Introduction – a shift to digital content
In today's society, more and more consumers are making the gradual shift towards the digital world. There are numerous reasons for the rapid pace of the emergence and expansion of the digital world, one being the endless accessibility it provides the consumer. “Technology has levelled the created playing field to due generated content through a camera and even computers” (Geist, 2007). A shift to digital content is much needed in order for Canada and all it's industries to stay relevant and up to date with recent technological and communications advancements.
The CRTC has called upon its consumers to comment on the topic of access to content and access to market, and what they can do in order to improve this accessibility. As a consumer in the Canadian society, I believe that together the CRTC and the Canadian government can in fact improve and strengthen the content and market accessibility to Canadian consumers through the development of a “national digital strategy” (OMDC, 2010). In light of the technological and communications developments, it's important that the CRTC re-examines the foundational cultural policies parallel to the goal of ensuring that the growing digital environment has kept pace with these recent developments.
A digital shift may present copious opportunities for Canada, as well as challenges. It is a method to stay relevant and competitive in the global market in terms of discovering and distributing Canadian content. Secondly, it ensures a Canadian presence and perspective is available globally. And, all creators, cultural stakeholders, and citizens have a stake in the future of this creative economy. From a consumer perspective, the CRTC should consider, but shouldn't be limited to, re-examining the following:
• Regulatory barriers
• Net neutrality
• Investments, funding
• Copyright Act
• Broadband access
What I wish to demonstrate through this submission is that a comprehensive approach to develop a national Digital Strategy is much needed for Canada and its consumers.
What do we, Canadian consumers want?
As of recent, the internet is one of the primary methods that consumers access their content through. The conversion from “analogue to digital formats is the basic technological change that is transforming the broadcasting industry” (Armstrong, 2015). As Canadians increasingly shift to more and more online mediums, they are granted more access and choices from both Canada and around the world. Canadian consumers are now, more than ever, in control of how they experience content. Their choices are not limited by what a local broadcaster, or TV/radio station makes available. Canadian consumers actively seek out content and do not want to be restricted in what they can access. Through the shift to digital content, consumers may be able to experience limitless accessibility to content and market, mostly on the Internet. This will most definitely enable choice and access to content and market for all.
Supporting and focusing on our creators
Content creators in Canada are already digital innovators. Production methods in both sectors are almost entirely digital. Which is why fairly supporting these creators and the production of content is essential. In order to do so the CRTC and Canadian government must:
• Relax existing regulatory barriers
• Invest and develop the creators
• Protect the creators' ability to commercialize their content
Regulatory barriers, investment, development
A digital strategy should contemplate a focus on re-examining existing regulatory
barriers that inhibit the ability of broadcasters and creators to create and innovate content for distribution. In order to allow for this creativity and innovation, a flexible regulatory approach should be adopted by the CRTC. Furthermore, in order to support the creativity of the creator, it is essential for them to have a solid foundation. They should be invested in, developed, and protected, ensuring that they have the necessary resources to create high quality content and be able to distribute it efficiently. To gain a content advantage in the global digital economy, Canada will need well-capitalized content producers who can make their products stand out in a global marketplace. The type of government support needed to make this happen needs to be flexible enough to support innovative companies who are experimenting with new ways to do business.
Additionally, fairness in compensation for the use in their work is essential. There is a need to ensure that Canadian creators share in the financial rewards resulting from increased dissemination of content via digital channels. There is also a need to consider increased re-investments. This will promote the creation of Canadian digital content. It would be essential to re-assess the Copyright Act to ensure that there are no loopholes and all creators receive fair compensation for their creative works. By doing so, it will help solidify longer financial viability of the creators.
Finally, another area to re-examine is the net neutrality aspect of the Internet. The idea that a public information network (i.e. the Internet) is most useful if all content, sites, platforms are treated equally (OMDC, 2010). It is not necessarily to regulate the content on the Internet but, to focus on how to best support Canadian creators in producing content and in competing in the global market.
