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CRTC demands more Canadian drama
Canada’s television watchdog says the country’s private TV networks should produce more English Canadian drama.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which regulates TV and radio in Canada, has released a notice saying the country’s three private broadcasters should spend nearly twice as much money on original, Canadian drama as they do now.
Under current rules, the three private networks, Global, CTV and CHUM, spend about 3.3 per cent of their annual revenues on Canadian shows.
Over the next five years, they will have to increase spending on Canadian drama to six per cent of their revenue.
The networks will also have to meet rating targets for their domestically produced shows.
In an effort to prevent cheap Canadian productions being dumped into unpopular time slots, the regulator has set a target for the private networks. In five years, it wants 16.5 per cent of the networks’ total drama viewership to be Canadian.
In 2003-2004, the industry average was 9.2 per cent, with CTV reporting that 10.5 per cent of its drama viewership was of Canadian shows. CHUM reported 9.1 per cent and Global 8.4 per cent.
The CRTC released the details of these new guidelines back in the summer to give the networks a chance to review them and make suggestions.
The networks have argued against the change, saying they’re being asked to do too much, too soon. In their briefs to the commission, they argued that the targets have been set too high.
The regulator agreed in its ruling that the viewing targets “will be a challenge.”
“However, [the CRTC] considers that the increase is achievable if the groups take advantage of the incentive program for the production of original Canadian drama,” it said.
As an incentive, the private networks will be permitted more advertising during U.S.-made programming to help their bottom line.
The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and the Canadian Film and Television Production Association have been critical of the private networks for failing to produce homemade drama.
In 1999, the CRTC began to include reality TV, documentaries and entertainment magazines in its definition of Canadian programming, which led to a dramatic fall in spending on Canadian drama, ACTRA said.
In a statement released Wednesday, ACTRA said the new rules don’t go far enough. The CRTC should have asked for at least two hours of Canadian prime-time drama from each of the private networks every week, it said.
“It’s time the CRTC got serious about being a regulator and imposed some requirements that actually have some teeth,” Stephen Waddell, ACTRA executive director, said.