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RAI reshapes Canuck turf

Italo co. supplied net with 90% of its p'gramming

TORONTO — The future of the Toronto-based cable channel Telelatino Network (TLN) hangs in the balance after Italy’s state-run television network RAI canceled its long-term supply agreement and asked regulators for a license to broadcast in Canada.

“The Italian government is not any kind of opponent you want to infuriate. It’s like going after a black bear; you definitely want to stay away,” TLN president Aldo Di Felice told Daily Variety. “Unfortunately, they sniff honey here, and they’re after it.”

RAI Intl. has traditionally supplied TLN with 90% of TLN’s primetime scheduling. Last month it said it was canceling its supply deal and would withdraw from a joint venture with TLN and Toronto-based Corus Entertainment to launch an Italian-language digital specialty channel.

RAI also put in an application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to start up its own 24-hour Italian-language digital channel in Canada, similar to the BBC World Service. If that happens, Di Felice said, “We definitely will be in the water without a lifejacket.”

RAI says that TLN does not meet the needs of Italian Canadians.

Aug. 11 is the deadline for responses to the RAI application, and RAI has until Sept. 15 to respond.