Monday, March 2, 2009

Sirus on Internet radio

According to Ira Wagman's reports on the CRTC hearings into Internet regulation, Sirius satellite radio has gone before the CRTC to argue that Internet radio is “a category killer...and the category it will kill is satellite radio.” (see transcript at 7717) Sirius suggests a couple of solutions:
  1. requiring internet audio providers to geo-block programming that doesn't meet CanCon requirements.
  2. regulating wireless providers and Internet broadcasters like other conventional broadcasters and require Internet broadcasters, like regular broadcasters, to pay a levy towards the production of Canadian content
Interestingly, the Slaight family owns both 40% of Sirius Canada and also Iceberg, the Canadian online Internet station.

Here is the excerpt from the CRTC transcripts:

7743 Presumably one way of operationalizing this approach would be to require ISPs, including wireless providers, to geo-block audio content that does not comply with CRTC-imposed Canadian content requirements. Only those programming undertakings that met such requirements would be permitted to broadcast their audio content to Canadians.

7744 That approach, if taken by the Commission, would of course thrill us completely. We would throw actually throw a party for you.

--- Laughter

7745 MS KERR: Nothing else would level the playing field for us from a regulatory perspective as would geo-blocking of non-compliant audio programming undertakings.

7746 However, we recognize that this approach flies in the face of the principles of openness and freedom of choice that governs the internet and actually hasn't been suggested by anybody else here. Perhaps pushing water uphill best describes our proposed option. I imagine of the Commission's top 100 practicable alternatives it might be considering, this one might fall somewhere around 98.

7747 But the reason I bring it up is to give the Commission some insight into the threat we perceive to our business from unregulated internet radio that is currently not expected to contribute to the broadcast system and just how unlevel that playing field is for us.

7748 So if it is not practicable and it does not respect the principles that govern the internet to geo-block content, what can be done so that we have a broadcasting system in which new media participants contribute too, so that traditional broadcasters are not under real threat simply as the result of a heavier regulatory burden?

7749 All broadcasters are required to make direct financial contributions to support Canadian content development. Therefore, to address this specific issue, Sirius proposes a levy be placed on the revenues of all wireless carriers for their data traffic related revenues related to broadcasting and on all ISP revenues related to broadcasting. This levy should be proportionate to what traditional broadcasters contribute.


  1. The transcripts are a good check on what could end up a game of broken telephone. Lest anyone report that Sirius Canada (ownership) has begun advocating we sell children for food, that is.

  2. Not Sirius -- just paying attention.

  3. Still paying attention:

    9846 MR. GALIPEAU: It's true that there's quite a bit of Internet radio, but I concur with Ken, is that most of the Internet radio usage that traditional broadcasters would see and the statistics I think from ComScore is that local radio is very strong and it is listened to during the daytime.

    9847 If you were to ask an operator, say, what time do people listen to the radio online, you'll see a graph that maps up quite consistently with business hours.

    9848 With regards to Iceberg, that service is no longer in Canadian hands, that's my information, Slate Communications sold it to AccuRadio in the U.S.

    9849 COMMISSIONER ARPIN: No, no, but I've used that name knowing it is a Canadian one rather than use a foreign one which is probably more than likely totally under -- or never be able to control, but at least Iceberg has a Toronto address and a former well-known broadcaster.

  4. Question: do encrypted communications such as satellite radio really constitute a "broadcast" as defined in the Radiocommunications Act? Or are they mere private communication with business partners/customers?