It's official: Canadians are cutting the cord and hungry for data. This week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its full Communications Monitoring Report. While filled with insights, it contains two major takeaways about how Canadians' viewing habits.
The crux of the problem is that the same companies who control the distribution of television in Canada also create or licence programming, giving them a stranglehold on the medium AND the message. This means they have zero incentive to break up the cable bundle or go beyond the letter of CRTC regulation to actually provide or promote options that fit the lifestyle of today's consumers.
I'm going to bang on some more about the recent controversy about the CRTC (the Canadian TV/Radio regulatory body) and its proposal to loosen rules regarding importing talent to work on Canadian productions. I'm re-visiting it because folks in Canadian film/TV are angry and it's worth drawing more of the audience's attention to the matter.
The "reality" of public broadcasting, in principle at least, is that it exists precisely in order to provide a service that is not a commercial, for-profit undertaking. It is intended to be distinctive, to be free from the influence of vested interests either commercial or governmental, and to serve its audiences as citizens rather than as consumers.
The rules weren't put in place to keep out imported talent -- they were put in place because no one trusted producers to give domestic talent a fair shake. (And history has shown this isn't just paranoia). So why does the CRTC want to change this?
A long overdue conversation has begun in Canada about how to ensure large sections of our country are no longer cut off from an essential service which is taken for granted by so many others -- access to high-speed Internet. Not only are a large section of our fellow Canadians being cut off from vital services, they are also being prevented from fully participating in Canadian society and contributing the ideas and the innovations that make our country great. Rural Canada makes up 30 per cent of the country's population and produces one-third of our economic output. It is time to get Internet service in rural and northern Canada moving at full speed.
The digital revolution has brought many wonderful things. Canadians can plug into international events from the comfort of their own home or office, or from just about anywhere thanks to mobile devices. And the world, we hope, can do the same to find out about the great north -- Canada. The challenge, it seems, is in making sure there's Canadian content for the world to find and enjoy. Finding ways to balance the digital era with supporting local programming is key if Canada is going to continue to foster local democracy in communities.
Canadians pay among the highest amount in the world for wireless service. For example, for a basic plan that includes texting, data and talking minutes the average in other industrialized countries is $22 per month; whereas in Canada we pay $37.29 a month. The story is similar for cable and internet. As a consumer you can only be taken advantage of by a corporation for so long -- there comes a point where you can't take it anywhere. We've reached that point.
The affable chairman of the CRTC, Jean-Pierre Blais, delivered a "state of the industry" speech in Toronto on Feb. 17, 2016. But Mr. Blais has shown a tendency to rely on dubious information in speeches and policies.
The CRTC's rules were designed to allow independent ISPs to sell blazing-fast fibre Internet services to customers in the marketplace. Experts believe that will help make fibre available to millions of Canadians who would otherwise could not afford these important but very expensive services.
In an election campaign that is extraordinary in so many ways, one of the more noteworthy changes is that there could be as many as five English-language leadership debates. More surprising and perplexing still is the way the CBC has abdicated its obligation as our public broadcaster to provide coverage of these events. The CBC, with its unparalleled household penetration, was not among the motley assemblage of television and web outlets that carried the initial Rogers-produced debate last week, nor will it be involved in the Globe and Mail/Google/YouTube effort next month.
The changes at OMNI foreshadow a far bigger upheaval within the Canadian broadcasting world. Regulators have embraced change with the full knowledge that many channels will face elimination under the emerging framework.
The CRTC has recently introduced a new policy which affects what Canadian programs we will see on TV. The policy is based on some very questionable sources and often just pure speculation about what Canadians want.
Recently the various major Canadian TV networks and media conglomerates have announced their up-coming Canadian fall programming. Um -- so what do you call a press release announcing something that doesn't exist?
The tax system should ideally be as neutral as possible and, one would think, should especially not penalize domestic companies in favour of foreign ones. Imposing taxes on some players that others offering the same products or services can avoid is the antithesis of a free market with a level playing field.
Net neutrality is a hotly-debated topic these days, and for a good reason -- it surrounds one of the most pivotal aspects of our daily lives: the Internet.