While the use of the Internet to by-pass Canadian broadcasters is still relatively rare – most U.S. programs bundle the broadcast and Internet rights together – the decision to stream the games directly into the Canadian market could soon become the norm. The key determinant will obviously be money. Once U.S. rights holders conclude that it is more profitable to retain the Internet rights so that they can stream their programs online to a global audience and capture the advertising or subscription revenues that come with it, Canadian broadcasters may find that they can only license broadcast rights with the U.S. rights holders competing directly with them via the Internet.
I continued by noting that the Internet was on the verge of disrupting the longstanding Canadian broadcast model and its reliance on cheap U.S. programming. I speculated that the result would be that Canadian broadcasters would recognize the need to create their own content that they could licence online around the world.
That column came to mind during Bell’s appearance before the Heritage committee on Bill C-11 yesterday.
The Online Streaming Act hearings at the Canadian Heritage committee continued yesterday with testimony from several notable witnesses, including CRTC Chair Ian Scott. Scott had appeared before the committee several weeks earlier, confirming that Bill C-11 contains a provision that captures user content regulation, acknowledging that “as constructed, there is a provision that would allow us to do it as required.” That statement would not ordinarily be controversial since the inclusion of user content has been readily apparent since the bill was introduced. I’ve argued that Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has engaged in systematic gaslighting with his insistence that user content is not in the bill. My post on the issue walks through the proposed legislation, noting the “CRTC is empowered to create regulations applicable to user content uploaded to social media services as programs” and focusing specifically on the discoverability rules and their implications.
Scott’s appearance was presumably designed to walk back or soften his earlier statement on user content regulation in the bill. And while he was at pains to suggest that the CRTC faced strict limits in its regulatory power, he once again acknowledged the reality:
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continues its hearing into Bill C-11 today with hours of scheduled testimony and witnesses that include Netflix, Youtube, and CRTC Chair Ian Scott. The witness list is becoming notable both for who is not included (a bill called the Internet Streaming Act without TikTok or Amazon or Apple or Roku?!) and who is back for another appearance (Scott will surely face pressure to soften his earlier comment that the user content is included in the bill). For those Canadians that haven’t been paying close attention, I’ve compiled a short video on the hearing thus far, which has featured multiple witnesses confirm their concerns that the bill includes the regulation of user content and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez pretending that he isn’t paying attention.
Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne unveiled the government’s proposed new telecom policy directive yesterday, hailing it as a “historic step.” However, a closer look at the policy suggests that the only thing that is history are any immediate hopes for a more competitive communications marketplace in Canada. Once again, the government has shown itself unwilling to take a strong stand in favour of consumers and competition, instead releasing a directive that largely retains the status quo and sends the message to CRTC Chair Ian Scott to stay the course. Indeed, the primary purpose behind the announcement would appear to be an attempt to shield the government from criticism over its decision to leave the controversial CRTC decision on wholesale Internet access intact, thereby denying consumers the prospect of lower costs for Internet services.
CRTC Chair Ian Scott appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday and Bill C-11 proved to be a popular topic of discussion. The exchanges got testy at times as Scott seemingly stepped outside of his role as an independent regulatory by regularly defending government legislation, even veering into commenting on newspapers, which clearly falls outside the CRTC’s jurisdiction. With respect to Bill C-11, most newsworthy were two comments regarding the regulation of user content and the timelines for implementing the bill if it receives royal assent.