Shaw fires broadside in second round of CTF war

Calls for more accountability

Canadian cable giant Shaw Communications on Monday reignited its fight with the Canadian Tele-vision Fund by accusing its leadership of attempting to consolidate control over its investments in independent production here.

In a letter Friday to CTF chairman Douglas Barrett, released publicly Monday, Calgary-based Shaw accused the main source of public/private subsidies for domestic producers of pursuing an "aggressive and purposeful" agenda to freeze Shaw and other Canadian giants out of decision-making.

"We fail to understand how you and your (CTF) board can ignore the fact that the whole CTF structure and governance model is under review by the CRTC, that concerns have been clearly expressed by stakeholder groups about issues like representations and inclusiveness in decision-making, that very pointed issues have been raised about financial control and accountability, and finally, that the whole mandate of the CTF is subject to growing controversy," Shaw Communications CEO Jim Shaw said in the letter.

Shaw and rival cablecaster Groupe Videotron in March backed down from a threat to stop making monthly payments to the CTF after Ottawa agreed to overhaul the main source of subsidies for Canadian independent producers.

Denis Carmel, a spokesman for the Canadian Radio-tele-vision and Telecommunications Commission, Canada's TV watchdog, said a task force on the future of the CTF will issue its report this month.

Ahead of that disclosure, Jim Shaw complained that Shaw had not been properly notified of the CTF annual general meeting at next week's Banff World Television Festival and cited that omission as evidence of misadventure.

"What you are doing with the annual meeting demonstrates that the CTF does not consider itself accountable to the outside world," Shaw said.

The CTF's Barrett was not available for comment at press time.

The earlier attempt by Shaw and Groupe Videotron to shake up the CTF has threatened to undermine the current business model for Canadian producers, which sees domestic cablers and other content carriers coughing up 5% of annual revenue to swell the coffers at the CTF, under order from the CRTC, the country's broadcast regulator.

The money is then spent on film and TV product made by independent producers, who retain ownership of copyright and the right to exploit spinoff digital and online content.
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