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Canada feeds local program fund

Operators to contribute additional 0.5%

MONTREAL — Canada’s federal broadcast watchdog is upping the local programming fund from C$68 million ($59 million) to $86 million.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced Monday that it will temporarily increase the amount that cable and satellite operators have to contribute to the fund from 1% of their gross broadcasting revenues to 1.5%.

This will help ailing small-market stations owned by cash-strapped broadcasters, including CanWest Global and CTVglobemedia, pay for local news and other local programming.

Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest cable operator, said it was unhappy with the increase. Rogers vice chairman Phil Lind said the measure could cost subscribers between $43 and $86 in fees annually.

“We are profoundly concerned about how these taxes will affect our customers and the Canadian broadcasting system, and we intend to fight them on behalf of consumers,” said Lind.

But many writers and producers applauded the move.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. said it’s pleased to see that the regulator was also denying broadcasters’ request to be allowed to cut the amount of Canadian programming they air. The networks want to make the programming change to save money.

The CRTC also announced Monday that it intends to develop a new regulatory framework for terrestrial broadcasters and will hold public hearings on this issue this fall.

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