Canadian TV plans new look

Canada’s private TV operators are jumping into the deep end of technological and sociological change.

The telecasters are preparing to increase Canadian content and, at the same time, diversify their workforce to better represent market demographics.

Realizing that a 200+ channel universe is just around the corner, Canada’s stations are racing to establish local and Canadian programming that won’t be available from foreign (i.e. American) DBS “death stars.”

“We’ll be investing more in series like ‘ENG’ or ‘Street Legal,’ TV that reflects the Canadian way of life in a professional way,” says Canadian Assn. of Broadcasters president Michael McCabe.

He forecasts that by 1995 the majority of prime time popular entertainment will be home-grown, much of it then sold to the international market. The immediate challenge is to find a way of paying for it.

“Revenues, expenditures and profits are out of balance. The cable industry collects $ C1.6 billion ($ 1.3 billion) a year and spends $ C50 million ($ 40.3 million) on programming. We take in $ C1.3 billion ($ 1 billion) and spend $ C 450 million ($ 362 million).”

The CAB wants the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission to approve new cable fees that would be directed to private telecasters. The CRTC will consider the idea at upcoming hearings on the overall restructuring of Canadian broadcasting.

Whatever the outcome of that process, the CAB has committed itself to a wide-ranging, voluntary employment equity program which will also transform Canadian airwaves.

While required to better represent women and minorities under the federal Broadcasting Act, McCabe says the industry is also moving out of financial self-interest.

“It’s good business,” says McCabe. “I can go into a radio station in Toronto where there’s a large Asian population, look at the sales force and see no Asians. We will do better and look and sound like our communities.”

The CAB has hired a full-time director of human resource development to oversee the program including assembly of a “people bank” so that employers can’t argue that qualified equity candidates aren’t available.

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