Industry pressured gov't to restore budget cut

MONTREAL — The Canuck government is set to bow to intense pressure from the TV biz and restore the C$25 million ($17 million) it cut from the Canadian Television Fund, which backs some of the country’s most popular shows.

Finance minister John Manley and Heritage minister Sheila Copps are expected to announce the change this week, perhaps as early as today. The industry reacted angrily when the government announced in February that it was slashing the $68 million budget to $51 million.

The fund is one of the TV industry’s main motors, last year helping finance 583 productions, some 2,800 hours of Canadian programming for a production total of $545 million.

This year it is doling out the $51 million to 73 productions, a sharp reduction from the previous year, and had to refuse 64% of the applications for funds due to the cuts.

These including CBC comedy series “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and “The Red Green Show,” and the CTV drama “The Eleventh Hour.”

The entire industry — including producers, broadcasters, directors, technicians and actors — has vigorously lobbied the government to reverse its decision and it has paid off. It may have helped that Manley and Copps are in a leadership race to take over from outgoing Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Elizabeth McDonald, president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn., said the producers group has been told by government sources that the announcement is coming in the next couple of days.

“I think this is great,” said McDonald. “It proves that the industry made its point. This was a real crisis. It shows the importance of working together.”

The local production industry generates around $3.4 billion in activity each year, and the fund creates around 20,000 jobs. It accounts for a relatively small slice of the financing of film and TV projects, but it is considered crucial because it is the trigger that kick-starts the all-Canadian projects that wouldn’t be financed otherwise.

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