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Canada brings down ax on TV, film funding

Budgets for CBC, Telefilm Canada, National Film Board cut 10%

MONTREAL — Canuck pubcaster CBC, federal film and TV funder Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board of Canada will all be subject to swingeing 10% budget cuts in the next three years.

The ax dropped Thursday as part of the national budget announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

The cuts will be brought in gradually: CBC, which has a current budget of $1.15 billion, will see its coin fall by $28 million next year, $70 million the following year and $115 million in the third year.

By 2015 Telefilm’s $110 million budget will have dropped by $11 million while the NFB’s $67 million will fall by $6.7 million.

The cuts will almost certainly lead to job losses at CBC, which operates English and French-language TV and radio networks, as well as a dip in pricey homegrown film and TV production.

Ian Morrison, spokesman for watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said the cuts could benefit American TV producers if CBC is forced to buy cheaper U.S. fare because it can’t afford to fund local production. Right now, CBC’s primetime schedule is practically all-Canadian.

“The Harper government has broken its election promise,” said Morrison. “It’s a vindictive action. In English-speaking Canada, about one-third of Canadian TV viewing is Canadian content and CBC is by far the largest player. So it will reduce Canadians’ access to Canadian programming.”

For months, it had been rumored that the Harper government would slash CBC’s budget so the cuts were not necessarily a surprise. But reaction from the film and TV milieu was negative.

“We think the government is going in the wrong direction and that it should be investing more money in new content creation,” said Stephen Waddell, national director at ACTRA, Canada’s leading actors union.

“In terms of production, it will reduce opportunities. Those agencies are doing the best they can with the money available and now they have to take a 10% cut. It’s going to make it even more challenging to create product in this country.”

The Canada Council for the Arts, which supports more purely artistic films and visual arts, was not cut, with the government maintaining its annual funding of $181 million.

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