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Canuck org dangles ad time to spur local drama funding

ACTRA agrees with idea, wants to add minimum quotas

MONTREAL — Canuck broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has proposed that broadcasters be allowed to sell more ad time in return for upping their expenditures on local drama programming and increasing viewership for Canuck dramas.

Many in the TV biz in the Great White North lay much of the blame for the sorry state of Canadian drama on the CRTC, which loosened its rules on TV drama five years ago. It removed all minimum requirements for networks to finance drama, allowing them to fill their Canadian-content quotas with a wider variety of programming, including cheaper-to-produce reality and magazine shows.

Since that policy was introduced, the number of Canadian-made one-hour dramas airing has declined from 12 in 1999 to three last year.

The Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists agrees with the CRTC proposal to tie increases in drama spending to increases in the amount of ad time sold by the nets. But the Toronto-based union believes it is essential to combine the incentives with quotas forcing the webs to spend a minimum amount on Canadian drama.

“We believe the only way that Canadian broadcasters will provide Canadian drama is by requiring them to do so,” said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA. “The Canadian private broadcasters are making significant profits and they’re not plowing any of those profits into Canadian production. This is a step but it’s only a half-measure. We’ve seen Canadian drama fall off Canadian television screens altogether.”

The CRTC proposes that broadcasters earn extra ad time by broadcasting more Canadian drama. Right now, nets are allowed to air 12 minutes of ads per hour, and the private broadcasters have been lobbying the CRTC to allow them to increase that amount.

The CRTC also suggests networks could earn extra ad time by increasing audiences for Canadian drama. In addition, the broadcasters would be able to sell more advertising time if they increase their expenditures on Canadian drama.

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