CANARIE seeks input on new content initiatives as prelude to funding Canada’s broadband research consortium is meeting with industry representatives later this month in hopes of creating a new research coalition for online content. CANARIE Inc is taking the lead in the initiative, which could result in government and private sector funding going to create a new funding program for web-based entertainment and cultural content. Staff at CANARIE say Canada has the opportunity to become a leader in bringing new forms of content to Internet users, but a broad partnership of producers, scientists, academics and government must first be brought together to study the potential uses of broadband pipes. Susan Baldwin, senior director of operations at the arm’s length government agency, says she’s pushing for a new "dot con" research coalition that would experiment with new interfaces and forms of advanced content. A series of focus groups has been planned for the latter half of this month, run by Delvinia Inc (formerly Multimediator Strategy Group Inc). Their purpose is to find out how producers hope to exploit high-speed Internet networks, and what barriers stand in their way. The meetings will culminate in a report to be released in late May by CANARIE’s Content Advisory Committee. "Dot con", not dot comSpeaking at the University of Victoria’s New Media Conference last month, Baldwin told delegates that more focus is needed on what to do with the "big dump pipes", and that the new economy’s attention should be directed to "dot con" rather than "dot com" companies. An e-content research coalition would encourage small companies and large companies – such as rising media conglomerates BCE Inc and CanWest Global Communications Corp – to work collaboratively to share the risk in developing online content, and to establish an innovation cycle for new media. Baldwin says she also sees a role for Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage in helping to facilitate such partnerships. CANARIE, traditionally known as the builder of backbone fibre networks, has been moving increasingly into applications development with several programs that provide financial assistance for tele-health, tele-learning and related programs. Baldwin is reluctant to say how much money may be needed to support an e-content research program, or how much CANARIE might seek from Industry Canada or Heritage. She notes that the private sector would also be expected to ante up cash and in-kind contributions, as is currently done with other CANARIE programs. Seed funding on the table As one of the prime architects behind the Canadian Television Fund, Baldwin says she doesn’t see the multimedia industry needing the same level of government assistance as the broadcasting and production industries have required. "But we will be working on seed funding (from government) to fund R&D multimedia content," she told delegates in Victoria. Among the key questions being posed to the focus groups later this month will be how interactivity – which is still poorly understood – can be better exploited. Baldwin notes that the tools to create new forms, such as translating choreography into digital content using the science of motion, haven’t been created yet. Further, she notes that the question of digital rights management (DRM) will be crucial to the discussion. While the intent of any new program will be to push the Canadian new media industry ahead of the global curve, Baldwin hasn’t ruled out more international cooperation, including potential partners in the European Union.