Feds put half back into TV fund; Heritage report due Monday


OTTAWA - The Government of Canada has announced it will provide an additional $12.5 million in funding to the Canadian Television Fund, half of the $25 million that was removed in the last Federal budget.

Canadian broadcasters, producers, writers, directors, and actors, came together over the past months to aggressively lobby the government to find solutions to mitigate the impact of the 2003 budget reductions to the CTF. Many television shows lost funding or had funding decisions delayed because of the cuts.

"Finance Minister Manley has listened and heard the legitimate concerns of the Canadian broadcast industry, and his support is appreciated," said Glenn O'Farrell, Canadian Association of Broadcasters president and CEO. "This is a step in the right direction to address the financial shortfall for the current year. What is now needed is a serious dialogue to develop a long-term strategy."

"Since 1996 when such funding mechanisms as the CTF were developed, the television landscape has changed dramatically, growing from about 100 services in 1996, to well over 200 Canadian services available today. As private broadcasters, we want to ensure Canadians see themselves reflected in all types of Canadian programming. The funding tools must be reviewed in order to keep pace with the changing landscape," he added.

The recent CRTC reports on drama, the study of the Canadian broadcasting system which is scheduled to be released on Monday by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (and is apparently going to measure in at a whopping 1,000 pages!), and the upcoming report on Canadian content provides the Government with sufficient research and data, believes the CAB. (Ed. note: That report will now be released Wednesday, June 10)

"Canada's private broadcasters applaud (Heritage) Minister (Sheila) Copps' commitment to work with industry stakeholders. The CAB calls on the Heritage Minister to continue to champion the production of Canadian programming by immediately striking a task force to work with our industry over the next three months to develop a new multi-year funding model for television program financing in time for the 2004/05 budgetary cycle," added O'Farrell.

Canadian independent producers are welcoming the $12.5 million as well even though the money is not new and will, in fact, be borrowed from the funding agency's 2004-2005 budget.

The short-term measure is seen as a positive sign even though producers have always argued for long-term, stable funding for their Cancon.

"This move shows the government does listen, and I believe Mr. Manley is beginning to realize the financial complexities our industry faces when it comes to making Canadian-themed shows," said Elizabeth McDonald, president and CEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association in a release.

"The $25-million cut was expected to lead to significant job losses, 350 fewer hours of programming and cost over $170 million in production activity. The government's manoeuvre may help alleviate some of the negative impact," explains the release.

"This industry needs long-term, permanent solutions for funding Cancon in an efficient manner," added Julia Keatley, CFTPA chair and executive producer of Cold Squad. "We will continue the fight for more money for next year, and we will be formulating our own suggestions to improve the way Canadian shows are financed."

It should be very interesting to hear what the much-anticipated Heritage Committee report says next week.

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