Federal regulators at the CRTC are "looking at setting up a $100-million fund to support homegrown programming on the Internet", according to the Globe and Mail.
Traditionally, Ottawa has stayed away from treating online content as part of the broadcast industry. But under a scenario proposed yesterday, Internet service providers could be asked to surrender 3 per cent of their subscriber revenue - roughly $100-million - to a fund that would help produce Canadian programs for the Web.
Representatives of Canadian actors and other artists, such as the apparently clueless Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) are urging the CRTC to regulate the Internet. This alternative idea is not quite as harebrained, but it's astonishingly narrow in how it would be applied.
The CRTC defines "new media" as "professionally produced video that is delivered over the Internet", according to the Financial Post. I'm sure ACTRA doesn't want to irritate the "radio artists" in their organization, so let's widen the definition of new media to include audio.
We're still left with a definition of new media that doesn't come close to expressing the current reality of content on the net, let alone what will emerge in the future.
Blogs, for example, are new media. So are web applications like Facebook and Twitter. If we're talking about Canadian content and culture, what has more impact: watching the occasional Canadian TV show, or reading one of the countless Canadian blogs?
Does that mean that Raise the Hammer could get a piece of that $100 million?
I bet ACTRA will say no. Perhaps they'll pull the "professional" card: RTH isn't a professional publication, so it shouldn't count. If that's the case, then what about professional new media web development? Will the CRTC pay me to build a Canadian competitor to Facebook?
What makes this proposal especially absurd is that the barriers to providing Canadian video and audio content online are already incredibly low. If Colin Mochrie wants Canadians to be able to watch This Hour has 22 Minutes online, all he has to do is upload it to Youtube. Any show that is already getting federal assistance to broadcast on TV should not have much trouble encoding their programs as Flash videos and throwing them up on a website somewhere.
The problem for the CRTC is that Internet is so distributed and so democratic, there's really no way to make someone absorb your "culture". But if we're going to throw money at the problem to try, all new media should be treated equally.
Otherwise, the CRTC's definition of new media is just old media, online.
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