Shaw Wants Netflix Regulated by CRTC

by Jordan Richardson on December 3, 2010

Telecom giant Shaw Communications is lashing out at companies like Netflix and suggesting that they should be regulated by the CRTC.

According to Shaw executives, these foreign entities are undermining Canadian broadcasting and the ability of Canadian broadcasters to pay for domestic content. Sites like Netflix, Google TV, Hulu, and others fall under the umbrella of broadcasters, says Shaw, and that means that they should face the same regulations and apparatus as traditional broadcasters.

The big problem is that these “broadcasters” do not pay for Canadian content and, by default, do not support Canadian productions.

Shaw says that they pay about $150 million per year for local content through the Canadian Media Fund. The internet “broadcasters,” however, aren’t paying a dime. And that means that Canadian broadcasters can’t supply financing to Canadian programs because foreign companies are undermining their revenue base.

At the core of the matter is the issue as to whether or not Netflix and other companies like it are actually broadcasters. The difficulty I have here is that it casts a fairly wide net over the World Wide Web. If Netflix, Google TV, Hulu, and other sites are counted as broadcasters, where is the line drawn? Wouldn’t YouTube conceivably be considered a broadcaster under this umbrella definition? Would every ounce of online content be considered “broadcasting” under that sense of things? And would every ounce of online content then be subject to regulation via the CRTC? I can’t imagine that scenario playing out realistically.

Another aspect of the problem beyond the broad definitions is the fact that the “broadcasters” Shaw is on about aren’t Canadian “broadcasters.” This automatically puts them beyond the reach of the CRTC, making regulating them an impossible task.

In my opinion, this is little more than a case of sour grapes. Shaw may be already experiencing a sense of buyer’s remorse over their recent “essential” purchase of CanWest. With Netflix streaming already accounting for 5% of Shaw’s spectrum space, it’s hard not to think of the company as a threat. If Shaw can successfully force regulations upon  them by lobbying government forces, one has to wonder how far the reach would go and what precedent this would set.

To the CRTC’s credit, they’ve already made it clear that they have no intention of regulating the internet.

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Pat Yvon Allaire December 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

Why not charge us 11.99 a month.
Netflix keeps 7.99 and give the balance to the CRTC or whoever so they can stop crying about it.
That way everybody gets a piece of the pie.

Jordan Richardson December 6, 2010 at 11:33 am

Well, it’s not the CRTC that’s crying about it. The companies (in this case Shaw) that view Netflix as competition are raising the complaints.

Kevin Asher January 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Instead of becoming more competitive Shaw continues it’s anti-competitive practices. The monopolies allowed by the CRTC are killing this countries cable and internet. In the past 6 months Shaw has raised their internet rates, lowered their download limits, warned customers they will be fined $2 per GB transgression, and run to the CRTC (again) to put laws in place to protect Shaw not the customer.

Netflix does not get their content for free. The Canadian content they have is PAID for. That isn’t enough support? It’s absurd to think Canada will somehow cease to be an independent country if a little telecommunications competition is allowed.

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