Google spoke, and naturally everyone listens. Roberto Rocha and the CBC write about its submission to the CRTC about new media regulation. As you might expect, the company prefers a hands-off approach to the Internet.
Google’s argument is that with no government regulation whatsoever concerning content, YouTube still manages to have plenty of Canadian-produced videos, and if measured quantitatively, it has more Canadian content than Canadian TV networks.
Rocha pokes some holes into that argument, mainly by pointing out most videos posted to YouTube are of little public interest. Test videos, family videos, copyright infringement, personal vlogs and just utter crap. There are no professionally-produced scripted dramas produced by Canadians online, and you could probably count on one hand the number of people making a living from posting videos online north of the border.
Quebecor, which has both a broadcasting interest in TVA and an online interest in ISP Videotron, also argues against regulation. To back up its point, it mentions its web portal Canoe:
Quebecor Media believes that the Canadian footprint in the new-media broadcasting environment is significant and continues to expand rapidly. One indication is that the Canoe.ca network is among the top 12 Canadian platforms in terms of unique visits.
OK, hands up those of you who can name 12 “Canadian platforms”. Yeah.
Non-regulation isn’t perfect. It encourages profit-seekers to go after the lowest common denominator. While there’s plenty of “user-generated content”, there’s very little professional production. Even with the almost non-existent barriers to production and distribution, the difference in value between what is produced for television (even cable channels) and what is produced online is still very large. It’s unclear at this point whether that gap will narrow.
But online is also the great equalizer. There are no public airwaves to portion out. There are no limits whatsoever, and so there should be no regulation, just as there is no regulation of newspapers.
Where conventional TV networks sign import deals and use simultaneous substitution law to effectively print money importing U.S. shows, there is no such rule online because there are no international barriers. Sure, some are trying to put up barriers to make our lives difficult, but the majority of content is available to Canadians as much as Americans, no matter which side of the border it comes from.
It hasn’t arrived yet, because many media owners still think that paying for cheap wire content and slapping your brand on it is a good idea, but eventually media outlets will learn that they’ll have to produce original content to get any audience (and advertising money). It’ll be creative ideas, not cross-border dealmaking, that will create wealth for Canadian media companies in the future.
At least, we hope.
In any case, it would be pointless for the CRTC to try to regulate the Internet, simply because it can’t.