The Vancouver Riots

I am embarrased and ashamed.

After Boston won the Stanley Cup, chaos erupted in downtown Vancouver. I'm sure you've seen the pictures, and watched the video.  It was something that we shouldn't be seeing in a country like Canada. Just 16 months ago, Vancouver hosted the Olympics in what many can agree was one of the most unifying moments this country has ever seen.  The world watched Vancouver celebrate the winter olympics, and watched Vancouver, and the country, celebrate our game.  Last night and today the world again has been watching, watching a city burn.  They watched looters destroy businesses, and violent fights.  Exact numbers aren't yet known, but there have been several stabbings, and all we can hope for is that no one died in the riots.

I don't remember the riots of 1994. I was 7 when they happened, and didn't really care what was happening in the world.  But I, like many others, have seen the videos of it, and were appauled at how Vancouver acted in 1994.  After the Olympics of 2010, many thought that Vancouver was past that. Clearly, they were not.

Now, lets be clear.  The people who rioted for hours were *not* the majority.  There were over 100,000 people in downtown Vancouver last night for the game.  Only a few thousand were really involved in the riots, with only several hundred likely doing the most damage.  The type of people that will do something like this are the type of people who would have done the same had Vancouver won.  They were a group of people who were just looking for an excuse to incite a riot, and having 100,000 people in a (relatively) small area to basically serve as cover for them was an easy setup.  Many of the worst rioters covered their faces with bandannas to try to hid their identity.  The people who would do this are the type of people who were prepared to do this.  Not many people who would "spontaneously" join a riot would even think of doing something like that.  Those people knew exactly what they were doing, and they were there for one reason, and one reason alone.

I stayed up very late last night watching live coverage of the events, and it sickened me to watch people causing that much damage.  I am almost afraid to look at the pictures that will come out this morning, of the charred vehciles, glass and garbage in the streets.  This riot will cost millions of dollars, and the people who will be hurt the most are the small business owners.  It is disgraceful.

It is shameful that a small group of people have put a black eye on the most beautiful metropolitan area in the country.  Here we are, the morning after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the game almost seems like a distant memory right now.  At a time when we should be celebrating our sport, we now have this to deal with.  Instead of talking about hockey, the playoffs, or the final, we have to try to defend our country's image and our reputation to the world.  There are many countries in the world where hockey is a sport that they barely know the name of, but this morning they are talking about Vancouver, for all the wrong reasons.

The worst part of this is that Vancouver, Canada's olympic city, has now list the wonderful respect and reputation it garnered worldwide in February 2010 during the Olympics.  The years of planning for that event, and the wonderful 2 weeks that the world witnessed have been erased, replaced with pictures of cars on fire and people looting businesses.  A small group of people have done this, and destroyed Vancouver's reputation to the world.

MAny efforts are already being made to work to clean the city up.  The Vancouver Police are asking everyone who was downtown last night to submit their video and photos so the police can identify those who caused damage, and bring them to justice.  Facebook groups are being organized to help clean up the streets of downtown Vancouver, as well as posting pictures of those who did take part in the riots. While I don't necessarily recommend putting the pictures directly onto Facebook, I hope that the Police get everything they need.

I'd also like to say that CTV had by far the best coverage of the riots last night.  While other news organizations stopped their coverage for part of the night, CTV pre-empted everything, and continued to cover the riots, even after I finally went to bed.  Their reporter on the ground, Rob Brown, did a simply sensational job covering this, along with his camera man.  They put themselves in danger to bring what were by far the best pictures and video I could find last night.  Last night CTV provided an example of journalism at it's best, and I thank them for that.  On a similar note, all of that coverage was streaming live on CTV's website, which is where I was watching it.  that was also a great example of how "traditional" journalism can use new media to provide news, and I wish it happened more often. I've been saying for years that news should be streamed live to the internet, and this only cemented that.

