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Prime Time confab kicks off

CTF-cabler dispute to be a hot topic

Canadian producers making their way to the nation’s chilly capital for the Prime Time confab will have plenty to talk about.

The producers association’s annual event kicks off in Ottawa today .

The spotlight will be on an ongoing dispute between renegade cablers and the Canadian Television Fund, which cablers Shaw and Videotron say is poorly managed and increasingly irrelevant.

Attendees will get their first good look at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s new topper, Konrad von Finckenstein, who is skedded to speak Friday morning. Von Finckenstein’s mastery with the carrot and the stick is credited with diffusing the standoff, for now, between the cablers and the CTF.

To the great relief of producers, cablers Shaw and Videotron agreed to resume their payments to the CTF at the 11th hour for the next TV season, and, perhaps in exchange, the CRTC called for a task force Tuesday to look into what ails the CTF, whose topper, Doug Barrett, is giving the confab’s keynote address on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Also on the agenda is the release of the CFTPA’s annual state-of-the-industry report, which is expected to reflect a brutal downturn in most of Canada due to labor instability over the past year.

Everyone is also hoping that by the time the conference kicks off, the ACTRA strike that has been plaguing Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan since early January will be history. The two sides were negotiating behind closed doors under a news blackout Tuesday, reportedly polishing off their new Independent Production Agreement.

Also on the docket: Heritage Minister Bev Oda, Telefilm topper Wayne Clarkson and the release of a report on the state of children’s programming in Canada.

Confab wraps Friday.

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