How The Canadian Population Just Got Raped

…And we’re not even allowed to feel dirty about it.

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission today ruled against the tax paying public in favor of the Canada’s two privately-held national broadcasters.

Assuming that the Federal Court of Appeals doesn’t rule against the CRTC in the coming  months, each and every Canadian citizen that has to subscribe to a cable or satellite television service will now have to pay the long discussed ‘TV Tax’ come 2011.

Why does that matter?

$10 may not seem like a lot of money when it’s going to support Canadian networks – but it really is when you consider most Canadians already pay approx. $80 a month for their service – meaning they’ll be paying $90 come January.

In Ontario, this is doubly worrisome.

Come July 2010, all of Ontario’s cable/satellite subscribers will have  to pay an additional 8% on their subscription bills due to the blended HST kicking in – bringing that bill closer to $97 in January.

Getting back to the ‘TV Tax’, some of you are saying it’s okay because that $10 per person is going to go towards more local and Canadian content.

Nope.

On the same day as announcing the TV Tax, the CRTC also dropped the minimum requirement for Canadian Content hours to zero and mandating that the total CanCon percentage drop from 60% to 55% – meaning your local TV station can carry 5% more episodes of C.S.I.

The only good thing – and I say ‘good’ loosely – is that the CRTC declared that CanWest Global and CTVGlobemedia (CTV) must spend 30% of the money they take in on Canadian produced material such as news programs, public interest programming, etcetera.

An additional 5% of the network revenue must be spent on programs of ‘national interest’ – which translates to Canadian-based dramas, telefilms, and documentaries.

So in some ways, Canadians have made gains in the things they watch, but are being penalized for that privilege.

The glaring issue here is that the CRTC has once again sided with Big Canadian Media without at all listening to Little Canadian Taxpayer – which is a hallmark of the party currently controlling the CRTC’s strings: the Stephen Harper Conservatives (and I made that distinction on purpose).

Steve Harper and the assorted cronies that he’s put in charge of the plethora of Canadian governmental institutions have all come from business backgrounds and are more than happy to sell the country out to private interests.

Never in the history of Canada has Big Business had such an advantage over Small Taxpayer – especially in the media sector.

From the signing on to ACTA behind closed blast doors, to letting the networks rape our pocketbooks – there is no company or industry’s ‘special interest’ lobbyist that Harper won’t invite into the Prime Minister’s Office in that most vaunted of buildings in Ottawa.

With Harper seeing that the Liberals are polling neck and neck with the Conservatives, Steve has to know that the next election – which is going to be sooner than later – is probably not gonna work out for him and his associates.

Which means that now is the time that he needs to sell out the country before it’s too late

It’s a FIRE SALE, folks!

Everything must go!

…Must go to the country’s billionaires, that is.

What can you do, John Q. Public – other than vote the bastards out of office next election?

Nothing, really.

You know… other than bend over, grab your ankles, and let Big Canadian Media sodomize you without the courtesy of lubricating first.

Did you really expect anything else from this guy?

Dear Bell Canada: We Hate You

All of us across Canada have been taking part in a mass experiment for the past 17 days or so.

This experiment was called The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Why is that an experiment and what does it have to do with Bell Canada?

Dear reader, I will tell you ‘cuz that’s just what kind of blogger I am – always looking out for those who don’t know.

For those of you out there who live in countries that are not named Canada, a little background is needed here.

The official Canadian network of the 2010 Olympic Games was CTV – one of only 3 national Canadian networks – and was the only Canadian source of Olympics broadcast over it’s hydra-esque collection of stations: CTV, TSN (The Sports Network), MuchMusic (the Canadian alternative to MTV), and MTV Canada (the Canadianized MTV).

CTV was formerly owned wholly by Bell Canada (now about 20%), and now you’re up to speed.

(UPDATE: Bell Canada has repurchased the entirety of CTV as of September 10th, 2010)

On the whole, the CTV broadcast of the Olympics was completely and totally shit – I’m not gonna mince words here.

The fact that the Canadian-origin Olympic broadcasts were shit is endemic of Bell Canada’s general attitude towards the Canadian public and none of us should have been really surprised at the epic failure of the endeavor.

