Saturday, June 09, 2018

No to regulating streaming in Canada

Whenever I write about the arts now, I think I'm writing with a lot more awareness of what it's like to work in the arts in Canada. My altered perception is in part thanks to my limited involvement with Loose Moose. I got to know real artists, living artists, starving artists, upcoming artists, some of whom would go on to become involved in television, global theatre and other Canadian projects. So I try to be sensitive to the reality that it's not easy to be an artist, nor is it easy to achieve success in the arts in this country. I'm also aware that artists generally agree with the CanCon (Canadian content) protectionism that the Canadian government provides to help artists and their projects thrive. I kind of understood when CanCon was introduced for television and radio, but at the same time I didn't quite get it, because I have always felt that good Canadian content is good enough to stand on its own. So I was never sure beyond a doubt that it needed protection through legislation. But then, I'm not an artist, so my thoughts on the matter may be misinformed. I write this preamble because I'd like my artist friends to forgive my possible ignorance or naivety.

After reading an article a few days ago that the CRTC is recommending to the government of Canada to regulate all streaming services, and perhaps force them to financially or otherwise support Canadian content, I've finally had enough. I've been on a rant to anyone who will listen, exclaiming that the CRTC, in my humble opinion, has gone too far. Whether or not Canadian radio or television requires legislation to ensure its survival, is a debate we'll possibly continue to have for many years. But to suggest that streaming services, which are not the same as public over-the-air broadcasting services, and that we pay to enjoy, shouldn't be subject to the same rigorous regulatory oversight and assistance. Let's face it, part of the appeal of subscribing to Netflix and other streaming services, is that you get a mix of content in parallel. Unlike broadcast television in this country, where we have a tsunami of channels offering a lot of content that probably couldn't sustain itself without help, and is subjectively of mediocre quality, with a few gems. Streaming is the equivalent of one big channel with stuff for everyone, buffet style. The appealing content survives and the weak content dies, as it should. Lo and behold, there is even Canadian content on Netflix! Why? Because there is some stuff made in Canada that is good enough to be bought by a streaming service.

If we allow this regulation of video streaming to happen, they'll be coming for Spotify next. No thank you. I like my streaming just the way it is. It's the buffet where I can eat what I like and ignore the rest. I don't want my consumption of burgers (which I love) to subsidize the funding of liver (not loving so much). There's a reason you don't see liver in a typical buffet people.

I'm actively looking for a petition to tell the CRTC to keep its hands off streaming media and if I find one, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I called them and lodged a complaint. If you agree with me, you should too.

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