Jesse Brown, the host of CBC Radio’s Search Engine, found out that his show was among the ones the Mother Corp. decided it would cancel blame the Conservative government for forcing it to cancel.
Search Engine, a show about the Internet, its culture and its laws (à la Geist) was created as a weekly show on CBC Radio One in September 2007, and lasted a year before getting cancelled for the first time. But a geek campaign by the Cory Doctorow Army got CBC to change its mind and bring Search Engine back, retooled (read: simpler and cheaper) as a podcast-only project for its second season. There it gained a cult-like status as a must-subscribe for Canadian podcast geeks.
But this sad story has another happy ending. Search Engine, which is described as CBC’s most popular podcast (though I couldn’t find numbers to back this up) got picked up by TVOntario, where it gets a home near Steve Paikin and … we assume there’s other stuff at TVO. The show will be produced biweekly until the fall, when it returns to a weekly schedule.
I’ve been following the brouhaha over the Conservative government’s new copyright bill, C-61, and specifically how the government has been responding to geeks who are finding holes in it and driving public opinion against the bill.
The more I follow it, the more I come to a rather stunning conclusion: Industry Minister Jim Prentice doesn’t understand his own copyright bill.
The big controversy, as the Globe’s Ivor Tossell explains, is over a provision about so-called digital locks (those software hacks they call Digital Rights Management, or DRM, that try to control how you access digital media). It says that users cannot bypass these locks, no matter how flimsy they are, even if what they’re trying to do with it is entirely legal.
The consequence of this is that companies just put digital locks on everything, and through a loophole in the law can claim rights they shouldn’t have in the first place.
In the above video, Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner are asked about this, and you can see them struggle to regurgitate the talking points they’ve been handed about the bill. (In Verner’s case, you might argue that language difficulties combined with an inability to hear the question might be an excuse.)
But to me this isn’t just about a minister and a bill. It’s something that’s always bothered me about parliamentary politics: the idea that being an MP is all the expertise needed to run a federal department. You don’t need to be a doctor to manage doctors. You don’t need to have a PhD to manage universities. You don’t need to have a driver’s license to manage the transportation department. And you don’t need to understand computers to be in charge of a new copyright bill.
Of course, in many cases ministers are put in areas they would be more comfortable with. Ken Dryden being minister for sport makes sense. But cabinet shuffles being as routine as they are makes it seem as if running the military isn’t so different from foreign affairs or finance.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe being a minister is more about managing, appointing directors, making budgets, drafting legislation and shaking hands at ceremonial functions than it is about getting into the nitty-gritty.
But Prentice and the copyright bill show a clear problem with that premise.