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[This commentary was also published at Cartt.ca]

Waves of both excitement and trepidation spread through Canada's interactive digital media and broadcasting sectors on March 9, 2009 when the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the creation of the Canada Media Fund. Now, about a year and a half later, trepidation remains but, for many, the initial excitement has been replaced by bewilderment and disappointment.


The road from the initial CMF announcement to where we are today took many twists and turns. As CMF president and CEO Valerie Creighton said last month at the Merging+Media conference in Vancouver, while addressing the magnitude of the change, "it's been a very messy year and it's going to get messier". No doubt.


The CMF staff has done a commendable job in the face of an overwhelming challenge. They've engaged stakeholders across the country at all levels and ensured that everyone's voice could be heard, even if their specific desires couldn't always be accommodated. And they've done all this while trying to minimize the destabilization of the already unstable television industry.


The resulting policies reflect compromise on many levels and have been influenced by a vast range of stakeholders with often very disparate interests, some inspired by genuine recognition of the need to change and others by self-interests that are tied to the preservation of the status quo and declining business models.


There are many facets to the CMF but the focus of this commentary will be limited to the convergent stream as that's where I have the greatest concerns.


Richard Stursburg, until recently the head of English language programming at the CBC, said last week at the Insight Telecommunications Forum in Ottawa, "people don't watch Canadian [dramatic] television". That's certainly debatable, but if true, it's not because our shows lack the tacked-on interactive elements that are the thrust of the convergent stream. Rather, it's either because the content isn't of interest to the audience or because it doesn't reach the audience when, where and how they want to consume it.


TV content still isn't always easily available to a new breed of consumer on the terms and devices that suit them. This has certainly improved in the last year and a half, and the CMF may indeed have accelerated the pace of change. As promised by Moore, we have definitely made progress toward the goal that "Canadian viewers will have better access to Canadian programming on all media platforms". BDU-based on-demand offerings that are tied to digital set-top boxes do nothing to reach analogue cable customers or those who have opted out of the BDU system entirely.


Online streaming helps to address this void. It was introduced as a transitional measure but may not be continued going forward. For most shows, though, this is the optimal solution to reach a wider audience and I hope that Heritage and the CMF decide to continue this policy. It is, hands down, the best way to ensure that CMF-funded television content is available to the vast majority of Canadians, whether they be BDU customers or not.  To be effective in reaching a wide audience though, it can't be limited to online streaming alternatives that are only available to BDU subscribers. Alternative on-line only subscription or a la carte billing options must be considered.


Regardless of where the fund goes with respect to streaming, a plan is on the horizon to force the majority of TV projects to change their very nature by requiring that they incorporate "rich and substantial" interactive elements - a shot-gun marriage of traditional and digital media. "Rich and substantial" can mean many things, involve a wide range of budgets, and lead to over-building the interactive beyond what's appropriate or, conversely,  falling short by delivering less than what's really needed. Worse, though, building these elements for projects where they aren't warranted in their own right will force broadcasters to divert scarce funding to ancillary interactive components that may have little demonstrable value. It will also force TV producers to find ways to cover the 40% interactive financing shortfall that will usually exist after the mandatory broadcaster minimum 10% contribution triggers the CMF 50% maximum contribution.


When "rich and substantial" is warranted, that's great, and something worth funding. The Bell Fund already does a great job of supporting these projects and the decision as to whether to pursue a digital media path is left up to the TV producer and the broadcaster - as it should be. Top-up funding from the CMF could help to finance these projects without putting a significant drain on the available resources.


TV already does what TV does best and it's not realistic to try to change the nature of television. The limitations imposed by broadcast lead-time, coupled with a linear narrative, won't go away. These aren't limitations that can be fixed with the wave of a magic wand; these are the limitations of people, tight budgets and the nature of the medium.


Moore's objective to "focus the investment on what Canadians want" is laudable - but what do Canadian's really want? It's doubtful that the majority of Canadians want a hybrid mix of traditional and digital media that, will, due to the battle for dollars, actually tend to undermine the potential quality of each.


As the CMF is now considering the policies under which the fund will operate next year, I offer these suggestions to the Ministry of Heritage and to Minister Moore, knowing full well that, as with anything to do with the CMF, many in the industry will disagree with me.


