Actors plan broadcast association protest


OTTAWA -- Canadian actors are set to demonstrate Monday outside the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Convention in Ottawa to challenge domestic broadcasters to do more to favor Canadian over U.S. shows in primetime.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, which represents 21,000 domestic performers, said that private Canadian over-the-air broadcasters virtually fill their primetime schedules with U.S. network series.

"We want Canada put back on Canadian TV screens," he said as busloads of local actors, led by veterans Eric Peterson ("Corner Gas"), Julie Stewart and Robb Wells ("Trailer Park Boys"), get set to converge across the street from the CAB convention at the Westin Hotel Ottawa.

Inside the conference center, Canadian broadcasters, with the theme of the gathering dubbed "Broadcasting, Redefined," are expected to discuss how best to adapt to the emerging digital age.

This year's list of speakers includes Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and Josee Verner, the newly installed federal heritage minister, responsible for broadcasting.

Verner will address CAB delegates just days after 18 of Canada's largest cultural unions and associations told a Montreal press conference they were worried that von Finckenstein is taking the CRTC, the country's top TV watchdog, down a path toward greater industry deregulation.

Echoing ACTRA, the unions and guilds urged the CRTC to do more to regulate broadcasters and, in particular, have them spend more on Canadian drama and other productions, and to air them in primetime.

The effect on Canadian television of a possible strike by the Writers Guild of America also is likely to dominate chatter in the convention hallways.

The conference sessions include "Canadian Radio Formats: Is Content Regulation Stifling Innovation?" "Content and Carriage: The New Balancing Act," "The Ratings Revolution: A Survival Guide," "Canadian Broadcasting and Industry Canada: On the Same Wavelength?" and "New Media, New Programming Strategies."