CRTC is doomed to lose the fight it’s picked with Netflix

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CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais warned at a recent CRTC hearing that he would start regulating the popular U.S.-based video streaming service if Netflix refused to hand over extensive data on its Canadian operations.
(Blair Gable for The Globe and Mail)

By Barrie McKenna

Sunday September the 28th, 2014

So Jean-Pierre Blais wants to take on Netflix.

He might want to reconsider. This is a fight the head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada’s top broadcast regulator, will almost certainly lose.

Mr. Blais warned at a recent CRTC hearing that he would start regulating the popular U.S.-based video streaming service if Netflix refused to hand over extensive data on its Canadian operations.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., balked, leaving Mr. Blais brandishing a threat he may be unable to enforce.

Even the government doesn’t have his back. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Heritage Minister Shelly Glover have made it clear they aren’t interested in taxing or regulating Netflix.

Another hitch that may not have occurred to Mr. Blais is the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, which preceded NAFTA. Any regulatory clampdown on Netflix could provoke swift and costly U.S. retaliation from Washington.

And that may well explain Netflix’s cocky defiance in the face of Mr. Blais’ demand for information about its business in Canada.
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