Tag Archives: Canadian-content

Internet CanCon is already here

When news broke this month about the idea of the CRTC considering regulation of the Internet to enforce CanCon-style rules, I was going to blog about it but quickly realized plenty of people would be doing that. Sure, enough, there was a blogger revolt at the idea and even a Facebook group for people to join.

The arguments against the idea are fairly straightforward:

  1. The entire issue was brought up by mainstream content producers and artists, but not new media artists who profit mainly off the Internet
  2. It’s impractical to try to control what people access on the Internet. The only countries that actually try to do that are backward, undemocratic regimes
  3. CanCon sucks

I agree, and this issue won’t go very far in the regulatory department because of it.

Unfortunately, those people who believe the Internet doesn’t have borders are going to find themselves disappointed by the fact that the Internet already commercially regulates what Canadians can see online, thanks to geographic IP mapping, which can tell a server what country you’re in based on your IP address.

This geographically-based content comes in three major forms:

  • Helpful localization. Google has been doing this for quite a while, redirecting Google.com to Google.ca. There is localized content but all the features are intact. You can even switch to the U.S. version if you want.
  • Unavoidable licensing restrictions. The reason I can’t listen to Pandora is because they don’t have a license to broadcast the music outside the U.S. They’re forced to prevent people from outside the country from connecting (leading hard-core international users to use proxies).
  • Commercial exclusivity agreements. U.S.-based Comedy Central recently signed an agreement with Canada-based Comedy Network that, among other things, forces visitors to only use the Canadian site. Canadians who go to ComedyCentral.com get a message explaining they’ve been screwed over and are told everything is available at the Comedy Network site. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help if someone has linked directly to a Comedy Central video. You have to go to the Comedy Network website and search for that video from scratch. (The Comedy Network, by the way, was born out of CanCon and is basically a Comedy Central clone mixed in with reruns of CBC shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just for Laughs). The fact that you can’t watch videos of U.S. network series on their websites is also because of this. You can’t watch Heroes on NBC.com, you have to go to Global’s website and watch it there.

This situation is only going to get worse from here. Now that servers can determine the origin of their visitors, it’s a short step to regulating what content goes where. And while media companies feel their way through the darkness trying to figure everything out, we’re going to find an increasing disconnect between what Canadians and Americans have access to online.

CanCon is bad for Canadian content

This debate over Internet CanCon has caused a debate over the old media version of the rules to resurface. Casey McKinnon, who was really peeved over this and hates CanCon, gave an interview with Intruders.tv (via) talking about how horrible it is that we lower our standards just for more flag-waving.

I have another argument to make in the anti-CanCon debate: It’s counterproductive, and actually hurts Canadian broadcasting (at least in TV).

The reason, for me, is two words: simultaneous substitution.

That’s the rule that requires Canadian cable providers to substitute U.S. networks’ signals with Canadian ones when both are showing the same show at the same time. That way, Canadian viewers are exposed to Canadian advertising and all the money stays up here.

It sounds great, but it has a side-effect: It makes it more profitable for Canadian networks to simulcast American programming. They don’t even have to rebroadcast at the same quality (Global, for example, is notoriously bad for rebroadcasting HD content in standard definition on its HD channel).

Without simultaneous substitution, Canadians would turn to American networks for American programming, and Canadian networks would either have to compete directly or begin to look elsewhere for content. That could mean licensing TV shows from Britain or Australia, or investing in their own, original programming.

Of course, I’m being far too optimistic here. Canadian TV networks have to be dragged kicking and screaming toward their production budgets to greenlight Canadian-made shows. And that lack of original quality programming is why people are turning to the Internet in droves.

But at least we can make it less profitable for Canadian networks to re-run American programming. Use the power of economic competition for good.

UPDATE (Nov. 25): The Star coincidentally mentions some of these issues in an article about what technology and web services Canadians can’t get.

So you think you can produce original programming?

News outlets all over the country are rewriting a CTV press release into news. It’s announcing that the network has secured Canadian rights to the show So You Think You Can Dance, and like Canadian Idol, our version of the show will be in the same format but with different hosts.

Am I the only one getting tired of Canadian networks creating Canadian versions of shows developed in other countries and selling it to the CRTC as original Canadian content? Think of what we’ve done so far:

  1. Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? (Global), adapted from Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (FOX)
  2. Canada’s Next Top Model (Citytv), adapted from America’s Next Top Model (CW)
  3. Canada’s Worst Driver (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst Driver
  4. Canada’s Worst Handyman (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst DIYer
  5. Canadian Idol (CTV), adapted from American Idol (FOX), which was in turn adapted from Britain’s Pop Idol, all part of Simon Cowell’s empire
  6. Deal or No Deal Canada (Global), adapted from Deal or No Deal (NBC)
  7. Entertainment Tonight Canada (Global), adapted from Entertainment Tonight (Syndicated)
  8. No Opportunity Wasted (CBC), adapted from No Opportunity Wasted (New Zealand)
  9. Project Runway Canada (Slice), adapted from Project Runway (Bravo)
  10. Who Do You Think You Are? (CBC), adapted from Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC)

And that’s the only ones I can find on a quick search.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a problem. Canadian actors, writers, and other artists are objecting to the trend, demanding the networks invest in Canadian ideas instead of American ones, and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars down south to license their shows.

What’s wrong? Is it because we don’t have as much money as they do? Is it because our ideas suck? Is it because Canadian viewers are so allergic to home-grown content that we have to be weaned onto it using comfortable American shows?

Or is there nothing wrong? I enjoy Canada’s Worst Driver/Handyman, and I watch American TV a lot during prime time. Is the problem me?