Report calls for Canuck TV shakeup

McQueen wants new business model

TORONTO — A public report recommending a radical shakeup of the production and broadcast of Canadian English-language TV drama has drawn a mixed response from industryites.

In Dramatic Choices, issued Friday, respected TV veteran Trina McQueen calls for a new business model built around incentives for drawing audiences rather than the system of points and minimum hours that has Canadian drama pulling less than 10% of drama audience share.

McQueen calls for a five-year plan that includes an annual C$30 million ($21.8 million) fund to build auds and the restoration of the annual $18.2 million to the Canadian Television Fund that was yanked earlier this year by the federal government. Producers met Friday with Finance Minister John Manley to lobby for the funds.

McQueen also recommended incentives tied to upping audience numbers and the reorganization of the Canadian Television Fund.

Friday also saw the release of two other industry reports, on French-language Canadian drama and on international programming and audience trends, by Guy Fornier and Barry Kiefl, respectively. But it was McQueen’s that drew the most attention.

McQueen’s and Fornier’s reports were commissioned by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and Telefilm Canada, Kiefl’s by the CRTC alone.

McQueen was blunt about the CTF’s bureaucratic structure, which she said a colleague described as “complex, contradictory and labyrinthine.”

“He was being far too polite,” she writes, “and I speak as a member of the board. We have created a hellish path, and we need to start over.”

McQueen points to the gains made in indigenous drama by the U.K. and Australia and calls for a “made in Canada” formula for mirroring their evolution.

She also shot down recommendations presented in a report from a coalition of industry unions earlier this year that called for early licensing hearings and stricter scheduling, expenditure and programming rules for broadcasters.

“Drama deserves better than to be a forced and resented obligation. It needs the commitment and willing partnership of broadcasters,” McQueen said.

“The CFTPA believes the report is a positive, realistic portrayal of what needs to be accomplished to secure the future of Canadian drama,” says a statement from the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn.

Actors union the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) was less enthusiastic. “This report has some useful ideas, but our industry is in catastrophic free fall and needs a dramatic fix, not a five-year plan,” said ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell. McQueen was recently appointed to the board of directors of Telefilm Canada.

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