First, we must annul this ill-conceived shot-gun marriage between TV and interactive. If we go down the road as planned, the same limited funding resources will be spread across a much greater number of hybrid projects next year, likely leading to an abundance of mediocrity. Syphoning money away from core TV programming to support mandatory but often unnecessary ancillary interactive elements will do a great disservice both to television programming and to interactive development.


Secondly, let's let TV do what TV does best, and let that story-telling medium go where it will, for better or worse. We should, of course, encourage and perhaps even mandate distribution across multiple platforms, provided that everyone in the value chain is properly compensated, but let's not pretend that we can make TV into something it isn't.


Finally, to truly realize the Minister's objective of rewarding "success and innovation", we must give interactive media an unfettered and well-funded opportunity to grow into its role as a key story-telling vehicle of the future and allow Canadians to use it in creative ways to tell stories to our fellow Canadians and to the world - without shackling these initiatives to the inflexible medium of television.

The internet has become a vital part of our infrastructure and it is, in many ways, as indispensable as traditional utilities like electricity, telephone service and natural gas. It's as essential to our world today as highways, water mains, and sewers.


We don't, as a rule, build important infrastructure without considerable planning, policy and debate - but none of that happened with the internet.


Unlike our utilities, or our physical infrastructure components like highways and sewer systems, the internet, in effect, came in the back door as an overlay on top of existing communications infrastructure. In doing so, it by-passed traditional planning processes.


Many nations today are now developing and implementing national digital strategies that they hope will shape the future of the internet for the benefit of their nations and citizens.


Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain and New Zealand are among the countries that have already released digital strategies. Indeed, New Zealand released the second version of its strategy back in 2008. There've been discussions in Canada amongst various groups comprised of government, public agencies and the private sector, but we're still far from formulating a national digital strategy of our own that protects and promotes our nation and its people in the digital age.


The scope of the national digital strategies developed abroad is quite extensive. What's generally not included, though, is a broader look at digital infrastructure and common services.  Like many countries, we've become dependent on a lot of services over which we have little or no national control. However, just because we can't control them doesn't mean that others can't.   Often, unbeknownst to us, our digital activities expose us to powerful foreign legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act and its far-reaching powers.


In the physical world, when we cross the border into another country, we understand - or should understand - that we are now subject to the laws of that country. What many may not realize, though, is that our digital transactions and data cross borders with great frequency - and we're often not even aware of it.


It is often very difficult or impossible to determine whether our digital activities are wholly contained within Canada or not. It might seem natural to conclude that a transaction between a Canadian consumer and a Canadian company, or between two Canadian companies, might be wholly under the jurisdiction - and protection - of Canadian law, but is that true?  What if the website is hosted on a server located in the U.S.?  What if payment is made through American-owned PayPal? Even a seemingly insignificant detail such as an e-mail confirmation of a transaction that is sent to a Gmail or Hotmail account takes the transaction information through foreign-owned servers and, likely, into the U.S. or elsewhere beyond our borders.


Most online Canadians use foreign-owned services including Google, YouTube, Skype, MSN Messenger, Twitter and Facebook to name but a few. And while we may occasionally consider whether we want these companies collecting data about what we say and do online, we seldom, if ever, consider the broader implications of that data collection. Collectively, it paints a detailed picture of individual Canadians - and when that data resides beyond our borders, it is also largely beyond our control and potentially subject to intrusive foreign laws.


Increasingly, too, Canadian companies are building services on scalable cloud-computing platforms offered by foreign-controlled companies including IBM, Microsoft and Amazon and these are usually also hosted beyond our borders. Many companies also use online software services provided by third parties and have no idea where their data actually resides.


We're effectively outsourcing much of the digital infrastructure of our online social and economic world and, when you do that, you can lose control. While we can control some of what happens within our borders - for example, Canadian privacy laws did cause Facebook to change how it operates in Canada - we can't control what occurs beyond our borders.

There's an economic impact to using foreign-owned services, too.  Money flows out of the Canadian economy when we do this.  Genesis may have been "Selling England by the Pound" but we're selling Canada bit by bit.


This isn't a plea for regulatory intervention.  However, as part of our national digital strategy, we do need to consider our digital sovereignty. Educating consumers and companies of the risks associated with the data that transcends our borders should be an important consideration.  The responsibility for the privacy and security of our data for government, the private sector and individuals, can't be ignored. We need to ensure that adequate infrastructure services that are wholly contained within our Canadian digital borders are available.  Only by doing this can we ensure our security, autonomy and sovereignty in a digital world, and keep our dollars working in our domestic economy.

