Funding boost sought as Banff wraps

CRTC stresses importance of staying competitive

BANFF, Alberta -- After a flurry of early deals Monday, the Banff World Television Festival concluded Wednesday with a chorus calling for aid for Canada's indigenous producers in the battle against Hollywood.

"(U.S. programming) is popular. It's available in Canada at a fraction of its cost, and our broadcasters make money on it. In order to survive against that competition, our own programming needs some help," Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chairman Konrad von Finckenstein told delegates, referring to the battle for primetime slots.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Television Fund, the main source of government subsidies for indie producers, revealed that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. received CAN$62 million ($60.5 million) in subsidies for primetime shows commissioned from indie producers last year, while rival CTV received CAN$22.4 million ($21.8 million) and CanWest Broadcasting received CAN$8.2 million ($8 million).

A day earlier, the CTF, whose board met here, named veteran broadcaster Paul Gratton as its new chairman, replacing Douglas Barrett.

Gratton will oversee the restructuring of the CTF into two divisions, with one dedicated to making TV shows for public broadcasters that are distinct from popular U.S. network series that dominate the primetime schedules of private broadcasters.

That dissection was ordered by the CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog.