Your cellphone plan is killing Canadian culture!

Every time you call your mom on a WIND phone plan, Joey Jeremiah cries

WIND mobile may be done-for in Canada; a Federal Court has ruled that because WIND’s parent company is backed by Egyptian investors, it violates Canada’s laws against foreigners owning our wireless spectrum.

This is bad news, right? After all, when WIND broke in Canada (high-five!) a whole new tier of affordable cell-phone plans popped up.  The entrance of one new player forced a correction in the entire market! Who could hate that?

ACTRA hates that. Stephen Waddell, the National Executive Director of the Canadian actor’s union, calls the anti-WIND ruling “a victory for culture!

WTF?

Ok, here’s ACTRA’s logic on this- follow it if you can:

If cellphone services operating in Canada can be owned by foreign companies, then cable TV companies might also ask for access to foreign capital. And if these scary foreign interests end up controlling our cable companies, then they may escape the CRTC’s jurisdiction.  Without CRTC control, these stations may avoid having to funnel their profits back into the production of Canadian content, and the forced production of Canadian television may cease.
And that’s why every time you call your mom on a WIND phone plan, Joey Jeremiah cries.

Of course, the existing Can-Con regime is on borrowed time anyhow.  Internet video falls outside of the CRTC’s reach, and with more Canadians watching on their laptops, the days of mandatory, subsidized Canadian TV shows may be numbered.

If that happens, then the only reason anyone would produce a television show in Canada would be if they thought people would watch it.  And we can’t have that, can we?




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Your cellphone plan is killing Canadian culture!

  1. While I might agree that cell phone companies are a bit removed from Canadian cultural protection and that our cultural policy needs to evolve from incubation to preservation, you might be too quick to dismiss the concerns of people who have been involved in advocating for Canadian cultural content.

    I remind you that you are writing in a magazine that has been supported by Canadian content rules, subsidized distribution and other forms of protection and subsidy.

    Like the young woman who has thinks feminism is passe because she has all the options she needs, but doesn't realize she has them because of protections won by her mother and grandmother, you should be a little more respectful of the history of protecting Canadian cultural institutions.

    • I agree with your arguements but you gotta admit that "And that's why every time you call your mom on a WIND phone plan, Joey Jeremiah cries." is the best line ever!

      • Yeah, not bad.

    • So, out of deference to the sociopolitical context of the distant past and some vague intimation of hypocrisy, we're never allowed to re-evaluate policies of questionable utility? Really?

      • Were he re-evaluating it, that'd be one thing. He's discarding it wholesale.

      • I'm sorry if that's what you thought I meant. I did say that "our cultural policy needs to evolve from incubation to preservation" so I wasn't precluding re-evaluation, just suggesting that some respect for how we arrived here might be in order. I'll try to be more clear.

        • Policies should always be weighed on their merits, not their history. Demanding "respect" is a subtle form of logic-averse intimidation – "How dare you do X, that insults the memory of Y."

          • Its about context. its about not arriving at a workplace as a new graduate and thinking you know everythign without understanding what came before. I swear this new demographic bulge is as arrogant as the last one as if the world begins and ends with boomer or Gen y sentimentality. Think, don't just react, people. (hey jess below, you too)

    • Hey @tobyornotoby, thanks for your thoughts!

      But I gotta tell you- it's impossible to work in Canadian media without working for an organization that receives at least some kind of government assistance or subsidy.

      If that requires us to be respectful of cultural protectionism to the point where we are unable to criticize it, that would effectively stifle any real debate about the topic.

      For the record, I'm not against this stuff per se, but I do think a reality check is in order- especially when it gets so out-of-hand that cultural sovereignty somehow becomes an excuse not to fix our sorry mobile industry.

      • Yeah. Waddell's grasping at straws here, no doubt.. but that's kind of his job, to look at everything that happens from the lens of "What could this do to Canadian productions"

        Is he wrong in his logic?

        • He's dead wrong in his logic. Mobile video (something provided by WIND) is one of the only growing segments of an otherwise shrinking industry. If Canadian content were worth anything, Canadian content would be seeing widespread growth in this medium. But obviously it's not, which say s a lot about the quality of Canadian content.

          • Yeah. We all know Real Housewives of New Jersey is quality content. Newsflash: there's a big reason American content attracts more viewers, and it's got nothing to do with quality. It has to do with economies of scale. When you have ten times the population of Canada in a smaller space, you can spend ten times the amount on advertising and get the kind of market saturation Canadian broadcasters only dream of. Then all that celebrity media and advertising spills over to Canada. If you want to watch nothing but trashy chick flicks, listen to nothing but Lady Gaga, and tune into nothing but American Idol, knock yourself out. …but let's not pretend this has something to do with you having better taste that those of use who like CBC documentaries.

