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Media experts agree action is needed, but urge caution on how streaming is regulated – Castlegar News

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The Liberals have promised to quickly reintroduce legislation aimed at reforming the Broadcasting Act, which has media experts cautioning the government against bringing newer media platforms under an old regulatory framework.

“I think everyone agrees that it’s an older piece of legislation that doesn’t fully reflect the environment that we live in,” said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and the Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law.

The Liberal government introduced a bill, known as C-10, in November 2020 that would bring global online streaming companies, such as Netflix and YouTube, under the Broadcasting Act. It came under intense criticism over whether it would regulate user-generated content. The bill died in the Senate when Parliament was dissolved for the September election.

While its risks to the free speech of Canadians got the most attention, if the promised new legislation resembles Bill C-10, then several of its features would have a significant effect on Canada’s cultural industries.

On-demand streaming services — for streaming music, television and movies — would be obligated to provide funding to Canadian content as well as actively promote it, including work by marginalized and under-represented groups, through what are called discoverability requirements.

This could include a requirement for a streaming service to highlight Canadian content through its recommendation tools, such as personalized music playlists or curated film selections.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) supervises traditional broadcasters and enforces federal policies. This new legislation would empower the CRTC to do the same for online media services but is vague when it comes to how the regulatory body would perform that function. Critics have called this an unrealistic overreach, questioning how the CRTC could monitor all content published on the internet.

Gerry Wall, president of consulting firm Wall Communications, produced a study on the economic effects of music streaming for the federal government in 2018, and has recently completed a second study which is forthcoming.

Wall and Geist both said that setting discoverability requirements on streaming services is not easily done for several reasons.

Geist said the notion of discoverability in Canada emerged at a time when traditional broadcasters would prioritize content from the United States over Canadian content because it was more profitable. Today, on-demand streaming services operate under a different business model and are incentivized to cater their catalogue to the subscriber’s preferences.

Using Netflix as an example, Geist said, “If people are interested in Canadian content … it’s clearly in Netflix’s interest to provide them with that Canadian content to keep them as subscribers.”

He added that Canadian content is not hard to find in that anyone can type “Canada” in the streaming platform’s search bar and will find a suite of Canadian materials.

Geist and Wall both said that bringing discoverability to streaming services triggers a thorny debate on how Canadian content is defined today. “That’s a fundamental problem, I think, that needs to be addressed,” said Wall.

The Broadcasting Act sets out criteria to define what makes a cultural work Canadian. For music, what’s known as the MAPL system determines whether a musical work is Canadian if it fulfils enough conditions, like whether a song is performed by a Canadian, or if the piece was recorded in Canada.

Geist referred to this as a “tick-box exercise” that may not be equipped to fully capture the complexity of a television production that involved mostly Canadians but fails to meet the criteria because a funder was not Canadian.

“I think any sort of honest assessment about what certified Canadian content means is that it’s just as likely to come up with a cop show where Toronto is designed to look like New York, as it is to come up with something that people would view as genuinely Canadian,” said Geist.

The way listeners access music through on-demand streaming is unlike the one-to-many distribution method of radio, where there was a single linear schedule of programming, said Wall. On a streaming service, the catalogue of music is accessed by users on-demand and simultaneously.

“You could break up the 24-hour day and say, ‘This much of your time has to be spent providing Canadian content on that.’ But how would that work in the streaming world?” he said.

Music streaming services can push music to a user through personalized and curated playlists, a process that is largely driven by a platform’s proprietary algorithms. Making Canadian artists more discoverable by granting the CRTC access to a streaming service’s algorithms is a “very poorly conceived notion,” said Wall.

Andrew Forsyth is a consultant to MRC Data, formerly Nielsen Canada, a marketing data and audience insights firm. He said the government must figure out how it can properly regulate this newer media environment — a difficult task.

Wall and Geist both agree that while the Broadcasting Act needs updating, the tension is in how that is accomplished.

Wall said he does not think it’s a good idea to try folding in new services and technologies into a framework designed for older means of communication that are fundamentally different.

That sentiment was echoed by Peter Menzies, senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and past CRTC vice-chair.

“The idea behind the broadcasting industry is the government is licensing people to use a Crown asset,” he said. “That’s something the Crown owns; it can set the rules for its use. The Crown doesn’t own the internet, but it’s pretending that it does.”

In the world of radio, the CRTC was able to compel stations to help subsidize Canadian content by collecting prescribed amounts and transferring it to funding and granting bodies like Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) and the Canadian Music Fund.

“It all depended on a licensing system,” said Wall. “Well, are you going to license Spotify? How are you going to do that?”

If the goal is to ensure streaming companies contribute to these subsidies, Menzies said this can be done by other means “without pretending that the internet is broadcasting.”

Both Menzies and Forsyth said that creating a level playing field between on-demand streaming services and traditional broadcasters can be better achieved by imposing a tax on streaming services.

