Broadcast and Digital Media

May 6th 2021, 12:00pm-1:30pm ET


Broadcast and Digital Media

May 6th 2021, 12:00pm-1:30pm ET

Chair: Ira Wagman (Carleton University)
Format: Pre-recorded presentations with live Q&A

This panel, led by Ira Wagman (Carleton University), will be focused around the various ways different actors (from traditional actors such as domestic broadcasters and film producers to recent entrants, such as powerful digital platforms like Netflix) engage with the institutions that regulate broadcasting in Canada. However, there are other interfaces with the policy apparatus that are worth considering, including those from the world of advocacy, multicultural broadcasting, and other components in the Canadian media landscape. This panel will explore top-down views of policymaking as well as bottom-up attempts to advocate for legitimacy within the policy process.

Presenters:
Sherry Yu (University of Toronto)
Paper Title: Canadian broadcasting and cultural diversity
Paper Abstract:
Canadian broadcasting is expected to represent multicultural and multiracial diversity through programming and employment, as stipulated in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. But what does diversity mean for Canadian broadcasting, specifically the governance of diversity? This presentation reviews the CRTC’s definition of ‘cultural diversity’ and explores some of the related policies and policy documents produced in the practice of governance. The focus of this review is on how these documents interpret and articulate cultural diversity, not on the effectiveness of outcomes, to explore the underlying position of stakeholders on cultural diversity.

Lowell Gasoi (Carleton University)
Paper Title: Open media?: vernacular advocacy in Canadian media policy
Paper Abstract:
This paper, part of the panel "Broadcast and Digital Media," will argue for a localized perspective on interactions among artists,advocates, and the policy apparatus in Canada. Bill Kirkpatrick's "vernacular media policies" suggest the importance of thinking through media policies not as the rarified field of the state and corporate elites, but as bottom-up practices, even in the home. Des Freedman seeks a way to think beyond policy fetishism in linking policy study to that of media production. Taking the advocacy work of Open Media, and Quebec's English-Language Arts Network as case studies, Lowell will suggest our Innisian obsessed media policy studies can benefit from a more quotidian approach.

Daniel Keyes (University of British Columbia)
Paper Title: The Canadian Media Fund and Google-YouTube's channel Encore+: Cancon's Archival Salvation or Digital Waste Bin?
Paper Abstract:
Despite the rise of over the top (OTT) internet streaming of audiovisual content, classic Canadian audiovisual content remains inaccessible. In 2017 in tune with Canada 150 celebrations, the Federal government announced a media policy where Canadian producers would work with big digital players like Netflix and Google/YouTube to promote Canadian content online. In 2017, Carolle Brabant, an executive at Telefilm heralded the creation of Encore+, a partnership between Telefilm, the Canadian Media Fund and Google/YouTube, as an “arsenal of discoverability” that would launch the likes of Mr. Dress Up (1966-1996) on the Internet for a new generation of viewers (“Back,” 2017). Journalists uniformly praised Encore+ as the long awaited realization of the lost treasures of Canadian content (Leblanc 2017; Brioux 2017; Canada Press 2017; Encore+,” 2017). Encore+ after its initial launch has faded from the attention of TV critics. These same critics who regularly review the new offering of CBC’s Gem, Netflix, etc. do not do so for Encore+. Despite this lack of print media attention as of 15 December 2019, Encore+ has 58000+ subscribers. Encore+ has gained an international audience for its old content that may see some old shows returned to production and the availability of long lost feature films like the first Canadian feature film directed by a woman Sylvia Spring’s Madeline Is, (1971). Encore+’s design operates as a fragmentary algorithmic archive that allows viewers to communally engage with old commercially abandoned content. Encore+ deviates from traditional television broadcast royalty schemes to remunerated directors, actors, and producers based on the number of views a particular film or episode garners. This talk explores the risks and rewards of using YouTube-Google to solve the conundrum of Canada’s fading audiovisual heritage.