      • You are free to criticize, just don't dismiss everything that came before. Where did i say you shouldn't criticize? Thats important, smugness isn't.

  2. I find it amusing that they fear Cable Companies finding a way around CRTC funding and content rules by being foreign owned when pretty much every time those same Cable Companies and Media Conglomerates show up before the CRTC demanding relaxation of same they get it…

  3. If anything, the court ruling may well help bring in more foreign investment.

    As the current government allowed Wind into the market despite the existing limits on foreign investment content, the current players would like to know what the rules actually are before they line up their own investors.

    It's much more a victory for fair government business practices than for culture.

    • Yes, the government didn't open the door for foreign competition, it just opened the door for WIND. If it really wants more foreign competitionl, it needs to change the law. Take it up with Clement – try twitter – seems to be the best way to reach him.

  4. As culturally nationalist as I am, Slippery Slope arguments are plainly useless.

    • and so it begins…

  5. You can still have content regs while changing the ownership regs. I don't get this. Anyhow, if I'm forced to give up my WIND phone I'm going to be beyond pissed. Yes, I'm an absolute luddite cheapskate and at the age of 37 just got a mobile last month for the first time ever– because it finally seemed to be REASONABLY priced!

    • I don't think you will have to give up your phone…. you just may have to find another use for it:
      paperweight
      flashlight
      Objets d′art
      etc

    • I don't think you will have to give up your phone…. you just may have to find another use for it:
      paperweight
      flashlight
      Objet d′art
      etc

      • LOL or projectile- maybe I'll throw it through the window of my nearest CRTC building.

        • – and may I just reiterate in light of my above snark– I'm not against Cancon regs, ie. the regs that help the likes of ACTRA. But ownership and content can be totally separated, so they're making no sense.

    • I honestly just can't see WIND being shut down. This will be resolved, one way or another. Think about what Canada will look like from the outside – a joke. In short, we give approval and take money in during a spectrum auction, and once the company has invested good $ to start things up, we tell them that they can't operate their business, delay their start (costing them $$), then once again put them under threat of being booted out. What a joke. As a foreigner, I would be very much concerned about making a deal with Canada.

      • That's a good point. On the other hand, they must have known they were breaking the rules when they started. It's not the foreign ownership restrictions were secret. They just figured no one would stop them.

        • My understanding is that they were assured by various government folks they met with (in successive governments) that it wouldn't be a big problem.

          Not sure how true that is, but it's what I've heard.

          • That could very well be. I haven't read the CRTC determination that came before the court's decision, you'd think they would have raised it then. Unless they thought preserving a friendly relationship with the government was worth tanking the business for, or always figured the gov't would override any decisions anyway.

          • I'm sure there must have been some sort of wink wink nudge nudge…

  6. I'm torn on this issue. I very much believe that it is crucial to have some sort of artificial system that supports Canadian content. Without a doubt, you do not see anything like this anywhere else in the world, but the truth is that no other country is a neighbour to the biggest media/entertainment exporter in the world (that also just so happens to have the same national language). Cancon certainly has its flaws, but I agree with it in principle.

    I'm all for opening the doors for foreign investment in telecom, but this does not need to extend to cable. Who is kidding who – at some point, cable as we know it will be a thing of the past. The trend is moving away from people following a schedule to watch content – they want to pick and choose when and what. As the transition takes place, we'll have to find a balanced approach to subsidize Cancon that does not rape the consumer.

    • Do you really think geography matters anymore in regards to this issue? If England doesn't need English-content quotas, neither does Canada.

      • Ah, but Britain produces as much high-quality TV and film as anyone could ever wish for. Canada never has and never will give the world more than about a solid day of barely-watchable media content on a yearly basis.

        • On the contrary, these days Britain produces very little high-quality TV, unless you want to count reality TV shows like "big brother" and game shows like "who wants to be a millionaire".

          • Downton Abbey, Being Human, Skins (I don't like it but everyone else seems to), Shameless, 10 O'clock live, Dr. Who (again, i don't like it but super popular), The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. All high quality British shows that are better than anything being made in North America right now, including the multiple examples of Americans adapting these ideas.

            Also, Peep Show and Misfits are among the best shows on the air, period. CBC, Global or CTV would be wise to start importing these kinds of shows, instead of American Idol or Dancing with Jersey Shore or whatever crap passes for American tv.

