The CRTC new media hearings, with their far-fetched funding idea to promote Canadian content online, appear to be going bust. Ok, perhaps it is not over until it is over, but we have passed the middle mark and things are not looking too progressive. The initial stage of these hearings started three weeks ago with submissions from various interest groups. The CRTC heard arguments from groups including The Canadian Independent Record Production Association, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and The Independent Media Arts Alliance. The CRTC also accepted submissions from ISPs who are in fact, up to bat this week, offering their side of the commentary. In sum, I think University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist described it best as ‘a huge disappointment with submissions short on specifics, long on rhetoric, and filled with inconsistencies’ (www.michaelgeist.ca).
Canadian content on the Internet? Is this Canadian content that is intended to develop self-identity among Canadians from Halifax to Victoria, or intended to entertain web-surfers from Hong Kong to the Vatican? The CRTC, from the outset is taking a flawed approach with its overly-generalized and divided definitions of ‘broadcast’ versus ‘ telecom’. These traditional understandings of ‘media’ are no longer viable. Many of the interest groups seem to be taking outdated perspectives and offering similarly redundant solutions. Overall, it seems the various parties involved would first need to realize where they stand in light of contemporary media discourse, and after that agree on (or learn) a common vernacular by which discussion may be facilitated.
As these hearings sputter to an end, it leaves me thinking not of the Canadian content that will potentially never be produced, but of the vast and expensive lobbying and discussion-making industry that absorbs so much of the value that already could have been rolled into producing that content. As is often the case, the cost of the process tends to squander the resources that could be directly applied to achieve the results that the process is said to be fostering – maybe not money so well spent? While the New Media Hearings seem to be an expensive flop, hopefully at least we can salvage the conclusion that government regulation in the area of online content, is a bad idea.