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‘Smarter’ rules would ensure all digital players pay for CanCon, panel told

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  • OTTAWA — Federal lawmakers need to make foreign content providers, such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime, pay their fair share into producing Canadian content, Canada’s broadcast regulator and its public broadcaster argued this week.

    What that share looks like, however, remains uncertain as the federal government moves to tear down and rebuild the country’s broadcast and telecom regulations.

    In written submissions to a seven-member panel, both the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also called on Ottawa to create new rules that encourage news content distributors to deliver accurate and trustworthy information to Canadians.

    The submissions, which were due Friday, are part of a wide-scale review of Canada’s Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and Radiocommunication Act that was started last June by a panel of experts chaired by former Telus Corp. executive Janet Yale.

    The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it’s not looking for broad new powers to regulate the broadcast and telecom industries.

    Rather, said commissioner Ian Scott, the CRTC needs a smarter set of regulations it can use to encourage foreign players to contribute to Canada’s cultural landscape.

    “What we’re asking for are new and different powers to regulate in a different way,” Scott said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “It doesn’t mean more regulation. It means smarter, better, flexible regulation. A new toolbox.”

    The CRTC has asked for explicit statutory authority and flexible mechanisms to regulate audio and video services, both foreign and domestic, including online.

    That would help the regulator ensure that any service provider making money from Canadian viewers and listeners also somehow pays toward the creation and distribution of Canadian content, as domestic broadcast companies do now.

    Currently, traditional broadcasters in Canada contribute millions of dollars to bodies including the Canada Media Fund and directly pay for original Canadian productions.

    But a shift by Canadians to viewing content online has eaten away at funding models that rely on subscriptions and advertising revenue.

    Scott said regulators need the authority to reach agreements with new digital platforms to ensure they contribute “equitably” to the creation of that content.

    That doesn’t mean a company like Netflix should contribute to cultural programming in exactly the same way as traditional broadcasters, Scott argued.

    Netflix currently spends millions of dollars itself on creating broadcast productions in Canada, which translates into jobs, tax revenues and economic activity. YouTube also pays content producers directly, based largely on audience size, regardless of where the content is produced.

    But new regulatory tools could compel digital players to use algorithms, for example, to help Canadians discover home-grown content, Scott suggested.

    “We’re not spelling out a detailed regulatory regime,” he insisted. “What we’re saying is, the world has changed, the traditional approach … just doesn’t work in the future.”

    The CBC’s submission Friday was nearly identical in tone, saying the government needs to ensure that digital companies profiting from the Canadian cultural marketplace also help pay for the creation of Canadian programming.

    It also called for mechanisms to ensure Canadians have access to “trusted news and information” through entities including Google and Facebook.

    The CBC also repeated its often-made request for “sufficient, predictable funding” so it can fulfil its role in supporting democracy and Canadian culture.

    The panel is expected to complete its review by Jan. 31, 2020, three months after the next federal election in October.

    Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press


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    Funeral today for seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

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  • HALIFAX — Mourners will descend upon a large Halifax hall today for the funeral of seven children who died in a fast-moving house fire.

    The service for the Barho children will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Cunard Centre on the city’s waterfront.

    Imam Abdallah Yousri says funeral proceedings will follow in the Islamic traditions, but is open to people of all faiths and members of the public.

    He says he hopes that by opening the ceremony up to all who wish to attend, the children’s mother — Syrian refugee Kawthar Barho — will see the widespread support and sympathy from the community.

    Yousri says the traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members, including Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, who is trying to help some of the mother’s overseas relatives come to Canada.

    Following the funeral service, there will be a burial at a Muslim cemetery in Hammonds Plains.

    “(Kawthar Barho) doesn’t have family over here in Canada. She does not have friends as well here in Halifax because she moved here five months ago,” said Yousri on Friday.

    “That’s why we are trying to invite her to come see the support and let everybody gather.”

    Shuttles will be organized to and from the Cunard Centre to accommodate those who wish to attend, and ample parking is available at the centre.

    The children’s father — Ebraheim Barho — remained in hospital Friday recovering from extensive burns. He was in critical, but stable condition.

    Early Tuesday, the Quartz Drive house fire killed all of the Barho children: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

    The cause of the fire remains unclear.

    The scale of the tragedy for the young family who arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees has struck a chord with Canadians.

    A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $523,846 by late Friday afternoon, with a $1-million goal.

    The Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, when they first arrived in Nova Scotia and were embraced by residents there.

    They had moved to the Halifax suburb of Spryfield to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services, and had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.

    The family was among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years. The Trudeau government granted asylum to 40,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16.

    A brutal civil war has raged across Syria since 2011, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

    The Canadian Press




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    National

    Funeral today for seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

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  • HALIFAX — Mourners will descend upon a large Halifax hall today for the funeral of seven children who died in a fast-moving house fire.

    The service for the Barho children will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Cunard Centre on the city’s waterfront.

    Imam Abdallah Yousri says funeral proceedings will follow in the Islamic traditions, but is open to people of all faiths and members of the public.

    He says he hopes that by opening the ceremony up to all who wish to attend, the children’s mother — Syrian refugee Kawthar Barho — will see the widespread support and sympathy from the community.

    Yousri says the traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members, including Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, who is trying to help some of the mother’s overseas relatives come to Canada.

    Following the funeral service, there will be a burial at a Muslim cemetery in Hammonds Plains.

    “(Kawthar Barho) doesn’t have family over here in Canada. She does not have friends as well here in Halifax because she moved here five months ago,” said Yousri on Friday.

    “That’s why we are trying to invite her to come see the support and let everybody gather.”

    Shuttles will be organized to and from the Cunard Centre to accommodate those who wish to attend, and ample parking is available at the centre.

    The children’s father — Ebraheim Barho — remained in hospital Friday recovering from extensive burns. He was in critical, but stable condition.

    Early Tuesday, the Quartz Drive house fire killed all of the Barho children: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

    The cause of the fire remains unclear.

    The scale of the tragedy for the young family who arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees has struck a chord with Canadians.

    A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $523,846 by late Friday afternoon, with a $1-million goal.

    The Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, when they first arrived in Nova Scotia and were embraced by residents there.

    They had moved to the Halifax suburb of Spryfield to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services, and had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.

    The family was among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years. The Trudeau government granted asylum to 40,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16.

    A brutal civil war has raged across Syria since 2011, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

    The Canadian Press




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