[Update: The Mark published a condensed version of this on February 26, 2010 at http://themarknews.com/articles/1019-our-endangered-digital-sovereignty]

[This commentary was also published at Cartt.ca]

If the internet had been something that was created from scratch, rather than a rapid and almost spontaneous evolution of technology and networks, governments around the world would have played a much bigger role in its development and deployment.  It likely, too, would have been much less the global network that it is today and much more a collection of inter-connected national networks.  Controlled cross-border exchange of information, entertainment and commerce would likely have been the norm. And... we'd have an online media world that closely resembled the traditional, tightly controlled one.

In effect, though, the internet arrived uninvited and, for some, at least from a video content point of view, remains an unwelcome guest.  Nonetheless, it's already permanently re-shaping the way we distribute and consume media.

English Canada has a significant cultural affinity to the United States and we have consumed a diet that has consisted of a lot of American fare for more than 50 years.  Of late though, on all fronts, from our Canadian English-language broadcasters through to new digital distribution channels like iTunes and YouTube, we've super-sized our consumption of foreign content.

In the conventional system, Canadian content requirements ensure, at least to a degree, that Canadian producers and talent have a role to play and a vehicle to tell Canadian stories to Canada, and, on a good day, through foreign sales, to other parts of the world. There are, however, no corresponding requirements when it comes to alternative distribution channels.  Across all distribution channels, Canadian audiences are increasingly turning their attention to foreign content (primarily of U.S. origin) and we face an increasing attention trade deficit.  We're accustomed to thinking of trade deficits mainly in economic terms, and that's true here, but our attention trade deficit also comes with an undeniable cultural impact.

When broadcaster dollars go to buying foreign content, that takes money out of the country - and doesn't help our domestic creative industries any.  But it is far worse in the online world.  When Canadians acquire foreign-produced content directly from foreign-owned content aggregators like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others, there's no Canadian middleman involved.

When fees are involved, they go to the aggregator.  When the content is ad-supported, Canadian advertisers increasingly are following Canadian eyeballs and buying space on these foreign sites.  The fragile Canadian content ecosystem is by-passed and, other than traffic flowing across our network plumbing, we're passive observers to the whole exchange. No Canadian company profits from the transaction, the government receives no tax revenue, and dollars flow out of the country.  These lost dollars can't be channelled back into our content creation industries - and our ability to tell culturally relevant stories is diminished.

Foreign entities, of course, have no obligation - and, arguably, little interest - in Canadian content, and, while our independent production model has been a great success, the result has been that few Canadian content producers have the scale or catalogue depth to attract the interest of foreign players.  On the home front, we have very few Canadian content marketplaces or aggregators to showcase Canadian content to Canadians or the world.

Many nations today are now developing national digital strategies that - they hope - will shape the future of the internet in many ways.  Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain are among the countries that have already released digital strategies.  Even tiny New Zealand released the second version of its strategy in 2008.  

The scope of such strategies is broad.  Content, though, does not have a significant presence in most of these strategies - and that's actually not that surprising.  While none of these countries is immune to the unprecedented influx of foreign content that the internet has made possible, these countries are, with the exception of New Zealand, the dominant economic power within their primary spoken language within their geographic region. Germany and France, in particular, enjoy the advantage of limited content in German or French that is foreign-produced. 

Our content funding today is, in large part, tied to the old broadcast-centric system and this doesn't encourage development in new forms of entertainment that exploit new capabilities on new distribution channels.  The new Canada Media Fund will address this to some degree but we don't know yet what its newly formed policies (or their impact) will be.

We can't - and shouldn't - try to force Canadian content down consumers' throats.  But we can - and should - take active steps to ensure that there is a viable Canadian digital content eco-system.  That includes Canadian-owned marketplaces and aggregators, both to showcase Canadian content but also to give us an economic stake in the game regardless of whose content is being consumed.

This isn't a call for regulatory intervention, but, as part of our national digital strategy, we do need to address this problem.  Losing the battle for attention from Canadian eyeballs may happen anyway, but if we don't act soon to offer alternatives to Canadian consumers, it will be a virtual certainty.  That, compounded by a lack of capabilities to help Canadian content reach a global audience, could be the death knell of our creative industries.