The technologies employed for the Olympics broadcasts were seriously lacking when compared to the station most Canadians turned to when comparable programming was on offer: NBC.

Why is that?

The answer – to put it simply – is competition.

In the United States of America, NBC had the sole rights for broadcasting the Olympic games to the entire country – but they had to deal with new shows or counter programming from their two rivals, namely ABC and CBS.

NBC was in a position where they had to use absolute top notch video, audio, and graphical technology to make the Olympics palatable to the average American to ensure good Nielsen ratings performance against shows like CSI and LOST.

I give a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zucker, the president of NBC, for making these strong decisions and reaping the benefits.

However, the corporate masters at CTV didn’t really see the need to go all out on the technical standards because they had the Canadian viewers by the balls – so to speak.

Why?

Two things.

Patriotism and lack of choices.

If a Canadian wanted to watch the games, they (at least in the heads of CTV masters) would have no other option than to watch the CTV family coverage.

And what Canadian DIDN’T want to watch the Olympics hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia – which happens to be in CANADA?

What Canadian citizen didn’t want to watch our Canadian Olympians win more gold medals than any other country in the history of the Games?

There was simply no choice for a lot of Canadians out there across our great land (2nd largest country in the world, by the way) who only got two or three channels on their televisions due to lack of cable or satellite service.

You see, CTV’s corporate masters give it lots of money to spend on licensing of the lion’s share of top rated American shows – meaning that even if you wanted to watch American Idol or other supershows instead of the Olympics, and you didn’t have cable, you were stuck watching the Olympics because your feeble rabbit ear & coat hanger setup can’t pull in an American network.

These are the facts of the previously mentioned experiment.

I’m not really aware of the total ratings breakdown of the CTV broadcasts, but from what I gather, it was a resounding success for the big wigs at Bell Canada’s broadcast division.

Which only serves to reinforce the way that Bell Canada operates throughout our vast country.

You see, Bell Canada used to be a complete and total monopoly of the Canadian telephone system – that is up until the past fifteen years or so where the CRTC (the Canadian telecommunications authority) opened up the phone market to other companies.

Bell had to deal with outside companies all of a sudden competing with them for the Canadian telecom dollar.

American companies came in and tried to run services for a while – specifically Sprint and AT&T (both of which eventually folded their Canuck operations into the Canadian telecom company Rogers).

With the fear of losing massive monopoly sized profits, Bell Canada decided to buy CTV and it’s associated networks to shore up it’s bottom line through the often mystical art of television tradecraft.

For the average Canadian, nothing really changed on television – save for the inclusion of Bell’s corporate logo at the bottom of CTV’s original local programming credits.

And in the years since the CTV takeover, nothing has really changed either – aside from some graphical makeup applied to the CTV brand.

Why?

Bell Canada loathes Canadians – or, at the very least, holds Canadians in total and utter contempt.

For all the water that has passed under the bridge since the monopoly breakup, Bell Canada still operates as a monopoly.

An alarmingly large amount of Canada’s telecom assets are still owned and operated by Bell Canada – including (and the most troubling of all) the entire Canadian internet backbone system.

Bell Canada owns the Canadian internet – despite not having a monopoly on how people subscribe to internet services.

Independent internet service providers have to buy their backbone access through Bell’s infrastructure wholesale.

A Canadian citizen might get their internet through a local company, but that internet is ultimately controlled by Bell.

To borrow something from the Matrix movies, Bell Canada guards all the doors and they hold all the keys – at least as far as the internet is concerned.

That local ISP may not have restrictive content filters that would slow down internet applications like BitTorrent or other P2P programs – but your data traffic cultivated by those apps will still suffer speed delays because Bell Canada does filter.

So in the end, no matter who you’re signed up with, Bell Canada still controls what you do on the internet.

Also, your internet is going to suck when compared to other developed nations.

According to a recent study by eggheads at Harvard University, Canada is 18th on a list of internet service quality.

Why eighteenth?

