Timothy M. Denton

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Cable unbundling is not the cause of CanCon job losses: the Internet is

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A coalition of the usual suspects has published a study purporting to show that cable unbundling, which constitutes the increase of free choice by cable customers, will cost up to 15,000 jobs in the protected Canadian television content sector. What rubbish.


It is not unbundling per se; it is the ability to get programming over the Internet. The unbundling policy of the CRTC is a stop-gap to make cable television more attractive to consumers by lowering its prices, and the only reason it needs to lower its prices is competition, which derives exclusively from the advent of Netflix and other "over-the-top" services, which are the ineluctable consequence of the Internet.

So blame the Internet, Ian Morrison, not the consumer protection policies of the former government. Of course, Mr. Morrison must make it look as if the policy error can be fixed with enough lobbying. "Under pressure from the former government, the commission [CRTC] placed consumer protection ahead of the cultural and democratic interests of citizens and creators."

The dirigisme of such a world view is staggering; their entitlement to entitlements is their solemn belief.

And just as the cultural protection crowd assimilated cable television to broadcasting in 1970, with the Capital Cities decision, and brought the nascent cable industry into the protected fold of broadcasters, so they believe that the Internet too can be assimilated to broadcasting and thereby Canadian programming  can be made proof against technological and business competition from the Internet.

Their spokesmen dismiss the architecture of the Internet as irrelevant and declare that policy should prevail - their policy, mind you, but your obligation to subsidize their lifestyle and business methods with forced payments for their programming.

These people would trade the immensely creative structure of a free Internet - your freedom - for a dime's worth of their  subsidy.

The Internet is the greatest liberation of creators the world has seen since the printing press; the broadcasting regime is publishing by permission of the state. Which is more democratic: publishing without permission of the state, or publishing by licence of a federal regulator?

Right now, there is a huge amount of scripted television under development, because of, not despite, the Internet. Entertainment magazine reports that the amount of scripted television has doubled since 2009 to 2014.

The rational optimists who invest in television production appear to know something that has escaped the Toronto cultural subsidy-chasers.

These calls for continued subsidy of an obsolescent delivery format have nothing to do with freedom, democracy, or cultural interests. They are a cash grab, to be bought at the cost of your creative freedom and your pocket-book.



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Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.


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