[Disclosure:  in the early 1980's (sadly, not a typo) I worked in the software industry and was a full-time employee of Bell Canada.  In 1986 I did a short contract once for Rogers inolving their billing systems.  In 2008 I collaborated with TELUS (as an ISP) on a paper concerning network traffic management.  I have never consulted with any of these companies (or any others) in their capacity as a BDU.  Also, directly or indirectly, I own shares in a number of ISPs including those mentioned above.  They also happen to be BDUs, but that's not why I chose to invest in them.]

[This article was also published by Cartt.ca]

I support the Canadian content industries and salute those who have done much with little.  There's much of which to be proud.  Today, though, the Canadian broadcasting system is in crisis.  Mostly, it is caused by a failure to adapt quickly enough to a rapidly changing world.  That's been exacerbated by the current economic situation, too.   But some of it is caused by injurious and spiteful infighting between players in the system that ends up confusing, frustrating and alienating the consumer.

Every player in the system has a role and has responsibilities as defined by the Broadcasting Act.  Beyond that, though, every player also has an unwritten obligation to Canadians.  That obligation is to continually evolve as needed to preserve our Canadian content industries and our creative voice in the world - and to do so collaboratively when necessary.  At the moment, I think all sectors are falling short of this obligation.  We're seldom innovators, we often lag.  It's tough to innovate when you're a small player, as Canada is in this space.  Innovate when possible, follow when practical, but don't follow so far behind that you become irrelevant - and, sadly, that's the dangerous reality we face today.  No one wants to see what we have collapse - but perpetuating a failing system through piece-meal changes isn't going to succeed for long.  The entire system - and everyone in it - needs to change their ways of doing business - and needs to do that now.  Five years from now we won't look back at the great "fee for carriage" or "value for signals" battle of 2009 as the salvation of local TV.  The problem is systemic, regardless of the outcome of this specific battle.  We're far more likely to look back to 2009 and ask ourselves why we didn't do something to really fix the problems while, arguably, we still had a chance.

The Canadian TV industry isn't naturally an economically viable ecosystem where each player can succeed on its own and still fulfill a cultural responsibility.  It never has been and it may never be in the future.  When models break - as they are now - the answer isn't simply to drain money from one sector of the ecosystem and pump it into another.  That's a last-ditch "life support" approach, not one that promotes a sustainable future.  It's a band-aid on a much bigger problem and the answer to such extreme problems always lies in taking radical and decisive action, not applying first-aid to slow the bleeding while hoping that the problem will heal itself.

I certainly don't speak for BDUs but if I did here's what I'd say to conventional broadcasters:

You buy content and sometimes you create it yourself.  You sell advertising that you wrap around that content.  Then you give that away for free over the air (and often on the Internet, too).  You hope that at the end of the day the advertising revenue you receive exceeds the costs of content and distribution - and for the longest time, it did just that, handsomely.

The airwaves are a public good.  In exchange for a right to use a portion of that scarce resource, you must carry some Canadian content.  The CRTC says so.   Fair enough, right?

Lately, though, you like to spend more and more of your money on U.S. content.  If a U.S. broadcaster is airing the same program as you at the same time, I must replace the U.S. signal with your signal so that you preserve the advertising effectiveness of the content in which you've invested.  You benefit greatly from that.  The CRTC says I must do that.  Fair enough.

I spend massive amounts on wire (cable / IPTV) or birds in the sky (satellite) and distribute your signals for free, helping you to reach a larger advertising audience (and therefore allowing you to charge higher advertising rates).  I do that on a localized basis (to the extent that I am able).  You benefit greatly from that.  I must do that.  The CRTC says so.  Fair enough.

As part of the broadcasting system, I must contribute back to the industry.  A percentage of my revenue comes right off the top and goes to the CTF to help create the Canadian programming that you wrap your advertising around.  You benefit greatly from that.  I must do that.  The CRTC says so.  Fair enough.

I also administer and contribute to independent production funds to help you finance content creation through outright grants and/or equity investments.  You benefit greatly from that.  I must do that.  The CRTC says so.  Fair enough.

Local programming is hurting.  You spend so much on foreign content that you can't afford to spend enough on local stations and content.  I now also make contributions to the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) specifically to help "maintain and improve the quality of local television programming".  You stand to benefit from that.  I must do that.  The CRTC says so.  Fair enough.

