Stratford Gazette editorial
In a public letter of resignation, former local radio personality Ethan Rabidoux laments the slash-and-burn tactics employed in the modern media industry.
It’s a reality those of us in the media realm know all too well. However, Rabidoux touches on an element only those in the radio and television industries deal with on a regular basis: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or the CRTC.
“If radio was a free market industry open to competition, consumers could make their voices heard simply by going to a rival station. It is not,” he writes. “The (CRTC) chooses how many radio frequencies to make available in a given market, it decides who gets to own them and the station’s licence must be sufficiently different from all other stations in that market so as not to tread on anyone else’s turf.”
Rabidoux’s letter coincides with an ongoing debate about the future of television, helmed by the CRTC. In an attempt to better understand the business models of online video providers like Netflix and Google - increasingly popular amongst Canadian viewers who are simultaneously cutting their cable and satellite feeds - the regulatory body demanded the online giants provide confidential information regarding their viewership.
Netflix and Google responded by telling them to go suck an egg (essentially).
Not helping the CRTC’s cause, the Harper government released a statement that it would not allow the CRTC to impose levies on Internet-based videos.
The current commissioner, more pro-consumer than his predecessors, has the CRTC appearing somewhat more competent than it did in 2011 when it shot itself in the foot going to bat for Canada’s telecom giants Rogers, Bell, and Telus. The body considered allowing the companies to enforce usage-based billing (UBB) on small ISPs (Internet service providers) that rented space on the big companies’ towers. (UBB is a practice where Internet users are charged for data as if it were a limited commodity like water.)
That decision met with outcry from all three major political parties, and was later rescinded.
At least the commission appears to take the issue of net neutrality- ensuring ISPs aren’t able to charge content providers more for faster speeds- seriously.
Regardless, whenever the CRTC crops up in the news, it’s a sure bet the body will inevitably sound half-a-decade behind in terms of understanding what Canadian digital consumers want. It’s proven woefully uninformed on the realities of the Internet age, and the restrictive radio regulations as described by Rabidoux are just more examples of wayward authority gone wrong.
Short of ensuring that Canadian content is produced regularly, you’ve got to ask... Is the CRTC, in its current form, worth keeping around?