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[Interview]
Ian Kelso (Canadian Interactive Alliance): The new media industry needs more funds

During the CRTC’s public hearing, at the end of February, Ian Kelso, president of the Canadian Interactive Alliance/l’Alliance interactive canadienne (CIAC) offered his comments on the regulator’s New Media Broadcasting hearings. The CIAC’s position is that Internet media should not be brought under the regulatory purview of the CRTC. In a interview with NEWmediaCanada.ca, Ian Kelso (also President & CEO of Interactive Ontario) explains why.



NEWmediaCanada.ca: Is it desirable and feasible for the Commission to regulate the Internet to any meaningful extent?
Ian Kelso: No, it is neither desirable or feasible for the CRTC to regulate the Internet in the same way it has traditionally regulated the broadcasting system. The Internet is an open global network, and I don’t think anyone really contemplates that the Commission will attempt to limit foreign content or set quotas for Canadian content the way they can and do for television and radio. That is not to say that there are not other things they can do to use their regulatory power in proactive ways.

NEWmediaCanada.ca: Why does the CIAC believe that that at this juncture it would be practically impossible to define, control, regulate and oversee new media broadcasting content and its distribution on the Internet?
Ian Kelso: To regulate something, first you have to define it. The scope of the CRTC’s inquiry into what they call "New Media broadcasting" seems to pertain only to linear video that is distributed over IP networks as opposed to regular cable or satellite. Further, they seem only interested in "professionally produced" content that is of "high quality". Of course, the open nature of the Internet could not have been truly anticipated in the Broadcasting Act which was last revised in 1991. It seems to take for granted that there will always be a substantial divide between what amateurs and professionals create: that is, that audiences will only be interested in expensively produced video that is distributed through a broadcast undertaking which commissions, selects and programs content (gatekeeper #1) and then through a broadcast distribution undertaking that controls and sells these channels to the end-user (gatekeeper #2).

On the Internet, the lines between professional and amateur, high quality and low quality are very blurry. It is almost impossible to discern what "broadcasting" means via an interactive platform when the video itself can contain elements of interactivity, or be completely non-linear. At least at this juncture, it is highly difficult — and perhaps impossible — to accurately import concepts and definitions from the broadcasting act and apply them to the new media.

NEWmediaCanada.ca: What is the CIAC’s position on CanCon on the Internet? Should it be regulated? Should it be financed through a mechanism like the Canadian Television Fund?
Ian Kelso: Canadian content on the Internet should be supported and promoted. But we need to start to change our overall industrial strategy for creating audio-visual media to recognize that we now must compete on the global stage. We have to insure we are equipped with the right talent, adequate capacity and access to capital to grow and retain our media companies and intellectual property. We have created flickr, Club Penguin, and Bioware in this country, but they were sold to Yahoo!, Disney and Electronic Arts respectively. We are the third largest developers of video game content in the world, though most of our large companies are now owned and controlled by multi-national publishers. Funds like the Canada New Media Fund and the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund have been incredibly important to help emerging companies take risks, create capacity, forge new partnerships and find new markets.

NEWmediaCanada.ca: What should the Government do to support the growth and competitiveness of the interactive media industry?
Ian Kelso: First, the government should recognize that we are at least fifteen years into the digital media economy and we don’t have a plan. The regulatory approach we have now is inadequate; it can only examine the facets of the industries through the lenses it has been given. Given the fundamental changes that have occurred in the technologies and the economics of the audio-visual networks, we need a higher level vision and a strategic framework for developing policy and programmes for the future.

NEWmediaCanada.ca: The CIAIC believes that the Commission should use all the tools it has at its disposal to provide incentives for the creation and distribution of Canadian interactive media content and services: what kind of tools?
Ian Kelso: We are not criticizing the CRTC: they can only affect the system given the scope of the mandate they have been given in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts. They can however, be a part of the solution and advise the government that by carrying out their duties without adherence to a higher level plan, their decisions may have unintended consequences. They can also open up the rules and advocate the creation of more funds like the Bell Broadcast & New Media Fund. Between it and the Canada New Media Fund the industry has access to only about $24M per year across Canada and across all the interactive platforms.

NEWmediaCanada.ca: According to you, what will be the outcome of this audience? Who will be the winners and who will be the losers?
Ian Kelso: The ultimate winners need to be Canadians. We are seeing everyday now the decimation of our manufacturing economy. Thousands and thousands of people are losing their jobs and their skills are not extremely adaptable. The knowledge and creative economy employs highly skilled and highly educated workers and offers relatively high remuneration. Companies and workers in this economy are more innovative and adaptable. We are currently spending a lot of time and money trying to preserve a status quo that no longer exists. We should be making large investments to bridge to the new economy with a fierce determination to succeed world leaders. It is not too late.

-  Interview: Sophie Bernard, reporter LienMULTIMEDIA.com

NEWmediaCanada.ca - videoGAMEScanada.ca - ITnewslink.com

 [March 4, 2009]


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