One of the most fantastic things about the Internet is that it’s (largely) unregulated. Yes, we’re subjected to geo-blocking and other impediments, but outside of China and North Korea, culture and information is able to flow freely through the Interwebs.
This is something that concerns cultural protectionists. Canadian radio, for example, is required to devote between 35 and 40% of its music to Canadian content. Broadcasters have long complained that in the era of an unregulated Internet, these quotas place them at a competitive disadvantage with webcasters and streamers.
So the CRTC should lighten up on Canadian radio’s CanCon obligations, right? Nope. As a wise man once pointed out, “regulators regulate.” Why fix the problem by removing something when you can just add another layer of regulation? Why not regulate the Internet?
I point you to this long (but well worth it) column from the Calgary Herald:
Rosalyn Lemi has been working as a caregiver in Ottawa for four years now, but she can keep up with news and her favourite TV shows from home for as little as $12 a month. Like millions of Filipino ex-pats around the world, Lemi accesses shows from the Philippines’ major network, ABS-CBN, over the Internet.
“I watch everything,” says the 28-year-old, who tunes into news, entertainment shows — “even sports!” — because it’s “nice to know all that information and what’s going on back home. It makes you feel like you’re in the Philippines.”
Going the online route is a no-brainer not only for Lemi, but for the foreign broadcaster as well. Getting ABS-CBN’s shows into the Canadian homes would have been near-impossible going the traditional broadcasting route.
As the company’s chairman and CEO Eugenio Lopez III recently told the Wall Street Journal, “we had been trying to get into the Canada market for 15 years, but the cable operators there said we must have Canadian content and use Canadian satellites.”
By broadcasting over the Internet, ABS-CBN has been able to bypass all those pesky regulations — like paying for and broadcasting Canadian content. That’s because the federal regulator has given broadcasting over the Internet a free pass for almost a decade.
But that may change at what could be watershed regulatory hearings over whether broadcasting over the Internet should — or even can — be regulated.
At issue, according to some, is the very future of Canadian content available on the Internet. Since 1999, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has exempted programming broadcast over the Internet from the same regulations that apply to conventional broadcasters, which include everything from licences, to the percentage of Canadian channels and programs aired — and at what hours those shows are on — to foreign ownership restrictions.
Part of the reason for this exemption was that the regulator believed “the effect of new media on television audience size would be limited, at least until such time as high-quality video programming could be distributed on the Internet.”
That time is upon us.
Keep reading. It’s important.