Someone tell me why Canadians seem to be so much smarter than we are, at least on the public policy fronts that I cover. Maybe we should try to convince Michael Geist to take a position at one of the local law schools here in DC?
Whatever it is, two recent developments in Canadian media and information policy highlight that a does of common sense and a willingness by government ministers to (a) actually listen to what people have to say, and (b) learn something from our mistakes.
First, the Candian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) just announced it will impose new national ownership limits and cross ownership limits on its broadcast media. Why? As stated in the CRTC release:
The trend toward greater consolidation in the broadcasting industry has raised concerns that a large ownership group could achieve a dominant position through acquisitions, which could bring about a reduction in the diversity of local, regional and national content. To address these concerns, the Commission has decided to:
* impose limits on the ownership of broadcasting licences to ensure that one party does not control more than 45 per cent of the total television audience share as a result of a transaction; and
* not approve transactions between companies that distribute television services (such as cable or satellite companies) that would result in one person effectively controlling the delivery of programming in a market.
While I think their national cap is too high, I applaud CRTC for recognizing the need for regulation staring them in the face as consolidation continues to grow. What a far cry from the debate we have in public policy circles in this country, in which regulators vie with each other for who can do more favors for their industry patrons, discuss how to raise ownership limits to permit more consolidation, and argue over whether to deregulate just a little more or a whole lot more.
The second “Canada is smarter than we are” example comes from last month’s succesfull citizen campaign to delay introduction of a “Canadian DMCA”. When Canada’s Conservative government seemed quite willing to acquiesce to industry demand to produce — in a fair use parody of Simpson’s Comic Book Guy — the worsht copyright ever, a grass roots movement organized that apparently shocked the government with its vehemence and popularity with mainstream Canadians. The government delayed introduction of the proposed Copyright Bill until at least the end of this month, where hopefully Canadian common sense will once again send it packing.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Democrats and Republicans join together for bipartisan legislation designed to turn the Department of Justice into the enforcement arm of the entertainment industry, and judges weigh whether the act of copying a legally obtained CD onto your computer for your own personal use constitutes a copyright violation for which you can be fined and/or do jail time.
Oh Canada, why can’t you teach my native land a thing or two?
Stay tuned . . . .