How the IIC Canada Conference Was Relevant for a Content Policy Wonk

As I usually do, I’m going to organize my thoughts and tell you what I got out of the conference that I just attended. I’m writing on my iPad in my fave lounge with my fave brown drink so apologies in advance if there are any typos.

IIC Canada conferences tend to have themes, often more than one (last year there was a day on promoting CanCon and then the second day was so,pure Telecomm we went lobbying on the Hill instead). This year there was one clear message – the state of the wireless market in Canada. Well, every Tom, Dick and Harry’s particular vision of the state of the wireless market in Canada. This meant competing charts and analysis that frankly left me unsure what to believe. We may or may not pay more than most countries for wireless but if we do it’s because our network is so great and we’re heavy users. But it might also be because of high profits being earned by Bell, Rogers and Telus.

This was a very timely discussion because of the recent worries that Verizon was going to enter the market and eat every one’s lunch resulting in the wireless ad campaign which prompted a government attack ad and Telus buying Public Mobile but the government preventing them from buying Mobilicity. A number of speakers were arguing that the current government animosity to the wireless sector was not good for anyone, and definitely not consumers (but might be the wireless sector’s own fault since they started it).

If you’re a content person you may be asking – why should I care? Think for a minute about how your content is being watched. Is it all on broadcast? I doubt it. The audience is increasingly seeing no difference between watching a show on their tablet, their phone or their tv. Though Marc Séguin of the CMPA and Chris Guttman-McCabe of CTIA (a US wireless trade association) had an argument about whether CMPA members were focused on TV and not therefore paying attention to digital content, I think that was a red herring. Guttman-MCabe was talking about his kids viewing content on their iPads and I’m pretty sure at least some of it was TV. We are moving to a world where mobile or broadcast are just delivery platforms and not different forms of content (though admittedly our funding mechanisms aren’t there yet). So the the state of the mobile industry, how much it costs, fighting between the government and the industry all are relevant to us. A dysfunctional industry will not help us figure out how to rejig the funding mechanisms the way we need. Wireless needs to be our partners in the same way that broadcast does, but they and the government need to get their act together first.

The other directly applicable issue was the conversation about consumers. What is the difference between consumers and citizens and what impact does that have on us? CRTC chair JP Blais has said that his job is to look at issues from the perspective of consumers, citizens and creators. He appointed a Chief Consumer Officer – Barbra Motzney. The consumer angle has been a new filter for those of us who deal with the CRTC. It was very useful to hear discussions of the difference between consumer and citizen.

The rest of the benefit that I got from IIC Canada was less tangible. I chatted with other policy wonks at Heritage, CRTC and cultural organizations. I let people know what I’m doing. I told them about the fundraising that we’re doing for the Alan Sawyer Memorial Award (more on that in the next post). I wore heels and a jacket for the first time in months (can’t get totally out of the habit of that!).

Not for everyone but a good couple of wonky days for me. And it was great to touch base with the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian media policy wonks for a little wonktacular.


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