Canadian content requirements for the internet?


in Canada, Economics, Films and movies, Internet matters, Music, Politics, Rants

Apparently, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is considering Canadian content requirements for the internet. While I do support the existence of public broadcasters, I have never felt the same way about Canadian content rules for television or the radio. To me, they seem parochial and unnecessary; why does it matter whether people want to watch shows or listen to music that originated elsewhere?

Of course, the internet idea is even more dubious. Unlike radio and television, where you get to choose between channels but have no input into what each one is putting out, the internet lets you choose each film or song individually. As such, enforcing Canadian content requirements is both more intrusive and less practically feasible.

I remember when there were high hopes that the internet would be free from this sort of petty governmental manipulation. Unfortunately, with all the censorship, dubious monitoring, and other governmental shenanigans happening now, it isn’t surprising that yet another government agency wants to assert its regulatory influence over what happens online.

Hearings begin on Tuesday, with the aim of reviewing the current policy of not regulating content on cell phones and the internet.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan February 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

“…Why does it matter whether people want to watch shows or listen to music that originated elsewhere?”

What are people but the social conditions they participate in? Do we have “Canadian genes”? No.

It would be absurd to try to argue that the CBC has not been crucial for forming what there is of a Canadian identity over the last 50 years, and also probably absurd to think it couldn’t have happened without state intervention. If it wasn’t for Cancon regulations there is a good chance that many Canadian programs, which do some work of collectively defining us, simply wouldn’t have existed. You can go ahead and argue that culture is not a value the state should uphold, but no position at all is not neutrality, but rather the active submission to American hegemony.

Milan February 20, 2009 at 1:09 pm

You don’t think it is both unfeasible and overbearing to require online content providers to include a set amount of Canadian material?

You could make it work with content streams like online radio stations – though I would argue it is still overbearing and unjustified. It’s difficult to see how it could be done on systems where you select media individually: require that one in ten songs you buy from iTunes is Canadian? Only let you watch non-Canadian YouTube videos when you have watched enough Canadian ones?

Milan February 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm

As for Canadian culture, I have never seen much evidence of it.

Certainly, there are Canadians who produce cultural material. I do not, however, see a distinct Canadian culture that is either comprehensive or actually divided from culture from elsewhere.

alison February 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Geist: Rogers has “dumb pipes” – why should they be responsible for content?


Tristan February 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

“As for Canadian culture, I have never seen much evidence of it.”

Do you think there is nothing recognizable as “American culture”?

Milan February 20, 2009 at 6:31 pm

There is definitely American culture. Hollywood, Westerns, Jazz, etc.

Can you think of something comparable and Canadian?

Tristan February 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm

It’s the not-entirely-American status of Canadian culture. Canadian culture is difference. Unity is secondary to difference.

Magictofu February 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Can French Canadian culture count? I perceive it to be quite different from other French cultures and quite different from English, Anglo-Canadian or American culture. I even see important differences between a Quebecois culture and an Acadian culture.

What about Newfoundland culture? Inuit culture? Metis Culture?

We can argue that these are subgroups of a wider Canadian culture but they nonetheless remain distinctly Canadian.

Cultural production, either traditional or contemporary, does not happen in a vacuum.

Also, not all cultural production falls in the pop culture category.

I agree that pop culture (Hollywood, Jazz, ….) is an international phenomena but even then it is often expressed with interesting variations from one locale to another.

As for online content, I think that because of its very nature it should not be subject to such regulations. There are forces that are too strong to oppose and learning to use them to our benefit is always better than fighting them.

Tristan February 21, 2009 at 12:13 am

MagicTofu has a point, there is a more unified Quebec culture – that’s a Culture in Canada – a Canadian Culture, if you wish.

Tristan February 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Magic Tofu’s point is actually quite deep. To say that a Canadian culture must be a culture shared by all Canadians is by definition a bar too high for any multi-cultural society to pass. For a culture to be a Canadian culture, it simply needs to be a culture and be in Canada.

Furthermore, for cultures other than pop-culture, it’s not obvious why you would know about it unless you were part of it, or unless it showed up on media through can-con regulations.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: