Netflix Canada has chimed into hearings with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that have been ongoing for the past two weeks. The exchange itself was full of contempt and snide remarks– something you would expect from a nation that holds its’ Scottish roots very close to the heart. Things really went haywire when Jean-Pierre Blais, Chair of the CRTC demanded that Netflix disclose subscriber information. Netflix, being the darling they are, refused and cited the need to keep their customer’s privacy intact. Blais took that as an insult to the CRTC’s ability to keep disclosed information private, and then the descent to havoc began.
Netflix was one attendee of the larger CRTC hearing which is meant to discuss the future of Canadian television. As traditional media shrinks, and online services like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix fill the void, the CRTC is questioning whether these companies are obligated to conform to their regulations.
Tom Pentefountas, vice-chair of the CRTC made the bold claim that Netflix “takes hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Canadian economy.” He also talked about open and closed access pipes for content streaming. The conversation concluded with Pentefountas smiling at the female Netflix representative in awkward silence, before saying “maybe move away from talking about the pipes…”, to which she replied “I love talking about the pipes.”
More awkward grins were exchanged. The hell is going on?
It was all a farce, really. The CRTC made every effort to tell Netflix that they hold the authority to regulate them via the Broadcasting Act, but simply chooses not to. Netflix says they don’t fall under the criteria as a Canadian broadcaster, noting “We are not a licensed broadcaster. We are a foreign entity.” Combine that with baseless questioning, and you got yourself a Goolding Inquiry.
“When are we going to get a Canadian House of Cards?” was one of the many questions raised. Yes. Seriously.
Netflix Director of Public Policy Corie Wright gave a clear, concise, and appropriate response: “We revived Trailer Park Boys.”
Other gems included “Would you be able to create a subgenre of Canadian children’s programming?” and “Don’t you have an algorithm for that?” (On the subject of making Netflix menus bilingual).
At a certain point, it felt like a conversation between Tim Cook and a 17th century voyageur. Best of all, it was being conveniently streamed directly to our internet-connected devices. But, much to the CRTC’s chagrin, it’s still not clear when we’ll be able to watch reruns of the CRTC debates on Netflix. Bummer.