Canada: CRTC issues drama policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Feb 2 14:28:09 UTC 2006

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

CRTC issues drama policy

Wednesday, February 1, 2006 Posted at 5:28 AM EST

 The federal broadcast regulator has ordered Canada's three major
English-language private television networks to increase the money they
spend on homemade drama and to try to raise viewership of these dramas. In
a seven-page notice, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC) says it wants CTV, Global and CHUM to increase their
annual expenditures on Canadian drama to 6 per cent of total annual gross
revenues from the current industry average of 3.3 per cent. That threshold
would be achieved in increments over five years.

Similarly, the CRTC is now requiring the networks, through marketing and
scheduling, to boost the viewing of English-language drama programming so
that by 2008-2009, Canadian productions will enjoy at least 16.5 per cent
of the networks' total drama viewership. In 2003-2004, the industry
average was 9.2 per cent, with CTV reporting that 10.5 per cent of its
total drama viewership was of Canadian shows, CHUM 9.1 per cent and Global
8.4. The CRTC first floated its proposed targets for viewing and
expenditures last August, then sought comments from industry players
before making its decision to order increased commitments from the

In its notice, the commission acknowledges that it "will be a challenge
for" CTV, Global and CHUM to reach these targets, which, if achieved, will
represent an 80-per-cent increase in both investment and audience from
current levels. But the CRTC believes they're "achievable" if the major
networks "take advantage" of an incentive program the CRTC announced in
November, 2004. That program permits broadcasters to air additional
advertising on popular U.S.-made prime-time programs. According to the
CRTC, the networks would be able to show between 30 seconds and eight
minutes more advertising for each hour of original Canadian drama they
telecast in prime time. Bonus seconds and minutes are awarded, too, if
ratings increase for these Canadian shows or if a network hikes its
Canadian drama spending. Private broadcasters have been lashed in recent
years by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and
the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, among others, who
claim the networks have shirked their commitment to homemade drama since
1999, when the CRTC expanded the definition of "priority programming" to
include reality TV, documentaries and entertainment magazines.

Yesterday, ACTRA's director of public policy and communications Ken
Thompson repeated his organization's opinion that "an incentive program on
its own is not enough. It has to be part of a more comprehensive
regulatory program," including requirements that networks show Canadian
drama in prime time. Thompson urged the CRTC to use licence-renewal
hearings for CBC, CTV and Global to review its TV policy. The Canadian
Association of Broadcasters had no comment yesterday, but has previously
told the CRTC that "a 40-per-cent increase in viewing would be a more
reasonable and attainable industry objective," instead of the 80 per cent

Friday's CRTC release also said Canada's specialty channels have to reach
a 7.5-per-cent increase in their viewing targets for Canadian drama, using
a 1.5-per-cent increase per year over the next five years. The commission
noted that, given the wide disparities between English-language specialty
services -- in 2003-2004, Canadian drama on these was as low as 1 per cent
and as high as 44 per cent -- "a single industry objective for all
services would be impracticable." Print this article E-mail this article
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