Because Bell still operates as if it’s a monopoly – and it is the one true  internet God in the realm of Canada’s cyberspaces.

In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, or the United States (among many other countries ahead of Canada on the afore-mentioned list), internet services improve over time due to market forces in a wide open internet marketplace.

Let’s use the United States as a working example, shall we?

In the U.S. there is a plethora of companies offering internet access via their own, wholly owned data networks that are in direct competition which each other for American customer dollars.

In hopes of attracting new customers, American networks are constantly upgrading themselves to offer bigger and better products.

Case in point, Verizon has wired large portions of America with a fiber optic transmission network so they can offer blazing data speeds when compared to their competition (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) who are still relying on century-old metal wire network technology.

Competition is the heart of progress in all systems on the planet – both technological and biological.

For something to become better, it has to have incentive to do so – and as it is, Bell Canada has ZERO incentive to improve itself.

I’m sure that somewhere in Bell Canada’s executive building(s), there’s a large brass plaque that reads in bold letters WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

Until the CRTC grows some balls and forces Bell to divest itself of the Canadian internet backbone, Bell Canada will not invest one measly dime in network upgrades than it has to – and believe me, it doesn’t spend one penny that it isn’t forced to.

Except…

Except for internet service via cellphone.

The cellphone service sector is wide open in Canada with many competitors vying for 34 million Canadian’s hard earned cash.

Rogers, Telus, Koodo, Virgin, Wind Mobile – all nipping at Bell’s subscriber base, which forced the company to innovate and try to offer a technological edge to it’s customers that wouldn’t be available to other services.

If there weren’t other cellphone service providers in the Canadian market, Canadians would not have access to 3G or the oncoming 4G.

Bell users now have the opportunity to use the vaunted iPhone (gag me with a spoon) because Bell was forced to upgrade it’s network to compete with Rogers who was already offering iPhones.

That’s the process of competitive evolution in action.

The dinosaurs went through this hundreds of millions of years ago in our planet’s distant past, but the dinosaur that is Bell Canada simply refuses to evolve because there isn’t another corporate beastie big enough to take a bite out of it’s gnarled hide.

For this, we Canadians are in the technological third-world – which really, really sucks.

As much as we love to brag to our quarrelsome American neighbors about how we have superior, free healthcare and how we mopped the floor with them in the 2010 Olympic gold medal count, we must continuously hide our shame in regards to how friggin’ slow our internet speeds are.

I sit here in envy of whichever American cities get selected for Google’s internet service experiments that promises speeds of 1GB per second: yes, one gigabyte per second compared to my 300 kilobytes per second as I write this blog.

No, 300kbps isn’t a national average in Canada.

The average data speed in high-speed enabled communities throughout Canada is 10 megabytes per second via DSL service, 12Mbps via cable internet service – and I’ve enjoyed connection speeds of up to 5Mbps via DSL in the past, but those were anomalous and based on living in the right areas where Bell spent some extra money on their wiring .

Yes… I could subscribe to my cable company’s (Cogeco) internet service and get that 12Mbps, but there’s a gigantic catch to that blissful speed: a solid 60 gigabyte data cap – which is fairly standard amongst North American cable companies.

60GB isn’t enough by far for my demanding usage as I regularly move 200GB or so a month via gaming, uploading to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr, and downloading music/TV shows/movies.

So I’m stuck on this crappy Bell-supplied architecture.

And we, as Canadians, were stuck with the crappy, Bell-managed CTV Olympics coverage when we couldn’t turn to NBC for the same event – which was sporadic at best since NBC’s coverage was very focused on American Olympians and would skip events where the U.S. wasn’t competing, and completely blanked the Canadian cultural portion of the Closing Ceremonies.

AARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! @$#%&!

Seriously, Bell Canada… what the hell?

The next time I stop to use a pay-phone, I hope you choke to death on the two quarters.

.

.

.

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Oh… and that experiment and it’s purpose?

To figure out how much shit we as Canadians are willing to put up with.

And by the looks of it, Bell Canada will continue to use the Canadian market as it’s own personal outhouse.

Thoughts On The 2010 Golden Globes

First thing off the bat that I noticed was the directing SUCKED.

