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Chilly Canadian talks

Producers seek individual web deals

Talks between Canuck producers and broadcasters to set up the first agreement covering how broadcasters pay for their shows have stalled.

The producers have been lobbying broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission for years to force the networks to make such a deal because they believe it will strengthen their position as program sellers.

The problem is that the leading private broadcasters — CTVglobemedia, CanWest Global and Rogers Broadcasting — want to negotiate as a group, while the producers believe it makes more sense to negotiate individually with each broadcaster.

Talks between the two sides began mid-July — and the CRTC has told each of the broadcasters that they must have the terms of trade agreements with the producers settled by the time they make their next license applications in the coming months.

It remains to be seen whether the CRTC would actually refuse to renew a license, forcing channels off the air.

The terms of trade agreements provide a framework for contract negotiations between the broadcasters and producers, but it would not set up a specific fee structure.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. already has a terms of trade agreement with pubcaster the CBC.

“The broadcasters decided it was more appropriate to negotiate as a group and we think that’s really not what the CRTC intended,” said Guy Mayson, CEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. “We think that doesn’t make sense because Rogers has a different model from CanWest and both have different business models than CTV. The reality we’re dealing with is consolidation. There are fewer doors to knock on and we’ve always felt that the broadcaster has more power in those negotiations than the producers.”

Recent consolidation includes CTV’s acquisition of rival broadcaster Chum, CanWest snapping up pay TV owner Alliance Atlantis, and Rogers acquiring the City-tv stations from CTVglobemedia.

Terms of trade agreements exist in the British TV business, but not in the U.S.

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