So, through the CTF and the independent production funds I make a significant financial contribution to support your operations already - and not just your conventional OTA operations but also your profitable specialty channels, too.  And, through the LPIF I further support your local OTA endeavours.

And let's not forget the taxpayer.  In the case of the CBC, the taxpayer provides direct funding.  And those CTF funds?  They're provided in part by the Department of Canadian Heritage - using taxpayer dollars.  Let's not forget about Telefilm Canada, for that matter.

With respect to your local conventional signals, my value proposition has always been to make those signals available to those who choose not to use an antenna, can't pick up a strong enough signal from an antenna, or for whom an antenna is not an option.  We are part of a unique symbiotic relationship, whether you appreciate it or not.  You create a product and I distribute it for you at no charge to you.  You benefit greatly from this, and so do I, even though it's something I must do.  The CRTC says so.

Apparently that's not enough for you.  Now you want to change the equation.  You want me to pay to distribute your content.  But wait a second.   The Canadian dramatic, comedy and documentary content you carry is paid for in part by me through my CTF contributions.  Don't our independent production funds also make it possible for you to finance many of these projects?  As for local content, isn't that what the LPIF is all about?  Directly or indirectly, the BDUs and the customers of BDUs are already paying to help create the content you use so that you have something to wrap your advertising around.  That begs the question: whose content is it anyway???

Now you want us to pay for that content again when we distribute it on your behalf.  Remember, too, that the consumers who are your customers but not mine - that is, the over-the-air consumers - don't pay anything directly into the system and, other than through general tax coffers, don't fund content creation at all (local or otherwise).  The same goes for those who watch your content free on the Internet.  So the people to whom you give your content for free return little, while those to whom I deliver the content on your behalf indirectly pay much of the freight.  Your business may not be healthy, but it likely wouldn't even exist in today's world without my customers.

You try to sound fair.  You say you'll consider giving up mandatory carriage in return for a negotiated fee for your signals.  That might be fair enough - except that you're also asking that I black out U.S. signals that carry the same content as you if we can't reach a deal.  If I do that, we both lose.  You won't get the distribution I give you and your ad rates will plummet.  I won't be able to offer consumers what they want, and my subscribers will drop like flies (and with that, the funds available through the LPIF, the CTF and the independent production funds upon which you depend will significantly decrease).  Over-the-air signals aren't an option for many (and will be an option for even fewer with the transition to digital OTA guidelines that are now in effect) so if we go down that road we'll be denying many Canadians timely, affordable and legitimate access to content that they want to see.

Your model is broken.  I won't dispute that.  But mine is breaking too.  In ten year's time we will both be largely unrecognizable, if we exist at all.  Today, though, could you survive without me?  I doubt it.  Could I survive without you?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Is your current proposal apt to accelerate our potential demise without solving any of the underlying problems?  Absolutely.  Can we work together to innovate and find new ways to survive - and perhaps even prosper together as we once did?  I think so.  We both need to innovate, individually and collectively, to survive, not waste valuable time, energy and money fighting each other. 

You're backing me into a corner.   Whether I absorb the new fees you are seeking, or pass them on to the consumer, my business will suffer significant harm.  Worse though, if I don't give in to your demands, the consumers that you and I are both in business to serve will suffer the most.  They're already leaving the system, and your current approach will just drive them out the door more quickly and in even great numbers.

You've done little to adapt to change.  Your record of innovation is abysmal.  Yes, I admit, I could do much better, too, in that regard.  But rather than fix your own problems, or find new ways to operate and engage Canadians, you'd prefer to see my business suffer further damage in order to put a bandage on your gaping - and probably terminal - wounds.   If you don't want to adapt, fine, stick to your crumbling little world.  But don't penalize those who want to change - and that includes many Canadian content producers who want to do more with their content - except that you all too often demand all of the content rights across all platforms and media.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  If you don't want to innovate, don't stop those who do.  Develop reasonable Terms of Trade with the content producers so that they can work with us and others to (re-)engage that audience in new and innovative ways.

The Canadian broadcasting system is an artificially sustained ecosystem that we are all part of.  It's important to Canada and Canadians from an industrial point of view, and it's important to Canada and Canadians from a cultural point of view.  We're all in this together, but "a house divided against itself cannot stand".   Let's fulfil our roles and responsibilities but let's also fulfil our unofficial obligation to Canadians by working together to innovate and prosper in the 21st century with appropriate new models.  Let's not disregard that obligation by fighting each other as we try to perpetuate out-dated and obsolete ways of doing business.  We do so at the expense of Canadians - and of the future.