“You don’t have to regulate the internet. Carve out the companies that you want to get money from,” said Menzies.

Forsyth said the entire Canadian music industry exists because the Broadcasting Act allowed for it to flourish. “I think the problem is that the beast has been built,” he said, referring to the act and all the business generated by it. Revising the act will in turn affect the country’s system of funding, support and exposure for Canadian entities, he said.

“As a starting point, the user-generated content piece has to be out,” said Geist, because it fundamentally involves regulating the speech of Canadians.

He added that the legislation in its previous form was too vague and left too many details for the CRTC to decide.

Wall said he thinks the Heritage committee’s list of witnesses should be opened so that digital-first creators can have their voices included in the discussion. “I don’t think they ever had any input into this act, and they’re the future,” he said.

Menzies said, “The hope is that they breathe deeply, take a long look at things and figure out what is it you really want to get out of things and what’s the best way to get there? Because Bill C-10 sure wasn’t it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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Spotify removing Neil Young’s music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum

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Neil Young’s music is being removed from Spotify‘s streaming service after the singer-songwriter objected to his songs playing on the same platform that offers Joe Rogan’s podcast, the company and the musician said on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Young had released a letter addressed to his manager and record label, Warner Music Group, demanding that Spotify no longer carry his music because he said Rogan spreads misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

On Wednesday, the “Heart of Gold” and “Rocking In the Free World” singer thanked his record label for “standing with me in my decision to pull all my music from Spotify,” and he encouraged other musicians to do the same.

“Spotify has become the home of life threatening COVID misinformation,” he said on his website. “Lies being sold for money.”

The Swedish company said it worked to balance “both safety for listeners and freedom for creators” and had removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related COVID-19 in accordance with its “detailed content policies.”

“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” Spotify said in a statement.

Rogan, 54, is the host of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the top-rated podcast on Spotify, which holds exclusive rights to the program.

He has stirred controversy with his views on the pandemic, government mandates and vaccines to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, 270 scientists and medical professionals signed a letter urging Spotify to take action against Rogan, accusing him of spreading falsehoods on the podcast.

Young, 76, said Spotify accounted for 60% of the streaming of his music to listeners around the world. The removal is “a huge loss for my record company to absorb,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alistair Bell)

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YouTube permanently bans Fox News host Dan Bongino

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Fox News Channel host Dan Bongino on Wednesday became among the most-followed conservative personalities to be permanently banned from YouTube, a week after the Google-owned video service said he had posted COVID-19 misinformation.

YouTube suspended one of Bongino’s YouTube channels on Jan. 20 after he posted a video where he questioned the effectiveness of using masks against the coronavirus, a violation of the company’s pandemic-related misinformation policy. His later attempt to circumvent that one-week suspension by posting from another channel triggered a permanent ban, YouTube said.

“When a channel receives a strike, it is against our Terms of Service to post content or use another channel to circumvent the suspension,” YouTube said in a statement. “If a channel is terminated, the uploader is unable to use, own or create any other YouTube channels.”

The video giant has added more rules around COVID-19 content as the pandemic has worn on. Last September, it banned conservative commentators such as Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for spreading misinformation about vaccines.

Bongino did not respond to a request for comment sent to his website on Wednesday. But he said on Twitter last week that the suspension did not surprise him and that he planned to continue posting videos on Rumble, a YouTube-style service popular among conservatives. Bongino wrote that he had double the number of followers on Rumble as on YouTube.

His Dan Bongino Show channel on YouTube had 882,000 subscribers and nearly 1,100 uploads since it was created in 2013, according to tracker Social Blade.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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Book the lynching and alert the media!: Sally Barnes | Commentary – Huntsville Doppler – Huntsville Doppler

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I’ve changed during and because of this pandemic. Sadly, so has my country.

Like so many others, thanks to a throng of scientific experts and lawmakers, I have become a recluse.

Our dining room—the scene of so many wonderful gatherings of family and friends over the years—is deserted. Candles remain unlit. Cherished dishes haven’t seen the light of day in months. Silverware cries out for polishing but who’s to see it or use it? Nobody. 

With the odd visitor we’re allowed, we eat at the kitchen table.

If this continues much longer I fear we will become “sink eaters”. I first heard that expression from a Maritime friend to describe how, following the death of her husband, she found herself skipping meals and eating at the sink as she mindlessly stared out the window.  

In my new life as a hermit, I ration my intake of news coverage and its endless account of death, destruction, and despotism. I avoid social media and its reminder of how bat-ass crazy some have become and the venom and hatred that skulks in the hearts and minds of many.  

Once an avid shopper, I have adopted a “grab and run” policy. Any necessities that can’t be delivered to my door, I gather by running into a shop, grabbing what we need, and getting out of there as quickly as I can. 

