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Online media matters

Living Can Kill You

CBC: near- or farsighted?

Recently Canada’s public broadcaster urged the CRTC to “reject old assumptions about new media” and claimed that the consumption of broadcast media is not being negatively effected by the Internet.

This defies the observable evidence yet manages to be based in some careful shaped facts. For example, CBC’s paper claims that:

Canadians use the Internet primarily as a communications and research tool. … These are the types of activities that are driving Canadians to spend time using the Internet. They are not activities that are substitutable with TV and radio usage: these activities are completely different than the time spent with traditional media.

Additionally, it claims one percent of Canadians watch television online. While the claims may be technically true, the arguments are on very weak ground.

True, the government’s research arm found almost everyone emails or searches for information online; but it also determined 65 percent “view news or sports” online and 28 percent listen to online radio.

In fact, in the past three years, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of people watching TV or movies online (20 percent in 2007). Seeing how people consume TV online in the U.S., I will confidently conclude there will be a similar increase in Canada after another three years.

Similar narrow-sightedness can be found in its discussion around online revenue opportunities (which is too broad for me to discuss in detail, but I will mention online ad spending continues to increase and is predicated to surpass radio advertising).

Everyone likes to shape facts to support their own perception of reality, and the CBC, like many media institutions, could be seen to be struggling to maintain its default top-down organization structure. (As evidence: people in the trenches have continually been doing some incredible things at the CBC as it relates to the online world, but the upper management seems oblivious to the realities.)

My hope is, like the Canadian newspapers before, the CBC has merely crafted a report to discourage the CRTC from regulating the Internet (or at least the Canadian media companies online) and is not merely a result of a lack of vision.