Canada Day with Joel Plaskett

Happy Canada Day!

Adam and I are both out of town today, so the World Famous Dan Shields will be filling in for us.

However, Adam did get a chance to sit down with Joel Plaskett yesterday. We’ll also air it next tuesday, but in the mean time consider this a Canada Day gift for those that read the blog. Joel Plaskett Emergency is playing on Parliament Hill as part of the Canada Day festivities, there is a set in the afternoon and in the evening.

Adam, appropriately, throws to True Patriot Love at the end of the interview. That doesn’t really work on the tubes, so here is some youtube goodness.

Mike on Rogers 22

I’ll be on Rogers television this evening from 9-10 PM as part of a panel discussing cycling and cycling infrastructure. Apparently there will be opportunity to call in and ask questions. So, check it out, if only for the opportunity to see and hear my beautiful face/voice.

Radio Topics, June 23rd

It’s been raining for two weeks. I hope that you’ve built an ark like I have.

We have an exciting show lined up. At 7:45 Adam will talk with speak with Christopher Shulgan about his new book the Soviet Ambassador. After the 8am BBC news I’ll speak with Brad MacNeil of the Ottawa Fringe Festival. At 8:30 we’ll be speaking to someone from the Billings Estate museum about their summer events.

We’ll also talk about some of the following:

Fully body scans at airports: Better for privacy?

Astronaut recruitment almost over!

Pigeons are going to be culled! (This is bad news).

Curb use of tasers or be rid of them?

MPP complains about police surveillance at Sharbot Lake. Adam waiting patiently for them to let their guard down.

After banning tasers, senate wants to build more icebreakers

Green Shift.

Meredith Brown of Ottawa River Keeper

On Tuesday I spoke with Meredith Brown, Executive Director and Riverkeeper of Ottawa Riverkeeper, about that organizations Annual General Meeting.

While the AGM did take place on tuesday (I had left my thumbstick at home, so this file sat uselessly at CKCU whilst the meeting went on), she does highlight a number of pressures that the Ottawa river faces and what her organization is hoping to see happen.

Theatres, Copyright, and Statistics, oh my!

In Mel Hurtig’s new book (for which I have an interview in queue – Once the House rises for the summer, I’ll start working through my backlog of book interviews) he mentions that he begins his day by checking out the latest releases from Statistics Canada in The Daily. I read that, and was pretty happy to find out that there was at least one other person in the country that does so for fun. If I wasn’t such a big fan of free trade, I’d apply for a job with the Council of Canadians just because of that.

But I digress. Usually The Daily is pretty dull, filled with labour market statistics and break downs of what bike couriers cost in various cities across Canada. Good to know if you want to find out if you are getting ripped off sending a package across town, but that’s about it.

But occasionally you’ll find something that takes conventional wisdom and bludgeons it to death. Last tuesday was one of those times.

Some background: The movie studios have long maintained that they are getting destroyed by movie pirates. You’ve probably seen some of the ads run before movies. The logic goes that the rise of downloading full films means that fewer people are going to theatres or buying DVDs, meaning that studios lose money. They are quick to point out that doesn’t it doesn’t just mean that Disney is out money, it means that regular hardworking people are out of a job. Canada has been accused of being a hot bed of movie piracy, prompting the government to pass legislation last year banning “camcording.” This was in keeping with the Harper government’s policy of making illegal things illegaler.

I think for movie piracy to be the scourge that they are making it out to be, a couple of things need to be true:

  1. Movie studios aren’t making money on the films that they produce.
  2. Movie theatres aren’t making money on the films that they show.

I don’t include people that sell DVDs because if a DVD doesn’t sell at Walmart, by and large it can be returned to the distributor. If a movie doesn’t sell at a theatre, they are out revenue.

For the first, Slate had an excellent series a few years ago on the economics of Hollywood. The most important for our purposes looks to where Hollywood makes its money. Essentially, when they send a film to show in a theatre, they lose money, but this is more than recouped by DVD and television revenues, and obviously forgets any of the many tax tricks that they can play to reduce costs. Theatres, Slate says pretty convincingly, are a loss leader for other ways in which they take money from you. Needless to say, after I read this Hollywood’s copyright sob story seemed a bit more of a stretch.

For the second, I always kinda figured that the story was different for theatres themselves. They are at the front lines of changing technologies: no longer is it necessary to go to a theatre to see a film as it was meant to be seen: more and more people have home theatres with surround sound and high definition televisions. At home, popcorn is cheap and the only cellphone that rings is your own. An industry in transition would be bound to susceptible to losses to piracy.

Except, of course, that it hasn’t been. Here’s what Statistics Canada says:

The large theatres reduced their expenses 6.4% over the two-year period compared with the 4.7% drop recorded by the entire industry over the same period. As a result, these top companies saw their profit margins increase from 1.4% in 2005 to 10.2% in 2006. This was higher than the profit margin for the whole industry of 9.3%.

