What’s the Agenda at @TheAgenda?

Google’s European charm offensive on “Article 13” has come to Canada in search of earned media.  They got it last night on a previously-credible news show called The Agenda in the “Struggling Artists and Copyright Rules” episode.  (For readers outside of Canada, the Agenda is one of the top news magazine television programs in Canada, hosted by the erudite Steve Paikin.)

Both Canada and the European Union are going through very different copyright reform policy revisions which could not be more different, but The Agenda was determined to hold up Big Tech’s objections to the European Copyright Directive as some kind of example for the Canadian review of its 2012 Copyright Modernization Act which is being conducted largely in the normal course as required by statute.  

By contrast, the Copyright Directive for the Single Digital Market (often called “Article 13”) bears little resemblance to the Canadian review.

If you watched The Agenda last night with the EFF’s Cory Doctorow, the Canadian science fiction author, and Canadian artists Miranda Mulholland and Donald Quan, you really would not have much of an idea.  

I’ve actually appeared on The Agenda and was very impressed with the amount of objective preparation the show’s producers put in and the thoroughness with which they approached the subject.  This kind of staff work is critical to preserving Steve Paikin’s credibility and how he conducts interviews with multiple persons, sometimes phoning in from out of the studio.

Given my experience with the program, I was quite taken aback by the sloppiness of the questioning that verged on propaganda from multinational corporations at several moments despite Miranda and Donald’s best efforts.  What I saw was the complete opposite of my own experience.  Here’s a few examples, more to come.

—Julia Reda represents Germany in the European Parliament?  Let us be clear—Julia Reda may have a German constituency, but Julia Reda hardly “represents Germany” if the implication is—and I think it was—that Julia Reda’s views are representative of Germany as a whole.  She is the sole Member of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party and her views are not only very pirate, but were also voted down by substantial majorities.  

—the use of neuvoo.ca, which appears to be a crowd sourced job site as evidence of creator “annual income”.  I’ve quickly looked over the neuvoo site and can’t find the name of a live person attached to it, so we don’t really know much about it.  The site appears to be aggregating job postings from other sites (like Uber), so I’d really like to see the methodology.  Having said that, the neuvoo annual income numbers (like $61,798 for a writer compared to the Writers Union of Canada number of $9,380) seem greatly inflated and counterintuitive.  If there’s a good reason to believe a job aggregator as opposed to the union representing job categories, I’m all ears.  But the real question I have is why The Agenda didn’t use government statistics as the comparison, or at least mention some of the research work done by the industry or other countries or cities (such as the Austin Music Census).

—the failure by Steve Paikin to mention Cory Doctorow’s long time involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The EFF lobbying group was not only disclosed by Google in court documents as a recipient of corporate donations but benefited to the tune of $1 million in a cy pres award that is of the type that is currently under review by the United States Supreme Court.  Google, of course, is on Julia Reda’s side of the Article 13 vote and is today lobbying the European Parliament against Article 13, making many of the same arguments as Cory Doctorow did on The Agenda.

We’ll be looking into this deeper, but it doesn’t take much of a cynic to question why Steve Paikin would allow his program to be coopted in the effort to oppose Article 13.  I for one don’t believe Mr. Paikin is that kind of guy, and I think that he’s very careful about being used.  I know he certainly was careful when I was on the show.

This leads one to the inescapable conclusion that either his producer was in the tank for Google or was incredibly sloppy.  Either conclusion is equally unfortunate.

We’ll come back to this soon.