This article by me was first published at The Mark News:

Full text below:

On Friday [May 29, 2009], NDP Digital Affairs Critic Charlie Angus tabled a new bill to amend the Telecommunications Act with an eye to restricting the abilities of network operators to perform network management and thus, the reasoning goes, ensure so-called net neutrality. Specifically, the amendment states that "telecommunications service providers shall not engage in network management practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content, application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on its source, ownership, destination or type." Net neutrality is a complex subject and there's much that can be discussed with respect to this bill but for the moment I'll focus only on one of its aspects.

In addition to a few specific safety - and security - related exemptions, the bill specifically would allow providers to "manage the flow of network traffic in a reasonable manner in order to relieve extraordinary congestion." But here's where the problem lies - as always, the devil's in the details. The health of any network is dependent upon on-going reactive and proactive network management. That such management should be reasonable is certainly a valid concern, but tying such management only to situations vaguely defined as "extraordinary congestion" is a recipe for disaster. Ordinary congestion is a problem, too. Beyond that, who's to decide what constitutes "extraordinary congestion?" And what would constitute management in "a reasonable manner" in such a situation? There's little likelihood that any consensus could be reached on clear and lasting definitions for either of those terms.

To understand the full implications of strictly limiting network management to exceptional situations, we need to take a step back from idealistic rhetoric and consider how networks - and customer usage patterns - evolve. In a perfect world, supply (network capacity) would always exceed demand (the load imposed on the network by its users). The reality is, though, that network capacity isn't organic, and doesn't expand in direct correlation to demand. The expansion of network capacity is capital-intensive and occurs incrementally at periodic intervals in different places at different times. Demand, on the other hand, increases constantly, and grows not just through the addition of more users to the network but also through increased consumption by existing users as a result of the introduction of new functionality or increasing usage of existing services. Sometimes this can be anticipated and accommodated in advance, sometimes it can't. Congestion - extraordinary or otherwise - is a fact of life with any network from time to time and failure to manage it in an appropriate manner does a disservice to the consumer.

Many net neutrality advocates demand that, as was historically the case, all traffic (packets of data) should be treated with equal priority. That's a nice ideal, but we need to realistically recognize that in an environment where demand can exceed supply, that's not always possible. In such situations, priority should be given to time-sensitive content. For instance, only some video content is truly time-sensitive. If the consumer is watching the content as it is delivered, that's important and the delivery of packets should not be degraded lest the experience suffer. If, however, the content is being downloaded for later viewing (as is the case, for example, with most peer-to-peer content) then some additional latency (delay) should be tolerated and considered reasonable if it is done so for the benefit of more time-critical content.

The beauty of a sophisticated network like the internet is that we can prioritize some traffic over other traffic. A dumb network can't do that. Conventional telephone networks are a perfect example of a dumb network that is engineered to meet reasonable peak volumes. However, if too many customers attempt to place a call at the same time, and thus exceed the existing capacity of the network, "extraordinary congestion" will occur. Some will get a dial tone, some won't. The telephone network can't differentiate between the relative importance of the various calls that would be made, and therefore who will get access to the network and who won't becomes a matter of luck and timing. Admittedly, on local telephone networks, this situation seldom arises anymore, but it is illustrative of the difference between what can happen when demand exceeds capacity on a dumb network versus what can be done with an intelligent network.

Don't get me wrong - I strongly agree that we need to combine well-defined public policy with reasonable, transparent and accountable behaviour on the part of the service providers. As well, network management shouldn't be a long-term substitute for on-going capacity expansion to meet demands. Unfortunately, this bill misses the mark. To dictate that we should prohibit network operators from providing a better overall experience through the use of the capabilities inherent in a smart network is just plain dumb.


Alan Sawyer of Toronto-based Two Solitudes Consulting, said that after a decade it's time for a review, but he added it would be difficult to regulate content on the Internet and cellphones.

"It's unwieldy," said Sawyer, who provides consulting services to Calgary-based MoboVivo, which licenses and distributes TV programming online. Its MoboVivo iPhone TV is a popular iPhone application.

"It's not impossible to do and it's certainly within the CRTC's authority to do," he said, adding it would provide some certainty to businesses [that the interim new media exemption order does not provide]."