Here I am, about 12 hours after the Stanley Cup was awarded to Boston, and I've written nearly a thousand words. Not about the game, or anything to do with the game.  I've written a thousand words about the shameful act of a few thousand people who decided that last night, they were going to do everything they could to destroy a city.  I know that the majority of the people in the lower mainland were not involved with this riot, but that does not change the fact that the morning after, we are not talking about what we should be talking about.  We are talking about one of the most shameful things I have ever seen in my life.  It is very unfortunate because 10 years from now we will not remember the amazing run by the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. We will not remember some of the truly fantastic hockey games along the way in the playoffs, and we will not remember how Boston was able to celebrate their first win in 39 years.  We will remember Vancouver, and the night the city was set on fire.

I am embarrassed and ashamed.

Why the CRTC needs an overhaul – Part 2

This is the second part of my post/rant about the CRTC.  You can find part one here.

In part one I briefly talked about the protectionism the CRTC takes with regards to Canadian content.  I want to talk a bit about how the CRTC handles TV, and how it is really limiting how Canadians can get TV shows legally through new media sources, namely the internet.

I am going to start by explaining where the United States stands in online media.  It’s a fairly simple process in the US.  Fox produces the show 24, and they have full rights to that show to distribute it however they want.  24 can be watched on regular TV, it can be purchased on the iTunes store, and it can be legally watched online on various websites, most notably hulu.  Through all of these, Fox collects a royalty.  It collects a percentage of the sales on iTunes, as well as revenue from advertisements on both the broadcast TV and web versions.  The streaming web versions have advertisements just like the broadcast TV does.  in the year since hulu launched, it has exploded in popularity.  The people that visit the site do not care that there are ads in the shows.  they appreciate that they can watch the shows online, and are more than willing to sit through normal ads.  This model is proving very successful, and more and more shows are appearing on the web in either a paid downloadable form, or an ad-supported streaming fashion.

Now, lets move over to the Canadian logistics. In Canada, Global TV has paid for the right to show 24 on it’s network.  This means that Global has full rights to the show in Canada.  Under CRTC rules, Global simulcasts 24 fox in the US, except that the fox channel in Canada is dubbed over the the Global broadcast.  This means that the Fox broadcast is not seen at all in Canada.  This is to ensure that all ads shown on TV are the Canadian ads.  This I have no problem with(except for the super bowl of course.  I want those US ads).  where it gets muddy is the online space.  I will use the iTunes store and 24 as an example. 

Since Global owns the rights to 24 in Canada, it also owns the rights for all online broadcasts of the show as well.  for Apple to offer 24 on the iTunes store in Canada, they have to negotiate a deal with Fox, as it is the owner of the show as a whole.  Then, because Global owns the broadcast rights in Canada, Apple essentially has to negotiate the same deal again with Global.  this means that while Apple only has to negotiate one deal to offer 24 in the US, it has to negotiate 2 deals to offer 24 in Canada.  This means that they will have to pay fees to both Fox and Global, which, if any such deal can even be done, will likely mean that extra cost being passed onto the consumer who buys the show.  Apple has been reluctant to this point to have to pass that cost onto the consumer, so those deals have not been made.  To be fair, Global does offer it’s shows streaming on it’s website.  However, as of this writing, they have chosen not to allow other methods of streaming either through them, or through sub-licensing their rights to the show.

If you look on the iTunes store in Canada, there is a lot of Canadian content, as well as some US content.  Canadian content can be negotiated the same way the US content is in the US. if CBC produces a show, they own all the rights, so Apple only has to negotiate one deal to get the show on iTunes.  there are also several US networks and shows in Canada.  Those are shows that do not have a Canadian rights owner.  Meaning that there are no Canadian networks that broadcast them.  In that case Apple again only has to negotiate one deal for those shows, as there is no one who holds the rights to broadcast the shows in Canada.

What I would like to see the CRTC do is begin removing the online component of the Canadian network’s license to show US shows in Canada.  If they want those rights, they should have to negotiate them separately.  This would allow proper competition in the marketplace, instead of a monopoly of the Canadian networks over US content.  Let’s un-do the shackles, and let people actually innovate with TV delivery on the internet.  It’s the way of the future, and if the CRTC chooses not to allow this to happen, they risk having the country left behind as others innovate.

