Just over 11 years ago, I wrote a column for the Toronto Star titled U.S. Web-Streamed TV Could Change Game for Canadian Broadcasters. The piece argued that Internet streaming of television was in its infancy, but could soon become the norm with major implications for Canadian broadcasters:
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.
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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.
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The proposed Rogers – Shaw merger has placed Canada’s competition law and policy back into the spotlight as consumers frustrated by high wireless prices and a market that many believe already suffers from insufficient competition face the prospect of even less competition should the deal be approved. Last week, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology agreed, issuing a recommendation that “the Committee believes the merger should not proceed” and identifying the need for conditions in the event that it does.
Vass Bednar, Ana Quarri, and Robin Shaban recently conducted an extensive study for the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry on competition in data driven markets in Canada. Vass, the Executive Director of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) in Digital Society Program, Ana, a recent graduate of McGill University Faculty of Law, and Robin, co-founder and senior economist at Vivic Research, join me on this week’s Law Bytes podcast to discuss their study, the intersection between competition and digital and telecom policy, and their proposed reforms to reshape Canadian competition law.
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The Conservative Party released its election platform yesterday, providing a lengthy document that covers a myriad of policy issues. From a digital policy perspective, there are positions sprinkled throughout the document, covering everything from a new innovation policy (an issue that the Liberals de-emphasized over the past two years and the Conservatives are right to target) to labour rights for gig workers.
On many issues, the reality is the policy platform isn’t all that different from the Liberal government’s approach.
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The CRTC’s wireless decision earlier this year dubbed the “MVN-no” decision given its very limited opening to mobile virtual network operators in Canada sparked widespread frustration with the Commission. That decision included one less discussed element, however, namely the expectation that the major wireless carriers would introduce low-cost plans to ensure connectivity for low-income Canadians. Those plans were recently introduced, but John Lawford, the Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, wasn’t impressed. He wrote to the CRTC asking the Commission to take action over plans that aren’t even offered under the main carrier brands. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about that issue, the ongoing concerns with the wireless affordability in Canada, and the deepening frustration with the CRTC.
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