Friday, November 25, 2016

Minister Joly wrong to want to bring tech companies "into the system".

I own Samsung and ViewSonic televisions,  Philips and Panasonic DVD players, and mobile devices from ASUS, Huawei and LG.   I don't think I know anyone who only uses Canadian designed and manufactured technology to watch scripted programming.  I never heard a Minister of Canadian Heritage claiming that these technology companies should be brought "into the system", confusing these technologies as being part of the broadcast system and thus should be regulated as part of it.

Why does Minister Joly apparently believe that other technology products and services such as Netflix, Google (YouTube, and Play Movies and TV), or Amazon Video should be brought into the system?  These technology companies are no more part of the system than the hardware manufacturers.

When discussing how Canadian Content Creators harmed when Netflix claimed to be a "broadcaster" I discussed the differences between content libraries and broadcasters/BDUs.  There is a need to regulate companies using Canadian airwaves such as broadcasters, as well as those putting wired above and below public and private property (something that would otherwise be trespass) such as BDUs and telecommunications companies.

None of these regulatory reasons apply to technology companies offering content libraries or technologies used to access content libraries.  Online libraries are not in any way part of the "broadcast" system, and should be regulated as providers of technology products and services as is the case for other technology products and services.

This outmoded way of thinking of "online" content distribution as being related to "broadcasting" is harming both Canadian creators and Canadian audiences.


Barriers to Canadian Content creators reaching audiences.

On Wednesday I wrote about the case of writer and director Christopher White who is using Amazon Prime video to distribute a movie.

Amazon is already a content distributor in Canada, but only when the movie or TV series is stored on DVD and Blue Ray disks.  Their Amazon Video service is not currently offered in Canada, most likely because of regulatory barriers and other red-tape when dealing with Canadian governments -- most likely policy under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Why is Minister Joly threatening to force Amazon Video to be "part of the system" if it enters Canada, while Amazon's existing distribution of physical disks to Canadians doesn't concern her?  The Minister should be trying to reduce barriers to Canadian content creators, not erect new ones!  It's not her job to "build a wall".


Barriers to Canadian audiences accessing Canadian Content

While some narrowly concern themselves with the headquarters of the company financing the production, or the nationality of some tiny number of writers, I consider the amazing creativity filmed and and produced in Canada to be Canadian content.  I've been a big fan of the Stargate and related franchises (including Sanctuary), Battlestar Gallactica, and recently all the DC comic Superhero series -- all primarily out of Vancouver!

I have been looking forward to next week's DC Superheros Crossover Event since it was announced last spring.

Because of the type of thinking that Minister Joly is demonstrating, the event may be ruined for me as I may not be able to see the first episode of the event before I watch later episodes.

All 4 shows are financed by The CW network.  Unfortunately because of broadcast-era regional licensing these shows are not made available directly to Canadians in a single modern first-run content subscription library (such as Netflix), but on distribution channels controlled by "Canadian" broadcasters.

Three of the four series are exclusively licensed in Canada by CTV, and Supergirl is licensed by Showcase.

While Bell owns both CTV and CraveTV, new episodes are not made available on CraveTV as that service is operated as a second-run service and isn't attempting to compete with first-run content library services like Netflix.  This outdated attitude more than anything else is likely why Shomi failed as Canadians want a first-run streaming content library which makes new episodes of series available as soon as they have been published.

I've been having a hard time watching Supergirl via Showcase -- first their website was so poor that I was having a hard time enjoying the show.  Then I gave up and paid money via Google Play for the season 2 pass.  It is now Friday, and Monday's episode is still not been released by Showcase for Canadian viewers.

I may, if I'm very lucky (unlikely) get a response from Showcase to my various only questions (twitter and email), and have Mondays episode available in time. It is far more likely I will be forced to get from some other source (VPN to access US source, or some "other" less authorized source).

I'm left wondering why I have to deal with Showcase, CTV or Bell at all?  I'm not interested in going back to broadcasting or BDU services to access scripted programming any more than I'm interested in giving up indoor plumbing and other modern conveniences.   There is no reason for the government to be supporting regional exclusive licensing in a world where technology makes most of these restrictions counterproductive (See Bell's inducement of copyright infringement).

Audiences should be able to directly access these shows from the copyright holders, not from some irrelevant and outdated country-based intermediary.

(Update:  Notes from watching Supergirl via VPN)

Core cultural policy changes

While I have written a series of articles during the DigiCanCon consultations, if there is one thing I can recommend to the Minister of Heritage and the Department of Canadian Heritage is that they need to separate the creation, distribution and access to Canadian content from each other.  Having the entity that distributes the content be "Canadian" is no longer any more relevant than the brand of television people are using in their homes.  Thinking that entities which are carrying out activities entirely unrelated to broadcasting should be brought "into the system" is facing backwards into the past and rejecting the possibility of supporting Canadian content into the future.

  • Canadian Content funding should be to creators, not intermediaries
  • Each different content distribution mechanism should be regulated separately.  Online content libraries are no more part of the "broadcast" system than retail DVD distribution is.  These retailers do not not use our "spectrum" and they do not use "right of way" privileges to put wires above and below public and private property.
  • Barriers for creators reaching audiences should be removed.  If this means actively soliciting non-Canadian content-distribution companies to offer their services to Canadian creators and audiences, then that should be quickly pursued.
  • While broadcasting is a different market, legal content libraries directly compete with copyright infringing content libraries.  As a measure to reduce copyright infringement, the Canadian government should be supporting (financially and otherwise) legal content libraries.  For those who believe that infringement is a substitute for payment, they should support the government creating as many new payment options as possible.

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