CRTC decides against curbs on U.S. spend

But TV watchdog continues to promote Canadian programming

TORONTO -- Canada's TV watchdog on Friday decided against clamping down on U.S. series purchases by Canadian broadcasters at next week's Los Angeles Screenings.

But the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission warned it will continue to explore ways "to ensure that English-language television broadcasters devote an appropriate proportion of their expenditures to Canadian programming."

The decision came as the CRTC said it will issue one-year license renewals to struggling conventional TV stations operated by the CTV, Global Television, Sun-TV and Citytv networks.

The regulator will hold additional public hearings in fall 2009 to consider a financial rescue package for struggling conventional TV stations during the current economic downturn.

And the CRTC will hold another round of license renewal hearings in 2010 when it hopes to have better visibility on the state of the Canadian broadcasters and competitive pressures it faces from cable channels and the Internet.

The regulator in March first floated a proposal to curb U.S. programming expenditures by domestic broadcasters by imposing a "1:1 ratio requirement" between Canadian and foreign programming expenditures.

The regulator expressed concerns that expenditures at the Los Angeles Screenings by major Canadian players like CTV and Global Television have risen sharply in recent years.

But Canadian broadcasters voiced strong opposition to a possible curb on U.S. expenditures because they already have multi-year supply deals with U.S. studios that sets in stone what shows they buy and at what prices.

And the broadcasters told the CRTC that they require ad revenue from U.S. network series they purchase at the Los Angeles Screenings to subsidize the production of costly Canadian shows.