Rogers accused of threatening producers

3/12/01

Ottawa - The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has asked the CRTC to order Rogers Communications to immediately retract a letter it sent to film and television producers.

The group says the letter, which asks producers to support Rogers' right to acquire further broadcasting assets, is an attempt by the cable company to ''manipulate'' the public process of the CRTC.

''Friends believes recipients could reasonably construe this letter either as a threat or an inducement to intervene,'' spokesperson Ian Morrison writes in a letter faxed Sunday to the CRTC.

''The commission will be aware that decisions of bodies such as Rogers Telefund often constitute a make-or-break contribution to the business plans of Canadian television producers.''

The cable company administers the Telefund, a $20-million pool of interim financing for film and TV producers.

Morrison asks the CRTC order Rogers to send a retraction to each recipient and to release a list of all producers who received the letter.

In addition, he said Rogers should prove that future funding decisions to letter recipients will not be influenced.

Rogers was not immediately available for comment Sunday.

In its letter dated Feb. 28, the cable operator lashed out at the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA), which opposes increased Rogers ownership of broadcast outlets.

''We at Rogers were frankly dismayed to see that the CFTPA, representing many of Canada's producers, took the position that it would be a bad thing for cable to own analog channels,'' says the letter, signed by Philip Lind, Rogers vice-president, and Robin Mirsky, executive director of Rogers Telefund.

Rogers has ''poured literally hundreds of millions of dollars of support into Canadian programming,'' the letter said, and encouraged producers to write letters of support to the CRTC.

In December, the CRTC said it would review its policy on whether cable operators can own specialty channels, an issue that has split the communications industry.

Today is the deadline for submissions.

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