Are We About to Get CanCon Rules for the Internet?

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.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Are We About to Get CanCon Rules for the Internet?

  • May 29, 2014 at 11:24 am
    Permalink

    Getting sick of Can Con. Are there lots of (non-totalitarian) countries that have to deal with this? Or do countries like the US and UK not have to worry because they have enough programming to never have to be concerned?

    Reply
  • May 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm
    Permalink

    Alan, the article above was originally published back in 2009 according to its byline. Any idea what did happen with those CRTC meetings back then?

    Reply

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