Rogers’ policy push draws producers’ ire

Industry watchdog considers backing proposal

TORONTO — Canada’s largest cabler, Rogers Communications, has been accused of threatening producers after it lobbied them to back a move to allow cablers to own analog channels.

Industry watchdog the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission, which has always opposed the idea, is reconsidering its policy.

But a producers org has irked Rogers by opposing any change that does not come with stringent regulation.

Seeking support

Rogers wrote to the 400 members of the Canadian Film & Television Producers’ Assn. complaining that it was “frankly dismayed” by their position, and urged them to write to the CRTC in support of increased cable ownership.

“At Rogers, we have been there for independent producers for more than 20 years with interim financing, grants and loans,” the letter, dated Feb. 28, reads.

The problem is that Rogers administers Rogers Telefund, a C$20 million ($13 million) interim-financing film and TV fund, and some producers interpreted the letter as a threat to cut their cash.

Pressure denied

“There is no threat implied in it,” said Jan Innes, Rogers’ VP of communications. “We often encourage and write to the community for letters of support. All the groups do, it’s a normal part of the CRTC process.”

While CRTC spokesman Denis Carmel noted that lobbying was a routine part of org reviews, the regulator is not privy to how support is garnered. And in the case of Rogers, he said that “there has to be a complaint for us to look into anything of that nature”; as far as he knows, there’s been no formal complaint regarding Rogers’ conduct.

Submissions for phase two of the CRTC’s review are due Monday.

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