Feds call meeting to deal with TV-fund protest

Feds call meeting to deal with TV-fund protest

CTV.ca News Staff

The federal government is planning an emergency meeting with Canada’s largest cable companies in a bid to deal with a growing revolt over the Canadian Television Fund.

Two of Canada’s largest cable companies — Shaw Communications and Videotron — recently announced they will withhold their payments to the fund to protest the way it operates.

They say administrators of the fund are not listening to the concerns of its private-sector contributors.

Heritage Minister Bev Oda announced Friday that she is arranging an emergency meeting for next Tuesday with the major broadcasters in the Fund, to discuss their concerns.

“In light of the seriousness of this and the impact on the Canadian production and broadcasting industries, I am calling a meeting with the principal funders of the CTF,” Oda said in a written statement.

The minister says she wants to hear their complaints about the fund, but is confident a solution can be found.

She also announced that the government will renew its funding to the program, providing $200 million over two years to the fund.

The Canadian Television Fund was created in 1996 and provides funding for home-grown Canadian television productions, such as CTV’s Degrassi. Canadian cable and direct-to-home satellite industries are required by CRTC regulations to contribute a percentage of their revenues to the fund.

In turn, the fund invested about $264 million in Canadian programming in 2005-2006, and normally receives about $100 million annually from the federal government.

The fund reserves 37 per cent of its production funding for productions for the government-owned CBC and its French-language counterpart, Societe Radio-Canada. But Quebecor, which controls Videotron, notes that the CBC/SRC already receives more than $1 billion in government funding each year.

The CTF says the CBC/SRC have a guaranteed Broadcaster Performance Envelope from the CTF, because of its “audience success.”

Videotron says it doesn’t want to stop contributing to the CTF; in fact it would be willing to increase its contributions. But that would be conditional on the creation of an industry-led fund to replace the CTF. It also wants the right to use the new fund for exclusive productions to be shown on its video-on-demand channel.

Oda noted that the CTF was reviewed in 2001 and a new governance structure announced in 2005.

“Obviously, there’s still some concerns and discomfort with the structure that was set up,” the minister noted. “I would like to hear what those discomforts are.”

Douglas Barrett, chairman of the CTF, says the TV production industry faces a $63-million budget shortfall because of the Shaw and Videotron announcement. He says the Canadian television production industry will become “chaotic” without that money, warning that the fate of tens of thousands of jobs are at stake if fall productions have to be halted.

Barrett has said that if a solution isn’t found, the fund will ask Canada’s broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to take legal action against the boycotting broadcasters.

“The obligation to support the CTF is not discretionary and the CTF has the fiduciary responsibility to act,” Barrett said in a statement earlier this week.

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