Smaller theatres didn’t do quite as well, but still saw improvements. It should be noted that over this period, revenues were up a little over 2%, and ticket sales up a little under 2%, so while selling more expensive tickets to more people probably helped, the real success was in reducing expenses by almost 6.5%. Funny, how if you cut costs, you can make more money.

Now, some caveats: Obviously, downloading illegal copies of films from the internet is piracy, and there should be punishments for those people that try to make such copies of films for distribution. I don’t think that the problem rests with people surreptitiously using a handicam, nor do I think that a person that downloads a film would have paid to see it otherwise, but what evs. Also, ticket sales to theatres fell in 2004 and 2005, for which I have no idea why. Let’s blame the absence of a Lord of the Rings Movie.

The real lesson to take from this, however, is that the movie industry is doing more than all right, and managing to make lots of money even as some people opt to download their products rather than see them in theatres.  Normally, making a round-a-bout, geeky point would be worth it in and of itself, but with new copyright legislation on the books, we’re going to start hearing a lot about how big businesses are struggling such sorts of protections. A ban on camcording is unnecessary, but not egregious. What we’ve seen tabled would represent a much more direct interference in the personal use of technology and enjoyment of artistic materials. We can’t win if we accept the premise of the problem, and fighting back with numbers is a good first step in rejecting that.

Radio Topics June 17th

Tuesday! Today marks the 150th anniversary of a letter from some dude spooking Charles Darwin into publishing his theories on evolution. But we won’t be talking about that.

We do, however, have a busy show. At 7:30, we’ll be joined by Sean Maguire as part of our semi-regular series on Carleton student politics. This time, we’ll look at a motion, presented by CUSA, at a recent CFS conference which would have made it more difficult to leave the federation. At 8:30 we’ll be joined by Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Ottawa Riverkeeper, to talk about their upcoming AGM.

We’ll also talk about:

Faint hope for Elgin St. concert hall?

The International Chicken and Rib cook off returns to Sparks St.!

Canadian troops told not to look; tell?

Cole Harbour is a burnin’: nothing to do with Penguins Stanley Cup defeat.

Ottawa one step closer to curbside composting and thus becoming Halifax circa 1998.

Lord’s Prayer to stay at Queen’s Park; second prayer to rotate to provide “balance.” 

Bye Howard Hampton!

Heavy rains ruin BC pot harvest!

Another foot found in BC; this time from the left.

Find the important sentence

This is a tragedy, to be sure. But let’s find an important sentence, where things get all the more tragic:

Witnesses testified that, after nine hours of alcohol consumption — including an estimated $1,500 spent on drinks and dances — a severely intoxicated Mr. Comeau left the bar, falling down the back stairs on his way to the parking lot. He attempted to enter a taxi, was refused, and proceeded to climb into his own vehicle, where he passed out for 20 minutes before driving away.

Emphasis is, of course, mine. Now, none of this excuses him then driving drunk. That is unforgiveable. It doesn’t excuse him having continued to be served alcohol after he was (presumably) visibly drunk, or allowed to leave without it being clear someone else was driving him. That was irresponsible. I am also unfamiliar with the finer points of Gatineau taxi policy – perhaps they can refuse unruly or extremely intoxicated potential fares – but there was a final  opportunity that this tragedy could have been avoided, and it was lost.

Radio Topics, June 10

If there was a god, it would not be so hot outside. I hate the summer.

In anycase, it’s tuesday. Adam and I will be sweatin’ it out at CKCU from 7 to 9am, 93.1fm for those in the Ottawa area, for everyone else.

At 8:30, Adam will speak with Matthew Barber, who is playing Westfest on Friday evening.

Other topics will include:

Hockey Night In Canada “loses” its theme to CTV. In honour, we’ll play the most heartwarming song about hockey.

Government to offer official apology for residential schools program on Wednesday.

“Oily” slips up. Good luck seeing it at the pumps!

Bank Street closed for the foreseeable future; I think it will actually have been closed more than it was open this year.

Apparently there are no recycling bins on Bank Street.

Vancouver mayor loses primary, curses having said “that could never happen to me” whilst watching season 3 of The Wire.

Race for the Prize: Sparks Street Edition

Today I had the pleasure of helping out at a 50-yard race down Sparks Street to promote the upcoming Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre Track Challenge (an event I’ve previously discussed). The race pitted a number of Olympic hopefuls against local business leaders and the Mayor. For fun, we’ll experiment with telling stories with pictures.

It’s remarkable how readily people obey pylons, even if it is just some dudes setting them up.

Racers, at the starting line.

The winner? The Mayor.

Post race, the Mayor basks in victory.