Canada rejects cutback on U.S. series buys

CRTC looking at homegrown TV expenditures

TORONTO -- The Canadian government has rejected a proposal by the country's TV regulator to curb domestic broadcasters' spending on U.S. series.

Federal Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday that Ottawa should not impose conditions or quotas on how Canadian broadcasters buy U.S. programming.

"(Canadian) broadcasters have their own business model," Moore said. "They keep their business models going forward as best they can. Far be it for me to second-guess how to run a broadcast network and programming."

His comments follow a CRTC proposal to use upcoming license renewal hearings to consider whether expenditures on homegrown TV shows should match those for American fare.

Domestic broadcasters contend that they require the profits generated by airing U.S. series to subsidize the production of expensive homegrown dramas. Canadian indie producers, unions and guilds favor the CRTC's proposal for a so-called 1:1 ratio on Canadian and non-Canadian program expenditures as a welcome measure to promote homegrown series production.

Moore said his job is to encourage the production of homegrown programming, a role that on Monday saw him move to merge the Canadian Television Fund and the Canadian New Media Fund into a rebranded CAN$310 million ($241 million) Canada Media Fund.

The CTF, the main source of government subsidies for Canadian indie producers of primetime TV shows, will be reformed to create more homegrown content available to Canadians over more digital platforms and to be sold internationally.

Ottawa also will allow Canadian broadcasters to make their own TV series in-house as well as commission series from indie producers.

The federal minister made his announcement on the Toronto set of the CBS and CTV police drama "Flashpoint," a Canadian-U.S. network partnership Moore wants to see more of.

"Flashpoint" is an example of a Canadian success story. It debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and in Canada. It's a TV show on CBS and CTV and it streams on line," he said.

As Canadian and U.S. networks reduce their programming budgets to deal with falling ad revenue, they have increasingly partnered on new drama production that is shot in Canada and taps into local and federal government money like CTF subsidies and tax credits.

In addition to "Flashpoint," CBS also will co-produce "The Bridge," another CTV police drama, while NBC picked up "The Listener," a police-medical drama from Canadian producer Shaftesbury Films.