Success and viability for creators
Funding our creators
The government's current public funding model needs to be re-evaluated and transformed to allow broader access, more flexibility and reduced bureaucratic processes and procedures (Ipsos, 2017). As previously mentioned, when having a system that supports and is viable for the careers of creators, it involves investing, developing, and protecting them. This assures that they are provided with the proper resources to create and distribute high quality material. That said, there are many different views on how to change the current public funding model, such as:
• Reviewing funding criteria
• Providing more flexible funding channels and uses
Public funds should be allocated free of discrimination against digital creators. This is a gap that should be addressed if the Government wishes to support all classes of creators and creative entrepreneurs, and to alleviate pressure on Canadian creative entrepreneurs to emigrate to the US (Ipsos, 2017).
Developing our creators
In order to foster a creative environment for digital creators, there must be a strong foundation of knowledge and background on the subject matter. In Canadian society, there is definitely a need for investment and promotion in arts and cultural education. Consumers would like to see the Digital Strategy include and launch programs that initiate Canadian youth to arts and culture as a career and that provide more opportunities for young people to engage with Canadian cultural content. Doing so would help to encourage more young Canadians to consider a career in the arts and would also help to instill a familiarity with and respect for Canadian culture, generating more local demand for it. Therefore, the CRTC and government should collaborate to launch a program geared towards the youth. Furthermore, offering a support system, training, and education in entrepreneurship and general business skills as well, can be viable for digital creators.
Private sector support
Content creators need access to more capital – from private sources – if they are going to be innovative and keep their businesses strong in a digital economy. Support for content creators should be directed toward supporting companies to assist them in building their companies. This support should include investing in early-stage development, support for marketing activities or expanding existing support mechanisms. Furthermore, through private sector support, these digital creators are able to expand their reach to more consumers. Through this, it may also help to stimulate the economy while promoting, informing, and giving a voice to Canadian culture around the world. Furthermore, to promote Canada's creativity, the CRTC and government should consider developing a gateway to Canadian content. This may take form of a digital medium that showcases all Canadian cultural content that's developed, promoted, and maintained through partnership with the private sector. This may provide creators with a readily available medium for them to disseminate their work, lessening the burden to compete for space on existing multi-national mediums. We should not have to rely on foreign based mediums for distributions.
Ensuring Canadian benefit to accessibility
According to Michael Geist, the internet today provides consumer with unlimited access to content. A digitally inclusive society is one where everybody has the means to affordable access to high quality internet services, as well as sufficient capacity to use digital technologies to meaningfully participate in the digital society. The role of the CRTC and government is to ensure that access to seemingly unlimited digital content includes enabling high speed, broadband internet access to all Canadians. By doing so, this will give Canadians the opportunity to access Canadian content limitlessly, as well as the global market (since it is the Internet). With that being said, access to fast and affordable broadband is essential to assuring there is a Canadian audience for content, but, this infrastructure also needs to be supported by a regulatory environment. It was mentioned earlier that some regulatory barriers should be relaxed in order for broadcasters to experience full creativity and innovation. But, speaking about broadband, it is crucial that there are regulations to provide efficient copyright protection, progressive foreign investment policies, and access to distribution networks for content creators, for example (OMDC, 2010).
To summarize the above comments, I, as a Canadian consumer makes the following recommendations to:
• Re-evaluate specific regulatory barriers that hinder the creativity and innovation that creators experience. On the other hand, also re-evaluate the regulatory barriers in order to provide fast and efficient broadband connection to all of Canada to stimulate Canadian content
• Re-evaluate the Copyright Act so that all creators receive fair compensation and reward for all and any of their creative works
• Re-evaluation net neutrality to further ensure these creators have a safe environment where they may be able to distribute their content into the global market
• Investing, developing, and protecting our creators through increased public funding programs, launching creative and cultural programs for the youth, and partnerships with private sector.
The CRTC has done amazing work in assuring that the needs and interests of Canadians are at the centre of the system and have access to a communication system that promotes innovation and enriches the consumers lives. This will without a doubt be another obstacle that the CRTC will overcome for the greater good. Thank you to the CRTC for taking the time and consideration in hearing first hand what Canadian consumers want and need. I hope you take this submission into serious consideration.
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