There has been a lot of talk lately about the CRTC and it’s decisions – most notably ones concerning the operation of Wind Mobile in Canada and the allowance of Usage-based Bill by Internet Service Providers.
Most of the discussion has focused on the idea that more competition in Canadian industries is better than less competition. And of course, every high school economic text-book says exactly that. More competition means that companies will have to provide as much value to the consumer as possible, otherwise consumers will just look somewhere else.
Fine. But here is the problem. The CRTC was not created to foster competition. Really.
Want proof? Okay! On Tuesday (16 Feb) the CRTC denied a request by Shaw Communications to add National Geographic Wild to its list of offerings for satellite services in Canada. Unfortunately, that particular channel is considered foreign content. According to Public Notice 2000-173, the CRTC will not allow any non-Canadian content to be distributed if it will compete with pre-existing Canadian content.
That’s right – the CRTC openly denies competition if it appears to come from outside the country.
So what does that mean for Canadians? It means that we have to watch Animal Planet or Oasis HD, because they are not associated with National Geographic. Nevermind the fact that National Geographic has become the defacto standard for reporting on wildlife and the greater world around us – reporting that focuses 90% of its effort on content from outside North America.
In the beginning, the reasoning for creating a body to protect Canadian content seemed like a good idea. People were afraid that we would become too engrossed in American newspaper, magazine, television and radio industries. Unfortunately, a major consequence was overlooked: stifling competition from the strongest competitor means that our own industry can relax. And that is not good for Canadians.
So what is the answer? We definitely don’t want our own industries to fail. Afterall, they keep a lot of us working. But clearly denying Canadians from viewing American content is becoming more and more difficult. I personally gave up television proper many years ago and have since found all of my content online, where it is CRTC free. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get Canadian content – not at all – it just means that I only get the Canadian content that is up to the standards that I expect.
And this is where the world is going. I think that – regardless of content rule – the television industry is going to have some hard times ahead as online content becomes easier to find. We need to stop concerning ourselves with where content comes from, and focus on attracting consumers to cable and satellite providers generally. They’ve already lost me and most of my friends. If the trend continues, we’ll soon have an awful lot of people looking to switch industries.