Should Netflix be regulated? There’s a very simple answer to that question. All you have to do is look at what the effects of doing so would be.
If Netflix and other so-called “over-the-top” internet services such as YouTube do get Canadian content regulations applied to them, which is what the CRTC is currently trying to determine, they will likely have to pay money into the Canada Media Fund the same way traditional Canadian broadcasters do. The CMF then turns around and spends that dough on Canadian projects.
Reading about those efforts, it’s obvious the CMF is a complete waste of money. From a press release issued on Tuesday, the CMF is spending $16.8 million on 51 “innovative interactive projects.” Production grants are going to 22 projects including: “11 games, 5 interactive contents, 4 mobile applications, 1 interactive webseries and 1 application software.” More money is being spent on development and marketing of similar work.
A full list of approved projects can be found here. Highlights include a social-networking website for Canadian artists, a dancing video game, a mobile app for motorcycle riders, an Italian cooking app, a virtual pet for social networking, plus a bunch of other mobile apps and games intended for consoles. It’s really hard to read the list without snickering at best, or getting angry at worst.
In a nutshell, broadcasters are being forced to spend millions of dollars—which are costs that are inevitably passed on to us, the consumers—to produce video games, mobile apps and web features that no one is likely to use. This, in a country that already employs more people than anyone, with the exception of the United States and Japan, in making some of the world’s best and most highly acclaimed video games. This, despite Toronto already being the mobile app development centre of the universe, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As Google’s submission to the CRTC on this issue says, things are going just fine for Canadian creators online—there’s no need for these sorts of ridiculous subsidies. The video game industry, for one, has already recieved hundreds of millions of dollars in provincial tax breaks, which has resulted in creating a vibrant and ass-kicking industry. A few extra CMF dollars here and there is like trying to tip a millionaire with a $1 bill. Indeed, that dancing video game sure sounds a lot like Michael Jackson: The Experience, which was created for Xbox Kinect by Ubisoft Montreal.
If you’re not angry about these sorts of useless regulations and how they needlessly drive up prices, check out that list of projects and you will be. If Netflix and the rest really do get pounced on by regulators, I for one won’t blame them for packing up and going home.
UPDATE: I’m told broadcasters don’t actually contribute directly to the experimental stream of the CMF, which the above projects are part of, unless they are directly related to television. Of course, with today’s vertical integration, it’s hard to find anything left that isn’t connected to TV, so that may be splitting hairs. In any event, the experimental stream gets its funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is actually worse because that means taxpayers are paying for the above projects even more directly.