          • The UK produces the funniest comedies currently on TV.

        • Is this not evidence for scraping the current system? Based on this observation, you could conclude that protection for Canadian content is in fact detrimental to its audience appeal.

      • Geography is a huge issue. England does not need English content quotas because they do not have any *overpowering* competition that is a hop skip and a jump away, and done in the same language. Canada's situation is somewhat unique in the world. It think it would be poor policy to simply let the market ride and expect Canadian content to be able to stand up against the US monster. No doubt, some would survive, but much much more would fall between the cracks. I'm of the opinion that not everything that is popular is necessarily better or good.

        As mentioned before, there are flaws to CanCon, and it does produce some sub-par material. With that said, there are also tons of important and good things that are made that simply do not have the large numbers needed to otherwise support them.

        This makes me think back to when "Search Engine" went from CBC to TVO. In short, this happened when CBC was faced with its budget cuts (It also happened not long after Industry Minister Prentice pretty much hung up on Jesse during an interview). From where I stood, it seemed like the most stupid decision, given that I was a fan of the show. How would this show do (CBC and TVO) without some sort of a dole to support it? It's not like it can compete with Howard Stern, and nor should it.

        • No doubt, some would survive, but much much more would fall between the cracks

          ****

          Depends what you mean by survive. If you mean "exist", then yes. But anything that met a threshold of success would be bought by an American company whose photocopy budget exceeded the revenue of the entire Canadian industry. In a complete free market Canadians might work in entertainment that gets seen by Canadians, but with the possible exception of news programming there wouldn't be a Canadian industry. Whetehr that's good or bad is up to the individual to decide, but it's not a matter of "if they tried harder there'd be more Canadian TV" (I realize you're not saying this, but it's a theme one often encounters).

  7. Yeesh! This is pretty far out! When will these Union types realize that they're slowly killing the industries that employ their members? Mobile video is one of the only growing segments of an otherwise shrinking industry, and these clowns want to slow that growth. BRILLIANT! How turning Canada into a technological backwater constitutes "a victory for culture" is beyond my understanding.

    • Well – I'm not a fan of some/many of the stances that ACTRA takes, but I get where they are coming from. They are simply arguing for the interests of people who work in that industry. But yeah – they seem to gravitate towards old antiquated concepts, that really don't seem to serve the better interests of Canadians. They'd certainly have more support if they were more forward thinking on various issues.

    • How turning Canada into a technological backwater constitutes "a victory for culture"

      I agree. You're right. Canada needs low cost cell phone services so that Canadian entrepreneurs can build upon these technologies (smart phones, mobile video, mobile applications, etc) instead of becoming an also-ran to companies like Google. Canada has one of the top cell phone makers (RIM), and Canada needs to have some of the future tech successes like RIM.

  8. I gotta be honest.. I'm against all laws prohibiting outside investment in any way. We would not need protective laws if our content was equal… but it's not; and I do not want inferior TV, Cell plans, etc. I would rather a distant countries company get my money for a fair price then a local crook gets my money for less. It would be different if we were protecting our interests, in the case of cell phone companies, they are milking us for all they can. In the case of TV, I will not watch Canadian TV unless it is up to the standards of the American TV I watch so I don't see why we should waste money on it.

    • What are these standards you speak of? Please define them for me.

    • I'm sorry, not everybody thinks Survivor and American Idol are the epitome of culture.

      • Indeed. Several might even go so far as to (gasp) believe that they have degraded culture.

      • And some of them think that they can turn it off and let someone else pay for the foolishness.

        I don't watch canadian tv. I wish I could say I don't pay for it.

        • Lots of things I wish I could say I didn't pay for either. If only society were only comprised of me and my needs.

  9. FYI if you missed the interview with Naguib Sawiris, well worth the read – he sure doesn't mince words, lol!! Watch out Konrad!!!

    Q: You invested in Wind Mobile without much control. Can you elaborate on what the process was like?

    We bet that this was an unsustainable situation, built on the fact that Canada cannot be the only country in the world besides China that prohibits foreign direct investment in the telecommunications sector. So we said, “Okay, we'll accept the conditions as they are now, and one day for sure, things will change.” We believe that the damage Canada is incurring because of the lack of competition—and I'm not talking just about the consumers, but applications, technology, ease of use—is counterproductive. It doesn't push people to excellence because they have the consumer by the balls
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business

  10. "After all, when WIND broke in Canada…"

    What an odious comment!

    • LoL! I actually missed that for some reason, and am glad you brought my attention to it.

