Timothy M. Denton

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PKP speaks in Ottawa

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Pierre Karl Péladeau, owner and head of Videotron, spoke at the Canadian Club lunch yesterday (Monday April 8, 2019) at the Chateau Laurier. He was unusually charming. The two thrusts of his speech were that

·       Internet-based services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime were cutting into the revenues available for Canadian televisual productions, and

  •        Bell services in Quebec collect much higher royalties per head than  does Videotron, assisted both by CRTC actions and its indifference. 

It was an honest discussion of the predicament that Canadian broadcasters face, as he sees them. I do not know how to solve these problems because I do not have a formula for dealing with the technical obsolescence of broadcasting. I can think of ways to ease the passage of Canadian video producers into the Internet age, and PKP and I might find large areas of agreement. But I am unable to conceive a way of getting the Internet to behave like a broadcasting distribution undertaking, or any persuasive reason to try to. Nor do I have the authority to solve problems of unfairness that arise purely by previous actions and inactions within the confines of the regulatorium. (Other people are paid for fixing them now).

As he observed, the gist of the issue is that a huge regulatory burden has been placed on a particular technical distribution system for televisual entertainment, and a new one is beating it on price and quality, and hence in public acceptance. To me it is obvious that trying to place the same burdens on the new distribution technology is as futile as holding back the tide by administrative fiat. Such as, for instance, declaring the Internet to be a broadcast distribution undertaking. Other people are persuaded this can be made to happen.

M. Péladeau managed to speak entertainingly and informatively for the better part of an hour without mentioning the I-word, as I recall. I surmise that, for people inside the Canadian broadcasting system, the Internet may be the Great Unmentionable. It would be bad manners to discuss it seriously, sort of like discussing President Trump at a dinner party as if he were a rational actor and not an emissary of Satan: just not done.

He made a reasoned effort to show the audience that the model on which his revenues depend is in free-fall. What I did not hear – though it is not his job to be an apostle of the Internet – were any proposals for adaptation.

 

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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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