Timothy M. Denton

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When everything is broadcasting

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Ian Scott, chairman of the CRTC, claims that Bill C-11, the new draft of the Broadcasting Act, will not result in user generated content being regulated.

That is not true.

 A loaded gun is not intended to be used for murder, but it remains a dangerous weapon. Likewise, the direction of a car is better determined by the way the wheels are pointed than by the turn signals. History has shown that the CRTC will regulate up to the last millimeter of its statutory authority.

 

 

The Act declares that “broadcasting” comprehends scheduled and unscheduled “programs”.

 

“broadcasting means any transmission of programs — regardless of whether the transmission is scheduled or on demand or whether the programs   are encrypted or not — by radio waves or other means of telecommunication for reception by the public by means of broadcasting receiving apparatus, but does not include any such transmission of programs that is made solely for performance or display in a public place;”

 

“Programs” is essentially a term without limits. Full motion video or even sound alone makes a transmission a “program”. A broadcasting receiving apparatus is your computer. A video is a program, a podcast is a program. I suppose a letter generated out of a computer might escape the all-embracing reach of the new Broadcasting Act.

 

The government conceives of the internet as a giant broadcasting apparatus.  It is as if they looked at a Tesla and still conceived of it as a horseless carriage. And that the chief problem of transport policy was the maintenance of adequate stables for the horses.

 

Over the decades the definition of “broadcasting” has gradually escaped any reasonable technical or business limits. Schedules, diffusion by radio waves, channels, public accessibility: all these technical and business boundaries have been abolished. The result is that “broadcasting” has become just about any form of communication that the government says it is. At this rate, an email might become “broadcasting” if a video were attached to it.

 

And need I remind you that “broadcasting” is an activity licensed by government, with severe penalties for communicating without a licence or in contravention of the terms of one’s licence?

 

In former years the CRTC considered the Internet to be something quite distinct from broadcasting and chose not to try to regulate it. This went contrary to the belief on the part of many beneficiaries of the broadcasting regime, who have always held that the Internet needed to be regulated so as to transfer money to Canadian content production, namely, their pockets.

 

When everything is “broadcasting” the right to communicate through modern technologies is lost; it becomes the privilege of communicating by government licence. When people wake up to this, there will be an enormous revolt against this outrageous assault on constitutionally guaranteed liberties.

 

 

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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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Guest Sunday, 27 November 2022
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