Quebecor Speaks Up for Unregulated Web

Starting February 17, 2009, the CRTC will start a public hearing on the future of broadcasting in a new media environment. CRTC regulations, including those that mandate a quota of Canadian content, don’t currently apply to Internet content (since 1999) and cellphone/mobile content (since 2007). Much has changed since 1999, with the Internet quickly becoming the primary vessel of content for many Canadians.

Further to this consultation, the CRTC now invites comments on specific questions related to:

  • the definition of broadcasting in new media
  • the significance of broadcasting in new media and its impact on the traditional broadcasting system
  • incentives or regulatory measures for the creation and promotion of Canadian broadcasting content in new media
  • access to broadcasting content in new media
  • other broadcasting or public policy objectives, and
  • the appropriateness of the Commission’s exemption orders for new media and mobile broadcasting services.

Thoughts of taxing ISP or content providers or mandating a quota of Canadian content are bothersome to anyone working on web properties in Canada. Today Quebecor Media released a statement against internet regulation.

In the belief that the Broadcasting Act of 1991 does not provide a credible basis to justify regulatory action, the company finds that a regulatory approach is neither appropriate nor available to ensure that Canadian content has a presence in the virtual world where citizens have access to an impressive range of content offered by more than 185 million sites.  Quebecor holds that the government, and ultimately the Parliament of Canada, have the responsibility to develop policies and determine appropriate ways to meet the challenges of the digital revolution, as well as the development of the Internet and new media.

The document goes on to argue that Canadian new media has blossomed because of a lack of regulation. Taxing ISPs to fund content would be unproductive, illegal(?), and wrong because they are only in the business of transmission. Quebecor criticizes the Canadian Television Fund for being too bound by regulation and criteria to be effective. Canadian content regulations are impractical on an Internet where consumers have a choice of hundreds of millions of sources.

In the lead up to these hearings, it will be interesting to see who else comes out with a stance on Canadian new media. Obviously it’s in the self-interest of ISPs to oppose content regulation or taxation; maybe your web or new media company should as well?