Canuck watchdog growls at TV fund

Report urges group to simplify rules

MONTREAL — Canada’s broadcast watchdog is pushing for a major shake-up of the fund that powers the local TV industry.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission released a report Friday urging the Canadian Television Fund to back more commercial shows and loosen up its complex rules.

The fund provides cash to independent producers to make homegrown shows and movies.

The report is the result of a task force set up to look into the fund following complaints from cable operators Shaw Communications and Quebecor, both major financial supporters of the fund via special levies.

Shaw and Quebecor don’t like the way the fund is managed and claim that it doesn’t represent the interests of the cable and satellite industry. Both have threatened to withdraw their cash from the fund.

Michel Arpin — the CRTC’s vice-chair of broadcasting and the chair of the task force — said the regulator wants the fund to allow producers to bring more foreign elements into their productions to make them more marketable. In the past, the shows had to be virtually 100% Canadian on both sides of the camera.

“This could make room for a foreign performer or foreign writer,” Arpin said. “And this will help sales in other countries. Also the Canadian Television Fund guidelines are fairly rigid. So it’s got to be much simpler and more flexible.”

Arpin cited the example of a documentary producer who wanted to make a film about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan but was turned down for funding last year because the film wasn’t Canadian enough.

The CRTC wants the C$150 million ($141 million) that the cable and satellite operators provide to the fund each year in taxes to be spent on more commercial fare.

The fund also gets $94 million from the federal government annually but the CRTC is not recommending changing the way that money is spent.

The CRTC has asked for public comments on its report but, Arpin noted, the CRTC has the power to force the fund to comply.

A spokesman for the Canadian Television Fund said Friday that it was too early to comment on the recommendations.

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