Hike sought on Canadian content spending

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MONTREAL -- Raising the heat in Canada's TV funding battle, Quebec media giant Quebecor Inc. has proposed sharply increasing its spending on TV production of Canadian content from CAN$19 million ($16 million) in 2006 to CAN$30 million this year in return for permission to opt out of the beleaguered Canadian Television Fund (CTF).

"We have moved far away from the objectives of those who created the (CTF) fund," Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau told a press conference Monday in Montreal.

"We are facing, purely and simply, a subsidy machine fueled mostly by the private sector," he added.

Should it receive permission from Ottawa to end annual payments to the CTF, Quebecor accepted that it would no longer receive direct federal government subsidies from industry fund.

Quebecor and rival cable giant Shaw Communications Inc. in January sparked a crisis at the CTF by threatening to end mandated contributions to the main source of subsidies for domestic TV producers.

Quebecor sent its opt-out Quebecor Fund proposal to federal heritage minister Bev Oda and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which mandates annual contributions to the CTF from cable giants and other content carriers.

Oda in recent weeks has received a stream of delegations from the Canadian production sector and the CTF urging that Quebecor and Shaw should not be able to escape their regulatory obligations to back the industry fund.

In 2006, Groupe Videotron, the Quebec cable giant controlled by Quebecor, contributed CAN$15.2-million ($13.5 million) to the CTF, while investing another CAN$3.8-million ($3.2 million) as part of the company's own Quebecor Fund.

Peladeau repeated charges on Monday that the CTF was skewed to benefit Canada's English- and French-language public broadcasters, rather than domestic content carriers like Groupe Videotron and others embracing the digital age.

"The Canadian Television Fund had been unable to figure out what the technology revolution is all about and it's making the situation very tough down the road to make sure that we will get some good Canadian content," he told reporters.
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