Canucks add TV incentive

Move follows18-month industry study

OTTAWA — Broadcasters that air more Canadian drama will be rewarded with more ad time, the Canuck broadcast regulator said Monday.

Incentive was introduced by Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission topper Charles Dalfen at the Canadian Assn. of Broadcasters’ annual confab. Move follows an 18-month study of ways to boost the ailing drama production industry.

Broadcasters will earn between 30 seconds and eight minutes more ad time for each hour of original Canadian drama aired, depending on the program’s budget, scheduling and audience levels. Each ad minute is worth around C$80,000 ($67,500) when aired during U.S. primetime programs.

Incentives apply to English-language programming only. French-lingo-drama in Canada is in better shape, and a different plan will be presented for that industry shortly, Dalfen said.

A similar package was first proposed in May. However, after consultation, the commission eased investment provisions for a program to qualify; added a baseline of 26 hours of original drama per year before large broadcasters can take advantage of the rewards; and capped advertising at 14 minutes per hour.

Some attendees were more receptive to the changes than others.

“I’m delighted that this is incentive-driven rather than just a punitive approach,” said Tony Viner, prexy-CEO of Rogers Media. “I’m glad the commission took into consideration changes suggested by CAB and others. There was concern that there would be too much benefit for the large broadcasters.”

Others called for more regulation forcing broadcasters to produce and air more drama. “The decision does nothing to reinstate the content and expenditure requirements eliminated in 1999,” said Steve Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada’s actors union.

Earlier in the day broadcasting industryites were relieved to hear that copyright reform is at the top of the priority list of the Dept. of Heritage.

“We know that unauthorized decoding of satellite signals is also a source of concern for the industry, as it is for us,” Heritage Minister Liza Frulla said.

The need to take satellite signal thieves to task is one of the few issues on which broadcasters, distributors and producers all agree.

Three-day confab coincides with a today’s visit to Ottawa by President Bush, and the security lockdown on Parliament Hill was the subject of much buzz among attendees.

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