Report calls for b’casting revamp

Canuck gov't not obligated to follow recommendations

BANFF — Canada is mulling a radical revamp of broadcasting that will protect its culture and bar foreign broadcasting magnates.

On Wednesday the Heritage committee released its 1,000-page report, two years in the making, recommending an overhaul of broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. It also called for the three acts governing broadcasting to be rolled into one, and a fresh look at funding programs.

In a press conference held in Ottawa, committee chair and MP Clifford Lincoln said the committee “condemned” the government’s decision to cut the Canadian Television Fund budget by 25% and asked that the money be reinstated.

It also called for an overhaul of the Byzantine system which governs the regulation of Canadian content, production subsidies and tax incentives, and that the CRTC revisit its 1999 TV policy relaxing the rules and definitions of Canadian content.

The Heritage report opposes upping foreign ownership in the broadcast industry, going against a recent report from the Industry Department advocating the relaxation of foreign ownership restrictions in telecommunications.

“Broadcasting is an essential preserve of the Canadian culture and imagination,” it said. “The committee holds the view that once Canadians give up control over what amounts to our cultural sovereignty, we can never get it back.”

“Finally somebody speaks for Canada in the broadcast industry, and it’s about the time,” said national executive director Steve Waddell in a statement issued by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. “Committee reports tend to be good doorstops and dust collectors. Let’s have the government take action on these recommendations right away.”

Pubcaster the CBC also welcomed the report.

“They’re trying to do everything for everybody,” noted one industry insider, predicting that the report will lead to a series of sub-reviews. “I think they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.”

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps has 150 days to respond. The government is not obligated to implement the recommendations.