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ATTENDANCE RISES 10% AT BANFF FEST

More than 1,000 TV executives and programmers from Canada and around the globe will be descending on the picturesque Alberta town of Banff this week for the 16th annual Banff Television Festival – and fest topper Jerry Ezekiel wants to make it clear industryites are not making the trek to the Rockies simply for the stunning sightseeing.

High-end product

Attendance is up by better than 10% because Banff has become a key place for anyone involved in the production or distribution of high-end TV product, Ezekiel says. The fest is a place to showcase programming, and there are a record 668 programs submitted from 40 countries for the Banff Rockie Awards, set to be handed out June 19.

The Banff fest – which runs June 18 to 24 – is not a hardnosed market, but the annual confab has developed into an important spot for Canuck TV folks to talk up co-production with producers and broadcasters from other countries.

Delegates now regularly schedule meetings around the fest seminars, which take place June 19 through June 23.

“I’m living testimony to the fact that business is done at Banff,” says Paul Gratton, head of the new CHUM-owned Bravo network. “For performing-arts, high-quality television and high-end drama, Banff is a great place to go.”

Gratton is on several panels at this year’s edition, notably one titled “The Specialty Channels – One Year Later” that will bring together most of the main specialty-channel programmers in Canada. Panels include a seminar on international documentary co-productions with A&E veepee Michael Katz, Bernard Macleod from Time-Life Video and Television, David Blake Knox from RTE in Ireland, and Vincent Burke from New Zealand’s Top Shelf Prods., and another on the brewing satellite TV battle in Canada featuring reps from the main Canuck dish contenders and cable companies.

Canadian-British co-production will be in the spotlight during a session on such partnerships June 20, with executives from Canadian indies like Alliance and Atlantis chatting with managers from pubcasters on both sides of the Atlantic.

Banff is a significant stop for the Canadian pubcaster because it’s an opportunity to meet with current and potential future co-production partners, says Jim Burt, creative head of movies and miniseries at the CBC. This year’s fest also will be a chance for the pubcaster to publicize its co-prod emphasis.

French presence

There will be a sizeable contingent from French film and TV company Canal Plus, including chairman Pierre Lescure, with Banff set to hand out its annual CanWest Global Outstanding Achievement Award to the Gallic paybox at a ceremony June 20.

This year’s Banff fest also will be paying tribute to the Intl. Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the sponsor of the Intl. Emmy Awards. The Council will be honored at a gala dinner June 22.

Joseph Schuman Contributed To This Report.

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