Videotron will halt CTF contributions

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TORONTO -- Groupe Videotron Ltd. on Wednesday became the second cablecaster in as many months to divert investment away from the Canadian Television Fund, a key source of industry financing.

Montreal-based Quebecor Media, parent of the Quebec cable giant, said it had written to CTF chairman Douglas Barrett, informing him that it was suspending the company's annual contributions to the CTF.

In the letter, Quebecor Media CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau indicated "deep dissatisfaction" with how the CTF is run, adding that its managers "pay little heed to the main private-sector contributors to the fund and give little consideration to their point of view in decision-making."

Groupe Videotron contributed $14.3 million to the CTF in 2005.

The CTF is the main source of investment for Canadian independent producers looking to get their film and TV projects into the Canadian market ahead of sale internationally.

In January, rival cablecaster Shaw Communications said it also was considering stopping payments to the CTF, citing alleged inefficient management of the public-private industry fund. The Calgary-based cablecaster contributed $56 million to the CTF last year.

Executives at the CTF were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The CTF was originally formed in 1996 as the Cable Production Fund and functioned as a conduit for financial investment from cablecasters into homegrown TV production, as ordered by the country's broadcast regulator.

After the fund endured early bureaucratic snags, the federal government folded the Cable Production Fund into the Canadian Television Fund, with additional investment from Ottawa.

Both Shaw and Groupe Videotron said they will continue to invest in Canadian independent production, but will find alternative ways to do so until the CTF underwent management changes.

A spokesman for the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. expressed concern at the move, adding there could be further suspensions by other cablecasters.
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