The time has come to wind down Canadian content requirements and foreign ownership restrictions in the communications sector.
The federal government has, to varying degrees, controlled how Canadians communicate with one another and how they access information and entertainment over the nation’s telecommunications, radiocommunications, and broadcasting systems since the very inception of these technologies. Key focal points for this regulation have been the extent to which Canadians can access content produced by non-Canadians and the extent to which foreigners may make investments in the Canadian communications sector.
While there have been examples of these controls easing in recent years, there are still significant restrictions in place regarding Canadians’ choices for the content they consume and regarding communications service providers’ ability to access non-Canadian sources of financing.
In this paper, Radio Free Canada: Ending Protectionism in Canada’s Communications Industries, author Ian Munro examines the legislation, regulation, and policy directed at promoting the production and consumption of Canadian media, entertainment, and communications. He looks at the history and justification behind the legislation, regulations and policies to determine their relevance, efficacy, and desirability in today’s world of convergence, digitization, and globalization.
Munro explains that legislative and policy language that underpins these restrictions a mixture of ambiguity and sanctimony. They provide little sense of actual benefits to be achieved and no real guidance – or constraint – to those in the business of day-to-day policy-making and regulation.
Supporters of these restrictive measures generally rely on arguments that fail to meet basic tests of logic and that are easily refuted by standard economic theory and marketplace evidence.
The negative consequences of these policies include the loss of improvements in productivity and competitiveness that typically are generated by foreign investment, inflated costs for regulatory oversight and compliance, increased risks of delays or even failures in securing beneficial broad-based trade deals, and the continued denial of individual Canadians’ rights to make their own choices regarding the media and cultural content they consume.