Taeyoung Kim (Simon Fraser University)
Paper Title: Cultural politics of Can-Con in SVOD market: A case study of Netflix Canada
Paper Abstract:
Media aggregation and distribution businesses face a massive restructuring due to the rise of online streaming services (Doyle, 2016). Audiovisual streaming service providers like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix grow their market shares in the global market and reform the business structure of the industry. In contrast, the number of television viewers and pay-per-view subscribers is in decline due to the rise of SVOD and preferences of young audiences on these aggregation platforms. That said, they have been often used to explain the global homogeneity in the digital entertainment media market and represent the continuing power of US contents and platforms in the cultural industries (Wayne, 2017).
Meanwhile, the penetration of foreign streaming platforms has provoked serious controversies in Canadian society and has challenged a series of major pillars of the state’s cultural policies such as cultural sovereignty and net neutrality, etc. (Taras, 2015). Moreover, the federal government’s recent agreement with Netflix which would suspend the collection of ‘Netflix tax’ in reward for Netflix’s investment on Canadian cultural entrepreneurs triggered strong backlashes from Québec, whose cultural policies have come in conflict with the federal government. Combined with a series of the state’s recent trade negotiations, such changes in the distribution market question the future of Canadian content.
Against such a backdrop, this study examines how the Canadian state responds to the penetration of foreign SVOD services and how it has understood Netflix in its policy measures to find the discursive dynamics of the state’s platform policies, which are outcomes of the nexus between neoliberal globalization and the state’s long-standing principles such as the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC)’s policies on promoting Canadian Content (CanCon), and the government’s arguments of cultural exemption. Based on documents released by the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and CRTC from 2009 to 2019, it traces the how the federal government has recognized this new service provider and its streaming services and its underlying meanings. The findings of this study are expected to shed lights on the complex relationship between the global streaming platform and major stakeholders in the Canadian cultural industries: as both threats to the domestic distribution market and opportunities for its cultural creators.

Geneva Nam (Simon Fraser University)
Paper Title: Digital streaming and new media: the future of Canadian broadcast
Paper Abstract:
In 2018 the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a study on Canadian broadcast and discussed the critical shift in Canadian viewership from traditional cable systems to digital streaming services. The CRTC titled the study “Harnessing Change: The Future of Programming Distribution”. In its analysis the CRTC identified key gaps in Canadian English and French market viewership that indicated a decline in Canadian cable package purchases—draining this viewership are the new media platforms and private digital streaming sites available over the Internet. Canadian Broadcasting policy has maintained its support in favour of Canadian content and are able to control viewership through licensing renewals and evaluations.
Building on existing frameworks of ‘new media’ as influential mediascapes by D. Winseck that challenge the existing flows of media content. The CRTC has determined to uphold its policy of net neutrality, yet by not regulating the Internet, audiences are free to consume content outside of the Canadian television broadcasting framework. Based on a detailed analysis of the 2018 CRTC study, how can Canada navigate a net neutral streaming environment while still upholding its Canadian content goals?
The results indicate that while the CRTC navigates the shifting new media landscape, supporting policies to support Canadian content creators on new platforms, incentives for digital streaming site investment in Canadian media industry and policy reform for business practices for businesses operating sites in Canada are key factors in fostering a positive Canadian new media environment. Further research is needed to identify other factors to strengthen policy in favour of Canadian content while accommodating changes in viewership to Internet based streaming.

Steven James May (Humber College)
Paper Title: A Learning Opportunity by TVOntario
Paper Abstract:
This paper features analysis of research findings related to the role that the digital over-the-air (OTA) television transmitters owned and operated by the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (known as TVOntario or TVO) play in the provision of access to the provincial educational television broadcaster’s programming. Sparked by a short-lived plan by TVO in 2017 to reduce its slate of nine digital OTA transmitters to a single OTA transmitter broadcasting from Toronto’s CN Tower, this article examines why some Ontarians continue to turn to TVO’s digital OTA broadcast signals for access to the broadcaster’s educational content and how such viewing serves to inform the future digital dissemination of educational television programming. While the Canadian government and the province of Ontario each announced in November 2020 additional support to improve broadband internet availability in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic, TVO’s slate of eight OTA transmitters located outside Toronto continue supplying no-fee, high-definition, educational television programming access to Ontarians who reside outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and who are without 50/10 Mbps internet in the meantime. In light of TVO’s expanded distance education duties assigned by the Ontario government in July 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Canadian government’s recently announced proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act under Bill C-10, it is an appropriate moment to examine the quality of digital access to TVO across Ontario and how the educational broadcaster might best make its materials available. The access concerns and realities shared by the interviewed research participants featured here helped to inform analysis of their collective insight and the identification of TVO access concern themes related to infrastructure, monetary concerns, educational programming concerns, and non-GTA geographic concerns.


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