MONTREAL — Telefilm Canada exec director Richard Stursberg is ankling the top job at the Canuck film-funding agency to take over as head of English-language television at pubcaster CBC.
The surprise move comes just over two years into Stursberg’s five-year term, a controversial tenure marked by his aggressive efforts to force local filmmakers to produce more commercial pics.
Stursberg takes over at CBC Television from Harold Redekopp, who will leave the pubcaster at the end of the year.
Stursberg will begin as executive VP of English TV at CBC on Oct. 1.
Since Redekopp announced his retirement several months ago, there has been much speculation as to who would nab his job. A frontrunner was thought to be Slawko Klymkiw, head of programming for English at CBC.
Stursberg said he was leaving Telefilm because he was given a job offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I’m leaving because CBC English TV is the biggest, most important cultural agency (in Canada),” Stursberg said. “For a guy like me that’s been very interested in cultural questions, it’s about the most interesting and challenging job you could have.”
Stursberg doesn’t foresee making immediate major changes at CBC Television.
Telefilm’s director of finance and administration, Carolle Brabant, has been appointed acting executive director. Stursberg leaves Friday and she picks up the position Monday.
Stursberg joined Telefilm in January 2002 with a mandate to up the box office for Canuck film, a goal not achieved by any of his predecessors. He began instituting policies to force Canadian producers to submit more commercial, market-driven projects for funding.
The jury is still out on whether the plan is working.
Telefilm chair Charles Belanger noted Wednesday that Canadian films nabbed 5% of overall B.O. in first-quarter 2004, a large increase from a couple of years back.
But that success is due almost entirely to French-language Quebec films. English-lingo Canuck films continue to strike out at the box office.
Earlier this year, Stursberg inked a deal with Creative Artists Agency to help market and finance Canuck pics, an initiative that drew a firestorm of opposition from cultural groups in Canada.
At CBC, Stursberg will be in charge of an annual budget of C$550 million ($400 million) and one of Canada’s most important TV networks.