Camera people were consistently out of place, and the coordinators had almost no idea of where anyone was seated.

WTF? How do you screw that shit up?

But I digress…

Big winner of the night were the Na’vi – who walked away with Best Motion Picture and Best Director – which A) really primes the movie for Oscar glory, and B) was inevitable.

Robert Downey, Jr. got some love for SHERLOCK HOLMES – but I was really puzzled about the category: Comedy/Musical.

Me thinks I’ll have to check that flick out to properly gauge the jokes and musical numbers.

Hollywood’s most overlooked workhorse, Jeff Bridges, finally got an award for his country music flick CRAZY HEART – which I have yet to see (anyone want to send me a screener copy?).

One of the most dumbfounding moments of the night was Drew Barrymore getting some hardware for GRAY GARDENS – not because she won (she’s always charming) but the fact that she’s never won a Golden Globe before, especially since she’s been coming to the awards since she was 7 or 8 years old.

It was cool to see what Michael Giacchino actually looked like (musical score for UP) as I’d never laid eyes on him before – so now he goes into the mental gallery with Danny Elfman and John Williams.

It was fitting that the scene-chewing Jew Hunter from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS won a trophy as Cristoph Waltz is actually a pretty decent dude.

The TV awards were pretty lame as nobody from any worthwhile shows won awards – though MAD MEN picked up Best Show (obvious, no?).

…Which brings me to the show’s actual Golden Globes:

Mmmm... global

Oh… and Ricky Gervais’ shot at Mel Gibson? Priceless!

Things That I Don’t Understand…

Today’s sermon from the pulpit is about understanding.

In this case, the lack thereof.

There are  many things in this world that I think I have a real good grasp of, and there are many other things that I know of in passing.

But sometimes I’m confronted with things that my brain (such as it is) cannot comprehend – in fact, if someone tried to explain them to me, I’m pretty sure that I’d mistake them for speaking Swahili with a touch of Polish.

I fully admit that this is through my own ignorance – which is probably incurable at this stage in my life.

For those who want to look down their noses at me for the following, please harken back to a simpler time in the golden age of cinema to the immortal words of Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Shall we get on with it?

ITEM NUMBER ONE

People who wear their watches on the inside of their wrists.

What is that all about?

Isn’t that a sure-fire way to guarantee your watch get’s scuffed up as it’s constantly rubbing against your clothes or things you’re carrying under your arm?

Also, it defeats the purpose of wearing a nice watch since nobody can see it.

Are you expecting people to compliment you on your outstanding choice in watch bands? “Hey, Frank! I admire your choice in stainless steel wrist bands. You should definitely see me after closing about a raise.”

Does this stem somehow from your being to lazy to turn your arm 45 degrees so you can tell the time?

I have no idea why this bothers me so much, but it does.

It’s just damn odd.

ITEM NUMBER TWO

Why do parents insist on bringing their screaming children to a store with them?

Are they so blissfully ignorant of their child’s wants/needs/tantrums that they don’t actually register the cacophony escaping little Jimmy Junior’s yap?

Do they simply not give a rat’s ass? Either about their child or the shoppers 20 aisles over that have to listen to the screaming?

Is it simply a symptom of parents being afraid of disciplining their children lest the Children’s Aid Society come and take their child away from them? (If this is the case, I find it on the whole unacceptable that a public bureaucracy has become such a boogeyman to society on the whole.)

If I had carried on like some of these kids do while my parents were in a store/restaurant/other public place, I would have for certain gotten a thump on the head – what us older people commonly refer to as a “brain duster” – for my effort.

Now, before you say it, I’m well aware that it’s hard to discipline a toddler or someone younger – and I’m not suggesting you apply the above method at all.

However… I am saying you should have the common courtesy of taking your child out of the store until she or he calms down.

Why is it that we have learned to tolerate ignorant people? It wasn’t so long ago that people would cluck their tongues and shake their head in an obvious manner as to let the parent know that they were being a major nuisance – or a store employee would politely ask you to step outside with your child.

I think store owners are just too afraid of being sued in this day and age for even suggesting something like that.

