Quebecor fires a volley at CTV

The PQ media giant wants the CRTC to be fair when it comes to early regulatory relief.

Quebecor Media has continued its public campaign to shape Canadian broadcasting policy this week, issuing a press release asking the CRTC to deny CTV Globemedia’s recent request for regulatory relief.

In its landmark television policy ruling last March, the CRTC said conventional English-language networks could reduce overall Canadian content quotas both in terms of airtime (down from 60% to 55%) and spending (to 30% of gross revenue). The changes are to come into effect in late 2011, but CTV wants to implement them now.

‘It’s no secret that conventional television is struggling. We hope that doing it earlier will benefit us and put us on better footing,’ says CTV’s EVP of corporate and public affairs, Paul Sparkes.

In a separate application, CTV has also asked the CRTC to relax regulations to help make its A channels more profitable, including reducing Cancon rules to 55% and eliminating all exhibition requirements relating to priority programming, including the condition that 75% of it be made by independent producers. CTV also wants the CRTC to suspend the current rule that 50% of required hours of described video be original broadcasts.

‘The As are in dire circumstances. They just aren’t profitable. We want to try to make them profitable by having more control over our schedule,’ says Sparkes.

However, Quebecor is arguing the decision, if approved, would not be fair. In a public statement issued July 12, the company told the CRTC that it must reject CTV’s requests.

‘Either you give the same flexibility to everyone or you reject their request,’ says company spokesman Serge Sasseville.

In its release, Quebecor Media, which owns Quebec’s profitable TVA network, maintains that ‘CTV was fully aware of the implications of its actions when the company acquired the A stations in 2007 as part of the CHUM Limited purchase,’ and therefore shouldn’t be provided additional regulatory flexibility.

Under the Broadcasting Act, rules governing French-language networks are different than their English Canadian counterparts. As a result, 60% of TVA’s programs must be Canadian content and it must also broadcast eight hours of priority programming per week, of which 75% must be produced by independent producers.

From Playback Daily