Thursday, October 5, 2017

Yes, CBC, I'm waiting for Alias Grace to be on Netflix.

CBC runs InCanada, an "online" Canadian Media Panel. I put "online" in quotations because while the panel is online, the CBC's broadcaster bias is always visible in how they ask questions. The latest survey is no exception.

The survey was essentially about Alias Grace, a Canadian-American miniseries that will air on CBC on September 25, 2017, and on Netflix on November 3, 2017.

The survey typically conflates Netflix with broadcasters, when Netflix is not a broadcaster. This is about as nonsensical as confusing a radio station with a record store when discussing music, and yet the legacy broadcasters continue to try to push this nonsense.

I sometimes make the comparison to the difference between an outhouse and indoor plumbing: Like broadcasting, people made use of outhouses before modern conveniences like indoor plumbing came along. And like indoor plumbing, people aren't likely to want to go backwards once they get used to online streaming.

While outhouses still exist in places where indoor plumbing is not available, it is not the predominant way that people "do their business". Unlike with an outhouse, there is no sense of urgency to use the outmoded platform to watch Alias Grace.

The survey asked if I saw the American series The Handmaid's Tale (TV series). While this was distributed by Hulu starting in April 2017, the series was blocked from Canadian access by Bell until they made it available on CraveTV in late July. Bell blocking, hiding and/or delaying lawful access to content is typical, and I consider them to be the largest Canadian contributory copyright infringer for their ongoing inducement of infringement.

If the NAFTA negotiations were intended to modernize trade relations within North America, the trade barriers disallowing cross-boarder shopping for telecommunications services and creative content would be a top priority. I believe we could massively reduce copyright infringement in North America if we moved to a single content market, where creators from the entire of North America had unrestricted access to the audiences of North America. That includes the content distribution services. North American audiences should also have the right to subscribe to any North American streaming service, and regional content restrictions within North America would be prohibited.

The concept of Canadians not being to view content at the same time as US audiences, including having the option to subscribe to the same online distribution services, must quickly become a distant memory.

Canadian Content policy should be focused on content, not on outdated distribution mechanisms. Hopefully a pro-free trade agenda will be part of the current Heritage Minister's thinking: you can't promote Canadian production capabilities and wide global distribution of Canadian content while still allowing regional content blocking.

Bell's anti-free trade agenda is trying to push policy in the opposite direction, including asking for mandated blocking when Canadians wish to access content that is not lawfully streamed in Canada. Bell is asking for mandated blocking because they want competitors to have to block the same competing distribution sites Bell already wants to block, which is also why they oppose VPNs (Apparently the technology, not only the perfectly legitimate cross-boarder-shopping use).

If I wanted to watch The Handmaid's Tale when US viewers were (or those that can tolerate the smell of an outhouse/broadcaster), or on the devices of my choosing, I would be forced to infringe copyright (easiest) or use a VPN (Less convenient, but currently more lawful).

There was no sense of urgency to watch The Handmaid's Tale. While there are shows that are important enough to me that would warrant finding alternative streaming options, none of these TV series based on Margaret Atwood novels are of sufficient interest.

My wife and I watched Handmaid's Tale on CraveTV. CraveTV is a horrible streaming service: there is a difference between the indoor plumbing at a 5-star hotel and an out-of-the-way truck stop. We only watch programming on CraveTV when it is not available anywhere else. The CraveTV Android App crashes fairly regularly. CraveTV works on few of my devices, compared to Netflix which pretty much always works -- and Netflix even has a simple app built into the SmartTV such that my wife and in-laws can also use it (CraveTV is too messy for less technical people to put up with).

While CBC isn't as bad as Bell when it comes to policies, I believe their outdated broadcaster-era thinking is harmful to Canadian creators and taxpayers.