CRTC: Netflix Is No Online Broadcaster

Canuck TV watchdog resists calls for Netflix Canada to be brought into its regulatory orbit.

OTTAWA - Canada’s TV watchdog has come out against regulating Netflix as online broadcaster. “It’s not broadcasting, within the Broadcasting Act,” Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the CRTC, said ahead of an industry summit Friday to deal with Netflix's Canadian expansion.

Local film and TV execs looking to protect their industry’s chin against the U.S. video streaming giant want the CRTC to deem Netflix Canada an online broadcaster that must support Canadian production. But von Finckenstein pointed to a 2010 Canadian appeals court decision as grounds to conclude Netflix just distributes content online and plays no active role in the content.

That’s a definition that satisfies Netflix, which argues its Canadian streaming video subscription service “is an aggregator and a distributor of content,” streaming films and TV shows over the Internet, according to spokesman Steve Swasey. He adds Netflix Canada already benefits the Canadian industry by providing “an outstanding way for Canadian-produced content to reach a broader audience,” including indie Canadian films.

The CRTC’s von Finckenstein added legislative changes will be required before Netflix or other U.S. digital platforms spilling into the Canadian market could be considered online broadcasters.

The Canadian industry players gathered in Ottawa for an annual gathering of indie producers are hoping to convince the CRTC that, if Netflix isn’t an online broadcaster, it points to a new model for video distribution that needs to be brought into the local regulatory framework.