Sometimes, on my rare venture into the real world, I am approached by someone who greets me like a lifelong friend or associate and wants to chat. Damned if I can recognize them because of their mask. Some days I think they are maybe just lonely people hanging out in public places anxious to talk to anyone.

Here in Canada, because we are blessed with such resources, we will survive this pandemic. But I fear we will never be the same. Our weaknesses and failures as a society have been exposed, public confidence in our leaders and governments has been shaken, and you can cut with a knife the cynicism that exists about almost everything.

Every day we are reminded what a botch-up we’ve made of many of our democratic institutions and essential services.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility and shortcomings of our “world class” healthcare system and that it was a straw house just waiting to collapse under major pressure.

Overnight, so-called experts were brought in to respond to a pandemic, scrambled to do their best but neglected to consider what would happen if our schools were shut down or if we didn’t have the workers to staff the hospitals and stores and public services.    

The system for recruiting and training health care professionals is faulty and our immigration and regulatory policies are partly to blame. Thousands of additional nurses are needed while thousands of young people can’t get into nursing programs or others have foreign credentials ensnared in our bulging bureaucracies.

Education? Starved of funds for repair or replacement of crumbling infrastructure and the lack of measures like ventilation. Demand for reform and the new challenge of repairing the carnage of two years of online learning at all levels from kindergarten to our colleges and universities. 

Programs and facilities for the elderly are pathetic. Whom to blame?

The tsunami known as the Baby Boomers has had a major impact on society since the day this post-war generation came into the world. They have turned 75 and bring with them huge demand for costly health care and other social programs. 

Warnings that we were unprepared for the demands and needs of the aging population went unheeded and the first wave of the pandemic took a cruel toll on our seniors. Families stood by helplessly as parents and grandparents died isolated and afraid.

The pandemic has wrecked our economy, created a mountain of public debt, and exacerbated countless social problems such as addictions, family breakdown, mental health issues, joblessness, bankruptcies, domestic abuse, and criminal behaviour. It will take years to assess the damage caused by closing our schools.

The pandemic has left many of us scared and angry and seeking revenge.

It has set neighbour against neighbour and caused major rifts in families and workplaces.

Many of the rich got richer during this pandemic while most of the poor got poorer. People working for governments and their agencies kept their jobs and worked at home while family-owned businesses closed and many will never reopen.

We know that the pandemic has increased the spread of racism, misogyny, corporate greed, and lack of respect for our laws and standards of civility, the importance of public discourse, freedom of speech, and tolerance.

There is growing public anger with those who choose to remain unvaccinated and are driving virus-induced hospitalization all across Canada, holding the rest of us hostage in the battle to control and survive this pandemic.

Many of us know those whose diagnosis or treatment for serious illnesses have been postponed or cancelled because the unvaccinated have selfishly monopolized limited health care resources.  

A new poll out last week shows Canadians are in favour of harsh punishment for the unvaccinated. Maru Public Opinion found 37 per cent support denying them publicly funded health care and another 27 per cent say it’s okay to go as far as a short jail sentence.

C’mon people!  At the rate we’re going, can it be far off when lynching in the public square replaces movies on Netflix?

We need to distinguish between those who are vaccine hesitant and/or simply refuse the vaccinations and those who actively campaign against it, spread lies and conspiracy theories, threaten vaccine proponents and their families, harass politicians, media commentators and health care workers, and use other illegal means to further their selfish and deadly cause.

Extreme proposals like imposing special taxes on the non-vaccinated and denying them health care end up hurting the most vulnerable and will only widen prospects for opportunistic politicians to feed off public rancor.  

Every political party has its base of support and extreme measures are red meat for some politicians—especially those preparing for upcoming elections. 

Make no mistake—vaccine policy is a wedge issue that can win votes as it divides people and foments social unrest and loss of confidence in our democratic institutions. 

Here in this country, our political extremists are not as numerous, visible or obviously mad as in the U.S. but they are out there and influencing public policy.

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s statement that the unvaccinated should be “reasonably accommodated” was at best a poor choice of words and at worst political stupidity. Laws, civility, and tolerance preserve our freedom to hold different opinions and to make different choices. But that freedom does not extend to endangering the health and well-being of others. Our courts seem to agree.

Rather than O’Toole’s appeasement and Justin Trudeau’s bad-mouthing of the unvaccinated, we need leaders who will do the heavier lifting of devising programs that actually work to get people vaccinated. 

Thanks to media coverage of our pandemic failings and high-profile issues such as residential schools, the world knows that we Canadians are not the ideal, polite and apology-seeking people as we were once known. 

But we remain a good people and a good country. A beacon of hope in a world gone mad.

The challenge is to learn from our mistakes and preserve our civility despite the challenges and pressure this damnable pandemic has imposed on us and our way of life.

It would be sad to win this battle but wake up from our hermit state to realize we are no longer the kind of society we and others thought we were.

That truly would be winning the battle and losing the war.

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