Canada b'casters balk at CRTC's 1:1 plan

CTVglobemedia, Rogers among critical companies

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcasters are criticizing a plan by the country's TV regulator to possibly curb their U.S. programming expenditures in a bid to promote homegrown production.

The CRTC said Tuesday that it will consider imposing a "1:1 ratio requirement" between Canadian and foreign programming expenditures on domestic broadcasters at license hearings scheduled to begin April 27.

CTVglobemedia, which runs primetime ratings leader CTV, said it "would not be able to comply" with a possible order from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to spend as much on Canadian shows as it does on American fare.

"While the returns on U.S. programming are diminishing -- both for Canadian and U.S. broadcasters -- it is still by far the most profitable programming category and is critical to support the Canadian segments of our schedule, which are by and large not profitable," CTVglobemedia said in a written submission to the CRTC.

Rogers Broadcasting, which runs a string of Citytv stations here, said that imposing a cap on U.S. expenditures was "not financially viable and would seriously impact the already fragile financial situation of the Citytv stations."

Rogers echoed other broadcasters in arguing that the prices it pays for new and returning U.S. series are largely set in stone as part of existing output deals with U.S. studio suppliers.

The CRTC was urged by Canadian broadcasters to not encourage the U.S. studios to bypass their existing Canadian broadcast partners and distribute their series instead to competing cable or pay TV services, or to stream their content to Canadians via the Internet.

Toronto-based TV station SunTV told the CRTC that imposing a cap on U.S. program expenditures would hamper its ability to "provide a competitive primetime schedule," with a consequent loss in audience and ad revenues.

The CRTC argues that Canadian broadcasters kept their Canadian and foreign program expenditures roughly in balance until the mid-2000s, but in recent years have allowed their U.S. series spending to spike as U.S. studios drive up prices for their product.

Canadian TV guilds and cultural nationalists have applauded the CRTC's 1:1 ratio proposal as a way to encourage more homegrown series production.
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