The Internet and sports

Why the relationship may be in danger

Ryan Janz

The Internet has become a bountiful source of riches for sports fans. However, recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearings on the potential regulation of new media, specifically for Canadian content on the Internet, may have effects for sport aficionados.

Currently, the Internet is under no regulation by the CRTC for content. This is in thanks to the 1999 decision by the CRTC to exempt all content on the Internet from regulation. This was otherwise known as the “hands off” rule to the Internet.

That decision allowed companies to produce innovative and exciting news to the standards of new media including podcasts and streaming video. The benefits were huge for both sports fans and producers alike.

Sports fans could leap frog conventional forms of media like television to see their favourite sports teams. An example of this includes seeing over 100 Major League Soccer games live for just $20 US on a streaming video site.

Improvements in technology have drastically reduced the cost of production, thus those who could not afford to show games live on conventional television 10 to 15 years ago can show games live on the Internet.

A great local example is our University of Winnipeg Wesmen, who show live streaming video of home games throughout the regular season.

Some arts and culture groups have been critical of the 1999 “hands off” approach because an unregulated Internet has drained out Canadian voices in a sea of international content.

Some of the proposals at the hearings involved the CRTC regulating the Internet, just like conventional media outlets, to protect Canadian content.

One proposal was for all audio and visual works on the Internet to be put under the Canadian Broadcasting Act, which requires a license to produce live streaming video from Canada on the Web.

The impact of a regulated Internet could hurt sports fans. If Internet producers are required to be licensed like conventional broadcasters, their costs of production would go up.

It could potentially hurt those small producers because they may not be able to afford the licensing required. Specifically, the Wesmen would no longer be able to broadcast their games via streaming video.

“It is increasingly clear that the blossoming of new media is a threat to old business models, not to Canadian content,” University of Ottawa law and e-commerce professor Micheal Geist wrote in a Toronto Star column in April 2007.

Perhaps the old business model does not work in the age of Internet. Rather, new media is thriving and has given sports fans the best coverage they have ever seen and it should be kept this way.

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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