Let's pretend we didn't talk TV, or at least not with Netflix or Google. That is the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's most creative thought so far about broadcasting and the Internet.
From Netflix's and Google's point of view, the CRTC invited the two companies to a two-week discussion about the future of broadcasting, under the casual and convivial-sounding name Let's Talk TV. Google and Netflix are both American corporations. Some of Netflix's online video service makes its way into Canadian households.
Whether that means that the two companies are subject to CRTC regulation is doubtful. Anyhow, Netflix and Google did attend Let's Talk TV, and made presentations, but they seem to have looked upon this exercise as a kind of conference – not as a regulatory hearing.
Netflix and Google did not answer all the questions that the CRTC wanted answered about the companies' businesses in Canada, on the ground that they doubted that some confidential information would be kept confidential.
The commission didn't want to go so far as to engage in prolonged administrative-law litigation with Netflix or Google. But in a passive-aggressive move, the CRTC struck from the record everything the two companies had said. Henceforth, they would be un-presentations.
This petulant gesture seems self-defeating. Surely, the CRTC's coming deliberations could benefit from what the two firms had to say. Some information is better than no information.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is thinking about regulating Internet TV on the same basis as cable and satellite television, a move that would boost the Internet companies by giving them cheaper access to network programming and allow them to compete directly with cable companies. Of course, the Americans are not worried about there not being enough American content on TV, or inability to tell American stories. But they are moving in the opposite direction from the CRTC.
As well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Shelly Glover, the Heritage Minister, have both said that the government opposes any new regulations that would restrict Internet broadcasting in Canada. Consequently, the CRTC's wrath seems futile. It should be willing to learn from Netflix and Google.