Local industry gives proposal poor reception

MONTREAL — The Canuck broadcast regulator’s proposal to revamp the Canadian Television Fund has had a poor reception from the local TV biz.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission ruled Thursday that the fund, the main financing motor of the Canadian TV industry, should be split into private sector and public sector streams. The private side would focus on more commercial fare while the public side would provide money for pubcaster CBC, educational broadcasters and not-for-profit networks.

This idea was immediately criticized by several prominent film and TV associations.

The CRTC proposal follows hearings in February that were spurred by last year’s crisis when cablers Shaw Communications and Videotron stopped making their CRTC-mandated payments to the fund.

The cablers said the fund was badly managed and that it was too focused on financing TV shows that had little popular appeal.

Groups repping Canada’s screenwriters, producers and actors said Thursday that the CRTC idea of splitting the fund into two streams essentially gives in to the cablers’ demands.

“The Canadian Television Fund is already a market-driven, results-based fund that supports successful Canadian shows,” said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of Canadian actors’ union ACTRA. “Splitting the fund into two streams and giving the cable and satellite companies control over one stream is putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.”

The Writers Guild of Canada was just as unimpressed as the actors union.

“There was no evidence presented in the CRTC’s Task Force Report or the hearings in February that the Canadian Television Fund was not working,” said Writers Guild of Canada executive director Maureen Parker. “Now they’ve broken the fund in two with no clear rationale. This introduces new layers of complication, duplication and bureaucracy into the Canadian TV production financing process — and all because cable companies like Shaw didn’t want to contribute to a system that has made them wealthy.”

The CRTC wants the private-sector stream to have more emphasis on audience success as a criterion for funding. The private side would be funded by the cable and satellite companies, and the shows produced with coin from this stream would be aired on Canada’s commercial networks.

The public-sector stream would be financed by contributions from the federal government’s Dept. of Canadian Heritage and these shows would air on public networks like CBC. The regulator added that Shaw and Videotron should not be allowed to opt out of paying its fees to the fund.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. also opposes the CRTC plan, noting that splitting the fund into two streams will cause higher administrative costs, taking money away from programming.

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