Legislating Free Speech or Controlling Jornalistic Integrity?

This idea of international free trade is a fallacy. We don’t need free trade. We need smart trade . . . Even Canada is not truly a free trade partner. Their regulations require broadcasters use a specified percentage of Canadian-produced programming. That’s protectionism, and to deny it is to be the patsy to foreign governments who think they can take advantage of the naivete of the American voter.”

Stephen Cottle, Hartford, CT (LinkedIn Q&A Response)

I had shared the above referenced comments by Stephen Cottle in my September 6th, 2009 Procurement Insights post titled “Buy American: Establishing Artificial Boundaries or Removing Unwanted Barriers?

The connection between Mr. Cottle’s comment  regarding the introduction of the CanCon legislation which required that at least 25% of all music played on AM radio stations had to be dedicated to Canadian Content, and the Buy American debate was both relevant and insightful.

Coming into force on January 18th, 1971, the CanCon regulation stipulated that at least part of the required content be “written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada.”

This was important legislation in that prior to its introduction, the Canadian music industry “was regarded with indifference” by Canadian stations.  Without going into the MAPL system itself, it is safe to say that CanCon paved the way for an industry that has and continues to flourish both domestically and on the world stage.

While the quota system implemented through the Canadian content rule is not unique to Canada (France, Ireland, Israel and the United Kingdom are just a few examples of countries who have instituted similar regulations), the “Listen Canada” legislation has been criticized by some as “cultural protectionism.”

Even though one might argue that it is indeed a form of protectionism (which is why it was referenced in relation to the Buy American policy), it would be hard to argue the point that without CanCon, the Canadian music industry would likely be languishing in relative obscurity with our indigenous talent heading south of the border to hone their craft and success.

But, and as alluded to in last week’s post “Today’s Broadcast Me lookin at you and you lookin at me,” this raises the question would a CanCon-type legislation be required or even enforceable in today’s social media world?

In particular, the reference to the statement that the Canadian music industry “was regarded with indifference” by Canadian stations.  Back in 1971, the stations and individual DJ’s themselves often determined if and when an artist’s record would be played.

As the “Today’s Broadcast” post indicated, “the former gatekeepers who in the past determined what news we received (or record we heard), and when we received it,” have found it difficult to make the transition to what PI Window on Business guest David Cushman referred to as “communities of purpose.”

Simply put, information is no longer driven through tightly controlled and highly regulated traditional media channels.  Like the publishing industry in relation to books, the music industry is ultimately controlled by the listeners themselves in terms of what they hear and when they hear it.  Blip.fm is just one example of how we have all become DJ’s.

This is one of the key points that David Cushman emphasized in both his insightful PowerPoint presentation and during our October 8th PI Window on Business interview.  Specifically, “people will share what they think is cool, with people who (they think) will also think its cool.”  It is the people within these interconnecting “communities of purpose,” that will ultimately decide who and what gets seen, heard or read.

Going back to the CanCon Legislation question, the middleman or woman has now been removed as the public’s filter.  While it was easier for any government to control these clearly and narrowly defined “information channels,” the same can not be said for a globally well connected population.  You merely have to look at the civil unrest associated with the recent election in Iran to appreciate just how difficult a task a governing body faces relative to monitoring and controlling communication in the realms of the social media world.

Remember to tune in to the November 10th broadcast “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” at 12:30 PM EDT through the On-Demand below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2 Responses to “Legislating Free Speech or Controlling Jornalistic Integrity?”
  1. Great points Jon and great interview. I love your work and your never ending drive to get to the point and bare knuckles on any topic you take on.

    As I’m doing my book research on social media monetization from a marketing perspective I’m finding a significant polarization. On the one end there is a group that does apply “freedom of speech” and strongly embraces the vanishing lines of controllling speech on the internet.

    On the other side there are significant businesses that due to internal company policies, legislation and industry standards are very control oriented. I had a discussion with a business the other week that outlined many of the writing standards people apply in social media are potentially violating copywright laws – period.

    I argued times are changing. I was informed the law is not. I hate to say it but the law wins that one.

    Many big businesses that are highly policy oriented and process controlled will not be lettess of thhe ing the reigns go either. Even a little bit of creativity or public challenge for a company that is not ready for it can be very unravelling. This will be a great spot to watch in the coming years as we watch where tradition and innovation merge.

    • Early PI Window on Business Polls asking the question “Should the FTC Hold Bloggers Accountable for What They Write?” there is so far a difference in North American-based responses, as compared to overseas. Once again, this is till very early but so far in North America only 20% feel that Blogger comments should be held to current standards all of the time, while 60% indicate that the current FTC standard should only be applied under certain circumstances. 20% had no opinion.

      However, when the same question was asked of the UK and EU, 50% indicated that they should be held to the same standards, while the remaining 50% was equally divided between the “in certain circumstances” and “no opinion” belief.

      Needless to say, Marshall McLuhan would have enjoyed the debate.

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