Regulation ‘stifling’ industry: Péladeau

Differing opinions were expressed to the CRTC yesterday, as the second week of broadcast hearings wore on.

Quebecor and proponents of kids programming stepped up at the CRTC hearings yesterday, calling for regulatory changes that would, respectively, thin out the rules that are ‘stifling’ the industry and protect ‘kids’ programming and make it a priority.’

The Shaw Rocket Fund came out waving the banner for children’s programming as the commission continued its three-week hearings on broadcast distribution, calling for more cash to support Canuck-produced children’s product which, the fund’s execs noted, is among the most successful and widely exported in the TV industry.

‘We must make an investment in this sector. . . there’s a lack of support and broadcasters can’t meet the needs alone,’ said fund chair Annabel Slaight. The non-profit fund invests roughly $10 million a year in programming, including such popular series as Degrassi: The Next Generation, Heartland and Life with Derek.

‘The commission must take into consideration the impact of its decisions on Canadian children,’ agreed Peter Moss, of the Alliance for Children and Television, who appeared later at the hearings.

Rocket Fund execs seemed to sidestep the most contentious issues of the BDU hearings – offering no opinions on fee-for-carriage, genre protection or use of local avails – though after some prodding by CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein, president Agnes Agustin conceded, ‘We would definitely like to have children’s [programming] protected.’

At which point Slaight interjected, ‘We always think of children’s programming not as a genre, but children are an important market segment.’ The Rocket Fund is financed primarily by Alberta cable giant Shaw Communications, which is opposed to genre protection.

Earlier Tuesday, Pierre Karl Péladeau and other Quebecor execs argued before the CRTC that Canada needs to take immediate action to ‘meet the challenges of the digital age.’

‘The approximately 400 rules and regulations governing Canada’s broadcasting industry – many of which were designed for a world that no longer exists – are stifling this country’s potential to play a leading role in the industry,’ argued Péladeau.

Surprisingly, the head of Montreal-based Quebecor, which owns cabler Videotron, sided with broadcasters on the fee-for-carriage issue, noting that conventional casters and specialties alike ‘should be entitled to collect carriage fees,’ though his remarks made repeated mention of a ‘fair price.’

The BDU hearings continue today with presentations by Telus Communications and Torstar Media Group Television.

From Playback Daily