The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) opened hearings today on whether to regulate online content the way radio and television content is currently regulated.
The first presenter was Richard Hardacre, national president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the union representing 21,000 Canadian actors and other media artists. Hardacre argued that Canadian online media should be have to follow the same content rules as television and radio.
This is a battle for the future. What we want is a place for Canadian storytellers and our stories. We want to share our talents with Canadians and with global audiences. We need to get it right now. Tomorrow is too late.
Huh? There has never been a better time for "Canadian storytellers and our stories".
The original impetus for CanCon rules was based on the fact that traditional broadcast media are inherently scarce. There are only so many channels, and only so many people who can afford broadcast licences and radio transmitters.
In that environment of scarcity, it made sense to ensure that at least a certain proportion of the bandwidth be reserved for Canadian content - TV shows, radio programs, songs, whatever - so that they at least had a chance to be heard in a market that would otherwise be dominated and monopolized by content from the (much larger) American media conglomerates.
However, the internet - the medium in which online content is published and distributed - is characterized not by scarcity but by abundance. In practical terms, there is no limit to the number of websites, and the cost of producing and publishing content has collapsed. Anyone can produce content, and anyone can publish it.
Just as important, that content has never been more findable. The extremely clever indexing systems we content consumers have available to use (Google and the other search engines) mean we can easily find any content using any dynamic combination of keywords.
I just can't make sense of this argument from Colin Mochrie, a comedian with This Hour has 22 Minutes:
The space for content is practically endless; however, being endless, content can get easily lost. So how do we make sure Canadians can find their own content? ... When I star in a movie or a TV show, I do it because I want to work, I want people to see the show, to experience it. They can't do that if they aren't given the choice.
I can only come up with two possibilities: either Mochrie, Hardacre and ACTRA simply don't understand how the internet works; or they recognize that the end of scarcity also means the end of their special positions of privilege as employees of traditional content publishers and have chosen to place their professional interests ahead of the public interest.
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