Panel discusses Canuck coin clash

Industryites rip television fund reduction

TORONTO — Media heavyweights met Tuesday to urge the Canadian government to reverse funding cuts that they say endanger the domestic TV industry.

Canadian Film & Television Production Assn. prexy-CEO Elizabeth McDonald said she did not believe the government understood the wide-ranging implications of slashing the Canadian Television Fund from C$100 million ($69 million) to $52 million in its February budget.

“It’s a very complicated and difficult business of layers and layers of financing. It’s not just, ‘You pull this out and we’ll go somewhere else,'” she said. “Ask any of the broadcasters here; shows are going to go off the air, shows that people watch.”

Big-name criticism

The industry panel — a powerful and high-profile cross-section of broadcasters, producers, directors, writers and actors — met in Toronto the day after the Canadian Television Fund rejected close to two-thirds of all productions applying for the crucial subsidy, including small-screen staples “The Red Green Show” and “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”

McDonald said the industry is lobbying the government hard to reverse its decision. “We’re all pointing out the importance of restoring the fund, and I think they’re hearing us loud and clear.”

Even before the cutbacks, the Canadian TV system was under enormous strain, panelists noted, with a larger and more fragmented TV universe competing for fewer production dollars.

“This was supposed to be a good-news budget, (but) we were the only bad news,” noted Michael Donovan, producer of “Bowling for Columbine.” “There should be more money, not less.”

Others suggested, none too subtly, that the Canadian TV funding structure is flawed. “The system’s fucked,” declared Seaton McLean, president of production of the Alliance Atlantis entertainment group. “We’ve got to change the system.”

Border squabble

Some called the government’s increase in the same budget of tax credits to foreign production in Canada a peculiar coincidence, and others urged that the foreign perk be taken away and the money used to restore indigenous funding.

“That’s not the solution,” McDonald said. “The solution is to restore the money without picking another pocket in the cultural industry.”

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