Canada rejects cutbacks on U.S. series buys
By Etan Vlessing
TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - The Canadian government has rejected a proposal by the country's television regulator to curb domestic broadcasters' spending on U.S. series.
Federal Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday that Ottawa should not impose conditions or quotas on how Canadian broadcasters buy U.S. programing.
"(Canadian) broadcasters have their own business model," Moore said. "They keep their business models going forward as best they can. Far be it for me to second-guess how to run a broadcast network and programing."
His comments follow a Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) proposal to use upcoming license renewal hearings to consider whether expenditures on homegrown TV shows should match those for American fare.
Domestic broadcasters contend that they require the profits generated by airing U.S. series to subsidize the production of expensive homegrown dramas. Canadian independent producers, unions and guilds favor the CRTC's proposal for a so-called 1:1 ratio on Canadian and non-Canadian program expenditures as a welcome measure to promote homegrown series production.
Moore said his job is to encourage the production of homegrown programing, a role that on Monday saw him move to merge the Canadian Television Fund and the Canadian New Media Fund into a rebranded CAN$310 million ($241 million) Canada Media Fund.
The CTF, the main source of government subsidies for Canadian indie producers of primetime TV shows, will be reformed to create more homegrown content that will be available to Canadians over more digital platforms and will be sold internationally.
Ottawa will allow Canadian broadcasters to make their own TV series in-house as well as commission series from indie producers.
The federal minister made his announcement on the Toronto set of the CBS and CTV police drama "Flashpoint," the sort of Canadian-U.S. network partnership Moore wants to see more of.
"Flashpoint" is an example of a Canadian success story. It debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and in Canada. It's a TV show on CBS and CTV, and it streams on line," he said.
As Canadian and U.S. networks reduce their programing budgets to adjust to falling ad revenue, they increasingly have partnered on new drama production that is shot in Canada and taps into local and federal government money like CTF subsidies and tax credits.
In addition to "Flashpoint," CBS also will co-produce "The Bridge," another CTV police drama, while NBC picked up "The Listener," a police-medical drama from Canadian producer Shaftesbury Films.
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)