“Are We Entitled to Success?” – JJ McCullough Tackles Heart of Online Streaming Act at CRTC Hearing

The CRTC hearing of the Online Streaming Act continues and JJ McCullough got the opportunity to tackle the heart of the debate.

The CRTC is continuing to host hearings on how to implement the hugely controversial Online Streaming Act. We’ve already covered some of the responses from different stakeholders previously. Google, for instance, called for a system that supports the digital ecosystem, allowing smaller creators to succeed. Meanwhile, legacy media organization, Bell, argued that “a level playing field is not enough” and demanded a system that props their operations up at the expense of everyone else.

This dynamic where legacy media companies demand a system that is there to strictly serve their interests and keep out competition versus new players begging to be allowed to follow their dreams and access an audience has been something of a major hallmark of the debate surrounding the Online Streaming Act. This is, of course, no accident that it could be distilled to this sort of dynamic. After all, the Online Streaming Act calls on the CRTC to demand outcomes of algorithms that favour legacy media “Cancon” content at the expense of everyone else. Digital first creators, of course, had every reason to be scared that their livelihoods could be ended due to government intervention. After all, they took on the dynamics of a new digital world and found success. The last thing they need is a radical backwards thinking government policy that rolls back their success to solely benefits legacy media players.

Recently, this played out when a CRTC commissioner asked YouTuber, JJ McCullough, his thoughts on how legacy radio stations are struggling to keep the lights on and asked what his thoughts are on this. JJ, naturally, knocked it out of the park with his response:

In a nutshell, for those who can’t view the video, JJ likened the situation to a bakery. If he starts up a bakery and he is unable to sell his baked goods to customers because there’s no demand, is that a failure on his part, a market failure, or a government failure? Are we entitled to success? In his view, we are entitled to be permitted to make an attempt, but we aren’t necessarily entitled to success. If those radio stations are struggling because there is a lack of interest in their product, then maybe they should be permitted to fail so newer entrants that provide a product people want can take their place. That is generally his argument in a nutshell.

No doubt legacy media organizations will attack this response for being uncaring about the alleged value legacy media players give to communities, but ultimately, he is right on the money with his response.

I personally don’t listen to legacy radio anymore – at least, not intentionally. The music choice is generally garbage and has been put on repeat for, at minimum, the last 20 years. Traditional radio provides no value to me and, as a result, I, as a consumer, choose not to listen to it. When I speak to others about the music on the radio these days, the general consensus is that music on the radio is not their personal choice, but it’s a default choice that others enjoy. Weirdly enough, despite people formulating a caricature of a music fan that brought us to this point, it’s actually surprisingly rare to find someone that fits that description. It’s not music we want to listen to, but music we have to listen to which is a pretty significant difference.

What I have no problem doing is watching hours of YouTube video’s. Whether I want to be intellectually intrigued by science video’s or analyzing poker hands, entertained by a challenge done by MrBeast or some unusual computer test by Linus Tech Tips, or be better informed about the gaming sector by watching video’s by Gameranx or GamingBolt. These are just a few examples, but when I want interesting content, generally, YouTube has been my go to choice for a while now because the content is just vastly superior to anything the legacy media companies push out.

No doubt to the surprise of no one, I’m far from alone. People have increasingly turned to platforms like TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, and other new platforms because the content is simply better. What’s more, those platforms also double as serving as a launching pad for new creators careers. So, as a result, the audience has been shifting to online sources of entertainment. As legacy producers cut budgets and do whatever they can to push out whatever garbage they come up on the cheap, the quality just continues to diminish. This further offers incentives for people to simply switch off the TV and switch on their computer to watch content on these platforms.

It’s not as though these legacy players didn’t have time to adapt. Arguably, the internet has received mainstream attention for the better part of 30 years now. Analysts have long pointed out that the internet is the way of the future. As the internet grew more successful, it became increasingly obvious that the internet, in general, is the way of the future. Yet, despite all of that, legacy media players simply chose to ignore all of this. For the most part, they have concluded that the internet is just a fad that would just go away on its own sooner or later. Little surprise, they chose to do little to nothing to respond to this fundamental technological shift – and they did so at their own peril.

That is ultimately how we ended up with the situation we got to today here in Canada. Legacy media organizations are blaming the internet for their downfall despite it being obvious that it was their own business choices that led them to where they are today. In response, those organizations have utilized their close relationships with the government and lobbied for laws that props up their clearly failed business models.

That ultimately came in the form of the Online Streaming Act where revenues derived from the success of the online ecosystem would get funnelled out and siphoned into the bank accounts of the failing business models of the legacy media corporations. Even worse is that it also manipulates algorithms so that new digital first creators will lose access to the audience on those platforms as well. Why? Because people freely chose the content of new players over the legacy media companies. Through the Online Streaming Act, the government is saying that the consumers chose wrong and must be force fed the content of legacy companies. The government also says that if you chose to make a career making content online, you chose wrong and the government will ensure that you never succeed. This is cruel and wrong.

This is ultimately circling back to the main question that JJ asked: “are we entitled to success?” Understandably, the answer is “no”. When legacy media companies say that they have been around for 40 years, 50 years, or however long they have been around, therefore, they are entitled to be successful forever no matter what, they are arguing that they deserve audiences no matter what. They feel that they can put together the cheapest, most unwatchable/unlistenable content out there and be automatically granted a mass audience regardless of any factor. Sorry to say this, but that’s not how the real world works.

Things only get worse from there. The knock on effect of these efforts is that people who produce content that people actually want to watch are getting shut out of the marketplace. No matter how great the content is that they produce, the government is saying that it doesn’t matter what is produced because you are not part of their old boys club of the entitled. Therefore, the audience you seek will be an audience you will never get access to.

Further, for legacy players, if they get a system that financially rewards them for no reason and forces audiences to consume their content, what incentive do they have to actually produce good content? Nothing. They can pump out all the garbage in the world for all they care. They’ll still get their paychecks in the end. Really, for them, producing any content, regardless of quality, is just going through the motions. For all they care, they could produce a video of strictly paint drying, but if such a video falls below a certain threshold of success, then it’s a market failure, not a failure on their part to produce content that is worth watching.

However reasonable the points are, it probably won’t matter much. It is well known that the CRTC is a poster child for regulatory capture. The best chance to avert this disaster of a law was going through the House of Commons and the Senate. That ship has sailed. When this whole process is done, the CRTC will simply do whatever their corporate masters tell them to because, after all, it is legacy media that the CRTC serves in the end. They could care less about the little people.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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