CRTC task force advises CTF to become more commercial

Critics and supporters of the Canadian Television Fund are expressing differing responses.

A report released last Friday by the CRTC’s task force on the mandate and governance structure of the troubled Canadian Television Fund recommends exploring the advisability of taking a more commercial and market-oriented approach when allocating funds through broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs).

Another recommendation is for the CTF to designate a portion of its funds to the development of productions for new media platforms.

‘Obviously, they’re proposing some changes, and that’s what we were asking for,’ says Quebecor EVP Luc Lavoie, though he adds that he’s not yet sure if the findings are in line with what the Montreal-based owner of cableco Videotron was hoping for.

The task force, headed by the CRTC’s broadcasting vice-chair Michel Arpin, was created after Videotron and Calgary-based Shaw Communications temporarily pulled their support of the CTF in January, taking issue with the way its funds are managed and dispensed. Shaw Communications CEO Jim Shaw was not available for comment at press time.

Canadian Film & Television Producers Association chair Sandra Cunningham says there are some positive signs in the report in terms of its belief in a strong role for the fund. ‘It’s also encouraging for producers that there’s a suggestion that new media rights be grandfathered with broadcasters and net revenues be split equally between broadcasters and producers.’

Yesterday, the actors union took aim at the CRTC’s recommendations, warning that the proposed changes to the embattled fund could lead to fewer key jobs for Canadians. Included in the report is lowering the minimum CAVCO requirement for eligible prime time content to 8 out of 10 points, down from 10 out of 10.

According to ACTRA national president Richard Hardacre, that ‘would permit CTF-funded productions to be made without a Canadian in the key roles of a director, or a writer, or a lead performer.’ Under the current regulations, all three must be Canadian.

The actors union statement also criticizes proposed changes to the CTF board, and says that implementing the recommendations would do too little to improve the standing of English-language drama.

The Writers Guild of Canada also expressed objection to the suggestion in the report that the minimum CAVCO requirement for prime time content backed by CTF should be lowered. ‘We’re very upset about this point, because clearly the CRTC is saying that Canadians can’t deliver commercial product . . . which is complete bull,’ says WGC executive director Maureen Parker.

The CRTC is calling for input from the industry on the task force’s recommendations by way of written comments, which must be submitted to Ottawa by July 27. It is believed that the CRTC wants the changes to be implemented by March 2008.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.