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Canadian minister mulls capping U.S. TV prices

TORONTO — The amount Canadian broadcasters pay for rights to U.S. TV programs could be capped to prevent bidding wars if recent musings by Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps become government policy.

Copps told a conference of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. in Ottawa Friday that the expenditure cap was one of the ideas she gleaned from a round table summit with 25 representatives of Canada’s cultural elite a week earlier.

She noted that control of Canada’s major market TV stations is falling into fewer and fewer hands. WIC Western Intl. Communications Ltd. of Vancouver, CanWest Global Communications Corp. of Winnipeg and Baton Broadcasting Inc. and Chum Ltd., both of Toronto, control most of the TV stations worth owning in English-speaking Canada.

These few national private broadcasting empires, licensed to provide network-like services, could compete equally for rights to U.S. programming and set off a bidding war that Copps said would ultimately mean less money for Canadian programming.

Copps also wondered aloud whether the definition of Canadian content should exclude news and sports. Canadian broadcasters are required to deliver a high level of Canadian content — an obligation they fulfill with almost nothing but news and sports

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