Which means the rest of us have to suffer as a result – at least until decency becomes trendy again.

Trust me… I’m not holding my breath.

ITEM NUMBER THREE

The machinations of the ice cream industry puzzle me to no end.

Can someone please tell me the difference between ice cream and frozen dessert? Especially since they’re  both packaged and marketed in the exact same way?

Ice cream comes in a 2 liter tub.

Frozen dessert comes in a 2 liter tub.

Both come in a cavalcade of assorted flavors.

Both are made from milk.

Both taste the same to me.

So what the hell is the difference?

Also… why has the price of store-purchased ice cream gone up by a margin of 100% in the past 3 years or so?

Are cows more expensive lately? Has the cost of feeding them skyrocketed?

Has the ice cream market chilled out to the point where they have to charge twice as much to make up for the fact that they’re making half the sales that they used to? (Yes… I’m discounting the circular logic that people are buying less ice cream since it’s more expensive.)

How has the price of ice cream at Dairy Queen or McDonald’s not followed suit? Ice cream at these stores has generally stayed the same with an allowance for inflation.

Why does it cost me $7 dollars to buy a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when it used to cost $3.50 only 3 short years ago?

Seriously.

What the hell?

ITEM NUMBER FOUR

Non-Alcoholic Beer.

What’s the purpose?

Does beer taste so great that you’re willing to forgo the actual reason for drinking beer in the first place?

Is this a product to make people who can’t handle alcohol look cool to their peers by supporting a popular beer brand?

If you’re a recovering alcoholic and purchasing this fake beer, doesn’t that make you masochistic?

ITEM NUMBER FIVE

People who bring large baby carriages onto public buses.

If two people do this, it remove six seats from the seating pool since they will flip up the two 3-person benches at the very front of the bus in order to park their carriages.

A) That seating is for the elderly, pregnant, and otherwise infirm populace.

B) It eliminates seating on already packed bus routes.

C) It creates difficult bottle-necking when it comes to getting on and off the bus.

When this situation occurs on a heavily utilized route, the bus ends up looking like a train in India.

When you think of it in civic terms, this is clearly a public safety issue, so why aren’t there firm policies in place to exclude this situation from happening?

ITEM NUMBER SIX

Finally, given the time of year it is, I ask this?

Why do TV networks pull new shows after like 3 episodes?

In this day and age, television shows are thoroughly tested with potential audiences for weeks (sometimes months) before being put on the airwaves for the mainstream public to consume.

This normally happens when they stupidly put their new show – which they’ve touted as the next best thing – against a ratings powerhouse like American Idol or Dancing With The Stars which have their own firmly entrenched fanbases which aren’t likely to switch to something unknown.

I understand the mechanics: poorly performing shows don’t pull in eyeballs to the advertiser’s commercials – which are what pay for network programming.

Instead of shifting a program around on the schedule to compete against something really weak – say, I don’t know, America’s Funniest Home Videos or some tripe like that – they just pull it off the air without trying  to foster audience growth which could lead to a bigger audience share for the network.

This happens to a lot of top-notch programming and is the major force behind the trend that results in pure crap Monday to Friday.

The best example I can think of in recent history was NBC’s short-lived Journeyman which built up a decent fanbase who were on the internet being quite vocal about their adoration of the program and the philosophical debates it inspired.

Though, I must admit, NBC did give the show a fair shake and allowed it to end somewhat on it’s own terms  with 13 epsiodes – which completely bucks the trend.

3 or 4 episodes tops! That’s all you get!

Unless your show is on Fox.

If it’s Fox, you’ll notice the inverse of this problem.

Successful shows are moved to days where nobody watches TV i.e. Friday night, and the shows that appeal to the lowest possible denominator move into the vacuum that’s left behind.

In case anyone missed it, Fringe has started that march to the TV Death Slot.

The show was on Wednesday with a solid American Idol lead-in last season, and now will be found on Thursday opposite CBS powerhouse C.S.I. and the like.

Watch it move to Friday at the mid-season point.

Then again, it IS Fox. It’s hatred for the television format is universal.

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