Sawyer also said the CRTC could take an "incentive-based approach" to make more Canadian-produced content available on alternative distribution channels.

He noted that foreign ownership requirements now don't apply to new media on the Internet while they do apply to traditional broadcasters.

My friend Anita at One of a Kind Publishing has an interesting blog post here:


(if that doesn't work, use this one:)


I see dynamic imaging having a big place in the media 3.0 world and think this is an early example of what we will see.

I found this submission to the CRTC interesting.  It's a bit more over the top than most that are coming from the general public but it does capture a lot of common thoughts being expressed (even though most are, of course, incorrect or lacking in factual foundation).

It's poorly written, but that adds to the entertainment value.  For example, the first clause of the post is unintentionally funny (I think).

What follows is the complete, unedited submission by Mr. John Renny of Alberta:

I am disgusted and appalled to think that the CRTC are thinking or even thinking about regulating the Internet; you'll keep your damn hands off of our Internet; I'm going after each and every one of your jobs; you have caused the Canadian public enough shit so far for a lifetime!  You tell us that we have to watch X. amount of Canadian content?  Who the hell do you think you are?  The Constitution gives me the freedom of expression; the freedom of movement; the freedom of religion; which use stamp all over four years in the past by not allowing Trinity broadcasting; or any other American programming deemed to be non-Canadian to your stupid supposet intelligence?  And now you want to tackle and cut off our Internet don't you even think about it; this is a warning!  You can take this to the bank; I'm going after your jobs, I'm going to get the exact amount of money that it cost taxpayers for a year; and there are going to the cutbacks; since right now the country is running on empty; you people of the CRTC can find yourself another employer


Clearly Carmi Levy and I are in different camps as this story illustrates. 

For the record, while it's true that I "did not advocate regulation such as Canadian content on commercial websites" that's not the same as saying that I oppose it.  I think the matter needs much consideration.  There will be much polarization on this (and many other issues that will arise at the hearing) but the "right answer" or "best answer" really isn't known yet.  It can only be derived by examining all facets of all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting world with due care and diligence -- and that will take a long time.

I'm not sure how Levy can say that he doesn't believe the CRTC's approach to the Internet will work since it has yet to define what its approach will be. 

Furthermore, saying that the CRTC should have acted 15 years ago is questionable at the least.  There was little if any video on the Internet 15 years ago and I doubt that any form on Internet radio even existed then.  Sure, it could be argued that the CRTC might have seen this coming but any regulation at that time would have stifled innovation.  And in reality, it would have taken considerable foresight in 1993 to have realized where things would be today.

The commission has clearly and repeatedly indicated that it is interested in commercial operators who are transmitting professionally produced content.  Levy is correct that "the truth of the matter is in the age of new media we are all broadcasters. We are all capable of distributing content."  However, few of us have the content (or content rights) to do so -- and if we're "broadcasting" content for which we don't have the rights that's not a CRTC concern but rather is a copyright infringement matter.

Slingbox Goes HD - TheStreet TV

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"Senior Technology Correspondent Gary Krakow reviews the Slingbox Pro-HD-- which delivers streaming high-def video on your PC or on the run".

It's not surprising that Slingbox is introducing an HD model.  The only surprise is that it has taken this long.

But this review on TheStreet TV annoyed me.  This apparent expert makes two statements that are incorrect and misleading.

First, he says that the product is available now, "in time for the February switchover where everybody goes HD".   He's referring to the February 2009 deadline for the shutdown of analogue signals in the United States at which time all over-the-air transmission will go digital.  What's wrong with his statement is the fact that while everyone will be switching to digital transmission, not everyone will be switching to HD (high-definition) broadcasting.  You can't do HD without going digital, but going digital does not necessarily mean going HD.

The second error is his statement that the product "also has an analogue HD tuner".  As I just said, HD only works with digital signals -- there's no such thing as an analogue HD tuner (at least not in the sense of any industry broadcast standards).  What he should say is that it has an integrated ATSC tuner -- that's a digital tuner that's capable of tuning over-the-air digital SD (standard definition) and HD broadcasts (and other digital formats as defined in the ATSC digital broadcasting standard).

There's enough confusion out there as it is about the U.S. analogue shutdown (and the corresponding August 31, 2011 Canadian shutdown) without adding this sort of misleading  information to the mix.

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