  11. I wish we had these culture restrictions on our government selling our toll highway (407 ETR) to a foreign country after it was paid for with Canadian tax dollars.
    Only difference in this case was the outsider is providing competition to the big cell phone guys where as the highway owners are allowed to gouch us with increasing fees.
    Alll in the name of culture, eh!

    • Well – 407 ETR was very much a bone-head move. As was burying an already started subway expansion.
      (No comment I imagine from the Conservative based Rob Ford supporters, right?)
      As were a zillion other things.

      Opening the doors to foreign competition in telecom can be very good, provided it is done responsibly and carefully.

  12. As for the content stuff, at some point the government decided there would be an English-Canadian media industry, and quite frankly it will last a week without protective restrictions.

  13. Jesse….

    I'd be more interested in your thoughts on what the National editor (possibly your boss?) of this publication has stated regarding the government taking action against the CRTC ruling on UBB:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKkNqWIhvIk

    • I don't have a boss SamDavies :) . But as for Andrew Coyne's remarks, It concerns me that such a critical thinker would uncritically repeat on The National rhetoric crafted by Bell's communications department. Specifically, the idea that bandwidth is or will become a "limited, scarce" resource is patently wrong. The idea that regular users subsidize heavy users is also baloney, and I wish more attention would go to the fact that we are each month forced to buy bandwidth that evaporates if we don't use all of it (almost all of us don't). Gasoline is a limited, scarce resource. Would we accept "use it or lose it" monthly subscriptions for fuel, with massive penalties when we go over our caps?

      As for the CRTC being rendered ridiculous, I fully agree.

  14. Hey, this may be off the topic but didn't we taxpayers foot the bill for the national fiber optics across the country? So we should be able to control who gets on and who does not. Or did we just give it to Bell to use against us.

  15. The truth is that ACTRA, like the gay pride community (queers against israeli apartheid), CUPE (any number of examples), and any other number of other institutions populated with leftists, wants to ge beyond their mandate and become a group that comments on national and international politics.

    It's also true that they don't speak for the rest of us, a bunch of pampered leftist actors cannot understand how an affordable cell phone plan helps millions of ordinary Canadians, and they cannot understand that the rest of us don't hate other countries the way they do. In fact, I could not care if my cell phone company is Egyptian, African or owned by aliens, much the same way I don't care if my car is German or Japanese.

    • Jesse – meet s_c_f…

      He loves nothing more than harping against 'dem 'der darn leftists.
      Do not treat this post as an isolated and rare treat. It won't be.
      There will be plenty more – likely until the leftist conspiracy is defeated.

      • You should also warn Jesse that some comments don't always add to the discussion at hand, but merely involve belittling other commenters.

        • I don't see how polarizing things via artificial concepts of "leftist" (or "rightist" for that matter) adds anything to the discussion. The commentary is quite valid, as the venom spewed is derogatory, redundant, and sadly predictable. I also find it terribly arrogant when someone speaks their opinion under some misguided belief that they speak for "the people". Far too similar to "god is on our side". But hey – to each their own….

    • Great scf – then you'll be outraged that Harper is protecting Air Canada by refusing more landing rights to UAE airlines, won't you?

  16. If Canadian productions are so great, then why do we need a committee to ensure that we always have it when we want it. Given the shift in how entertainment is delivered to the masses, I think producers of Canadian media would be better off looking after themselves by tagging their work as a Canadian piece of work so that it is searchable for those that want to watch homegrown productions. That way I don’t have to have the crap rammed down my throat if I don’t want it.

  17. I findl it sad Canadians continue to be forced, with their own tax dollars, to watch second and third rate entertainment in the name of 'culture'. For a hundred years first-rate entertainers (in somebodys opinion anyway) have headed south for stardom. Now, in true socialist form a lot of people that should be working for the Winnipeg Parks board are 'stars'. The squeeky wheels always get the grease and the average voter continues to get ignored, except on tax collection day. THAT is why I quit voting. A first-rate country with third-rate people.

  18. The problem here is ACTRA sticking its nose where it don't belong. I'm an ACRA member, and I don't appreciate…what used to be a professional association…now acting as waterboy for the CEP and the United Steelworks. The Board and senior staff at ACTRA have a severe case of working class hero syndrome. They picture themselves at the barricades wearing distressed wardrobes left over from Les Miserables. Fools.

  19. I don't watch much Canadian tv anyway, The British & some American stuff is pretty good. Canadians have some good shows too but just because we are Canadians why do we need to be forced into having a certain percentage mandated ?? I'd agree to 50% on radio or tv for those that must have Canadian content but after that it should be free choice.

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