CRTC stalls on spending limits

The TV watchdog on Friday delayed at least for a year a decision on whether to impose a '1:1' spending requirement on Canadian and foreign programming to curb purchases of US network shows and encourage Cancon expenditures.

The CRTC has delayed imposing new spending rules on American programs, as Canadian broadcasters pack their bags for the Los Angeles screenings. The economy will likely take care of that for some players this year.

The TV watchdog on Friday delayed at least for a year a decision on whether to impose a ’1:1′ spending requirement on Canadian and foreign programming to curb purchases of US network shows and encourage Cancon expenditures.

The CRTC said it cannot apply the brakes on US expenditures now as CTVglobemedia and Canwest Global have multi-year supply deals with the major US studios that have already set out what programming they will acquire next week in Los Angeles, and at what price.

‘Such a condition would not be practical for the upcoming broadcast year given the sector’s production timelines and the programming commitments that are already in place,’ the CRTC argued.

Those deals will run mostly through 2009/10, and may not be renewed by CTV and Canwest as their ad revenues shrink and they shed their secondary A and E! branded stations, respectively.

So the regulator will return to the issue of the 1:1 ratio next year, seeking ways to ‘explore various regulatory measures to ensure that English-language television broadcasters devote an appropriate proportion of their expenditures to Canadian programming.’

The delay on new spending rules came as the CRTC said it will renew for one year the licenses for CTV, Global, Sun TV and the Citytv stations. The regulator also offered a two-year renewal for TVA Group in Quebec, a six-year license renewal for the OMNI stations and a seven-year license renewal for the RNC Media and Télé Inter-Rives TV stations, also in Quebec. Details on the terms and conditions of the short-term license renewals will be made public in the next few weeks.

CBC’s various radio, TV and specialty licenses were renewed earlier this week, for one year.

CTVgm, Canwest, Rogers Media and Quebecor Media will reapply for longer license renewals for their struggling conventional stations in 2010 when, the CRTC is betting, the effects of the recession and industry consolidation will be clearer.

The CRTC promised separate hearings in fall 2009 to secure ‘a systemic and structural solution’ to the challenges facing conventional TV.

The regulator made no mention of the much-vaunted fee-for-carriage proposal from broadcasters. The CRTC instead favors negotiations and possible arbitration between broadcasters and cable and satellite TV operators to establish compensation for conventional TV signals.

The CRTC said the fall hearings will consider, among other issues, ‘a mechanism for establishing, through negotiation, the fair market value for the signals’ of conventional broadcasters.

The regulator said it will also consider reinstating programming expenditures for Canadian programming by conventional broadcasters.

From Playback Daily