
Read more ›