BUSINESS

Netflix Tells CRTC: Regulating Online Content Would Harm Consumers

09/19/2014 04:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:00 EDT
GATINEAU, Que. - Regulating the Internet to help boost Canadian content will only hurt consumers, a Netflix executive told the country's broadcast regulator on Friday.

In an occasionally tense appearance before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the executive from the video streaming service urged the broadcast regulator to let market forces dictate what consumers can watch.

The impact of Netflix and other online video providers on the country's traditional TV broadcasting sector is central to the public hearings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that wrap up today.

Corie Wright, Netflix global public policy director, told the five-member CRTC panel that regulating Internet-based video services would fly in the face of competition, innovation and consumer choice.

"Netflix believes that regulatory intervention online is unnecessary and could have consequences that are inconsistent with the interests of consumers," Wright said.

Viewers should have the ability "to vote with their dollars and eyeballs to shape the media marketplace," she said.

Wright's solo appearance was in stark contrast to the presentations given by Canada's major TV networks and content delivery services including Bell and Rogers, who had throngs of executives face the commission over the last two weeks.

CRTC rules give traditional broadcasters money to pay for Canadian content and Netflix doesn't have access to these funds, Wright said.

But Netflix and other online content providers don't need subsidies to create content, she added.

"It is not in the interest of consumers to have new media subsidize old media or to have new entrants subsidize incumbents."

She said Netflix already offers Canadian content from its huge video library.

Several cultural groups, along with at least two provincial governments and a content production group, have argued in favour of regulating Netflix and other online video services, which would force them to pay into funds designed to help finance Canadian television production.

But the Harper government has said it would oppose any tax on Internet-based services, specifically citing Netflix and YouTube.

Early in Friday's hearing, CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais abruptly called a break when Wright refused to say definitively that Netflix would provide confidential subscriber information to the regulator by Monday.

Wright told Blais her company was talking to commission lawyers to ensure that the information is kept out of the public domain.

But Blais became agitated when he didn't get the answer he was looking for, after assuring Wright that any confidential information provided would remain private.

In the end, he ordered Netflix to provide the data, along with information related to the Canadian content it creates or provides to subscribers, by the end of the day on Monday.

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