Bona-fide “made in Canada” idiocy

November 1, 2007 at 12:19 am | In canada | 2 Comments

Update, see below…

This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve read all year: Arts groups want government to regulate the web

A coalition of Canadian artists is demanding that the government control the internet for Canadian content, lest we get swallowed up by the Americans. They claim that since the CRTC ensures that there’s Canadian content on radio and on TV, it should do the same for the internet.

What a bunch of fools.

Here’s the newspaper report:

 

Arts groups want government to regulate the web

 

Robert Rocha, CanWest News Service

Published: Thursday, November 01, 2007

A coalition of Canadian arts groups is asking the government to protect Canadian identity by regulating the Internet, which so far has remained untouched by government oversight in this country.

The group of 18 associations of content creators, most of them from Quebec, argues that the Internet should be subject to the same rules as TV and radio – that is, it should contain a minimum amount of Canadian-made content.

Also, artists should get a cut of the money Internet providers make every time Canadian content is transmitted to homes, they argue.

“A drift away from regulation could be catastrophic for Canadian identity,” said Richard Hardacre, president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA). “We could be easily swallowed up by American programming.”

Hardacre did not say how the government could impose content quotas online or which websites would be affected.

But he suggested creating something like the Canadian Television Fund, which supports domestic productions and is subsidized by cable companies.

“We have a great deal of faith in the CRTC,” Hardacre said of the federal broadcasting commission. “We’re just asking them to not let this remain the Wild West.”

The CRTC has been studying the impact of new media on Canadian creators, and how the commission’s goals can be applied to the web. But there is no talk of regulating it, a CRTC spokesman said.

“Our view hasn’t changed. There’s no need to regulate the Internet,” Denis Carmel said.

“We understand [the artists’] concern and we’ll be consulting with the public soon.”

Reactions from experts in business and technology to the artists’ plea were far from flattering.

“That’s lunacy,” said Iain Grant, an analyst at research firm Seaboard Group. “It’s like King Canute trying to stop the tides.

“There are two countries in the world that are trying to control the Internet: Saudi Arabia and China.”

Internet providers don’t monitor the billions of data packets that zip though their pipes, so it would be impossible to know which ones are of Canadian origin, he said.

Unbelievable.

Update, Nov.1: In addition to several other articles related to this, the article I quote (above) is a truncated version of Robert Rocha’s original piece in the Montreal Gazette, which you can read here.

Here are some additional quotes from it:

The CRTC has been studying the impact of new media on Canadian creators and how the commission’s goals can be applied to the Web. But there is no talk of regulating it, a CRTC spokesperson said.

“Our view hasn’t changed – there’s no need to regulate the Internet,” Denis Carmel said.

“We understand (the artists’) concern and we’ll be consulting with the public soon.”

Internet providers don’t monitor the billions of data packets that zip though their pipes, so it would be impossible to know which ones are of Canadian origin, he explained.

“And what if that Canadian content is not going to a Canadian computer?” Grant asked. “The smartest thing the CRTC ever did was recognize that the Internet is something that can’t be regulated.”

That was in 1999, when the CRTC committed to leave the Internet to market forces. However, the decision was made when most of the content online was text, which does not fall under the control of the Broadcasting Act – the legislation that says 60 per cent of broadcasts must be Canadian.

With the prevalence of digitized video and music today, new CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said, the Internet presents a new challenge and should be closely studied.

(…snip…)

The idea that the Internet is a threat to cultural identity has been a decade-long debate and hasn’t been restricted to Canada. It was a major topic two years ago at the World Summit on the Information Society, a UN event to discuss how people in developing nations can have access to the Internet.

Ismail Serageldin, the director of Egypt’s historic Library of Alexandria, said such fears are misguided because artists normally interpret their own cultures.

“The idea that a lot of people will lose their identities, I think, is wrong. This, in fact, is going to produce wonderful results,” said Serageldin, who was quoted by news agency InterPress Service.

“People in different cultures will continue to express themselves and will be enriched by exposure to different cultures.”

Two other articles relevant to this, both in Playback Magazine, Unions to Verner: rein in the CRTC, Oct.30 (from which comes the first quote) and CRTC to rethink Internet, Oct.31.

 Oct.30:

MONTREAL — It’s time for Josée Verner to wake up and force the CRTC to protect Canadian content. That’s the message 18 of Canada’s largest cultural unions and associations, most of which hail from Quebec, sent the new minister of Canadian Heritage at a press conference this week in Montreal.

(…snip…)

The federal regulator held a public hearing Tuesday in B.C. on a number of broadcasting applications, and next month will begin hearings into the purchase of Alliance Atlantis by CanWest Global and its U.S. partner Goldman Sachs, a move that, if approved, could rewrite the rules of foreign ownership in Canada. It is also due to issue a decision on the future of the Canadian Television Fund in December.

That’s from the first article in Playback, dated Oct.30.  Here’s my take: while I agree that monopoly ownership of media is wrong (CanWest owns every daily around here already), it seems to me that Hardacre’s group is using that very real danger to fix up a “tidy” corner for his interests on the internet.   The CRTC’s “[Konrad] Von Finckenstein has said publicly that federal legislators should look at merging laws regulating the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors, given that technology is rapidly bringing the two together.”  Well, keep an eye on that, by all means — if anything, make sure telecommunications doesn’t kill the internet.

From the second article, Oct.31:

The coalition [Hardacre et al.] wants Verner to use her power to force the CRTC to apply Canadian content rules more rigorously. “Madame Verner has a clear directive and we need her to force the CRTC to apply the predominance rule for Canadian content. Government ministers have used this power in the past,” says Drouin. Then-industry minister Maxime Bernier stepped in twice in 2006 to dictate telecommunications policy: first with voice-over-Internet protocol, and then by announcing that deregulation of local telephone markets would proceed without CRTC assent.

ACTRA president Richard Hardacre concurs. “This is not an attack on the CRTC. I think the CRTC has a real handful to deal with… We just want the minister to pay attention, to not permit this drift towards deregulation,” he says.

Say what?

2 Comments

  1. When I first started to read your post and the article you quote I thought it was a joke, like something on Saturday Night Live — or a Canadian version of The Onion.

    Now I don’t know whether to laugh harder or cry….

    Comment by maria — November 1, 2007 #

  2. Welcome to the insanity that can be Canada…

    Yeah, we don’t want to be part of some trade entity comprised of Mexico & the US, but we’ll walk right into the lunacy of a cultural embrace (censorship-‘r-us!) of regimes like Saudi Arabia or China… Go figure…

    Comment by yulelog — November 1, 2007 #

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