Why the CRTC needs an overhaul – Part 1

The title says it all doesn’t it?  the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission(CRTC) is broken, and needs to be fixed.  the problem is, is that I’m not sure if it can be.  For those of you who don’t know, the CRTC is the governing body of all radio, TV, telephone, cell phone, and internet traffic in Canada.  The closest to an equal organization in the US would be the FCC, except that the CRTC also controls some things that the RIAA and MPAA in the US controls also.  Sounds great doesn’t it?  This post will truly be a wall of text, so I have decided to break it up into two parts.  The first part will deal with the current hearings going on between the RIAA and Canadian ISP’s regarding the internet.  The second part will be about the CRTC and TV in Canada.  I hope you’ll find it an interesting read.

For those who do not know, the CRTC requires that all TV and Radio stations based in Canada show a certain amount of Canadian content every day.  Canadian content is content that is shot and produced in Canada.  Some stations, like Global and CTV, usually only supply the minimum amount of Canadian content as required by the CRTC, where stations like CBC usually produce a higher level of Canadian content.  To this point, the CRTC has said that the internet is exempt from this rule.  The CRTC is now revisiting this exemption, and is weighing whether or not to require that a set amount of traffic delivered to Canadian PC’s would be Canadian content.

Let me just step back and let that sink in for a second.  Seriously, really sit and think about that.  Okay, done?  Good.

My first, gut response, is that the CRTC has no idea at all what it is doing, or talking about.  Contrary to belief from some US senators, the internet is not a “series of tubes.”  It is an open world and restricting it is next to impossible. 

It is possible to use IP address sources to find which content is coming from a Canadian PC or server, but that would in no way be accurate at all.  A Canadian could be using a US based hosting service, so the content could be Canadian, but coming from the US.  A US customer could be routing content through a proxy server in Canada, which would make the content look like it was coming from Canada, when it really is US produced.

Then lets look at the other side.  How are ISP’s supposed to enforce this?  The current number being thrown around is that 30% of internet content would have to be Canadian made content.  Never mind trying to throttle P2P traffic, what is an ISP supposed to do?  Suppose that there is a way to correctly tag all Canadian content on the internet.  In a scenario where 30% of all content viewed would have to be Canadian, what happens if that quota is not met?  Will ISP’s block all non Canadian web pages until over 30% of the content for the day is Canadian?  Will they cut you off of the internet all together?  Think of it this way.  After literally a decade of fighting, illegally downloading music, TV shows and movies is absolutely rampant across the internet.  If no one can stop illegal copyright violation, how are Canadian ISP's supposed to stop legal content from flowing?

I believe that this is one of the few times that every major ISP in the country, Shaw, Bell, Telus, and Rogers, have all agreed on one thing.  This would be a very bad idea.  Shaw was the first to voice it’s concerns, while the other three followed suit shortly thereafter.  It’s a kind of ISP solidarity that is unprecedented in this country.  They have realized that enforcing this would be impossible, and are telling the CRTC this.  The question is, will the CRTC listen?

Attempting to restrict the content on the internet would be catastrophic to the growth of the internet in Canada.  In a country this size, with such a small, spread out population, the internet has really changed the way that smaller communities, especially northern communities, can communicate. 

To me, this really shows how badly out of touch, and out of date the CRTC really is.  It is an organization that exists solely to protected Canadian interests.  I will never dispute that that is an important function, but in the age where I can find out exactly what is going on half way around the world in real time, the kind of protectionism that the CRTC undertakes is not realistic.  Instead of trying to fight the internet, the CRTC should be aiming to give everyone more access, and easier access to it. And instead of forcing Canadian content down peoples throats, they should be working with Canadian content providers to make good quality Canadian content that people will actually want to watch.  Don’t force the bad on us, but promote the good.  Make it good, and the people will watch.  Two of my favorite TV shows right now are The Border and Flashpoint, made by CBC and CTV respectively.  Both are action  shows, and both are, in my opinion, among the best shows on TV in their Genre right now, in the US or Canada.  CBS in the US has even bought the broadcast rights of Flashpoint from CTV and simulcasts new episodes when they air.

Is it too much to ask for the CRTC to stop trying to force decades old ideals down our throats?  I hope not.  And I hope they get the picture.  the CRTC needs to leave the internet alone.  I hope they are listening.