License Renewals

Canadians cheated if broadcaster licence renewals delayed.

CRTC urged to run television review concurrently with renewals.

 

For immediate release
April 3, 2006

We will lose the opportunity to see any original Canadian drama on our screens if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) postpones the upcoming broadcaster licence renewals to make room for a television review.

“If licence renewal hearings are delayed it will really be the death knell for Canadian drama,” says Maureen Parker, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC). “Since 1999, when the CRTC eliminated the requirement to produce and air original homegrown drama, broadcasters have been steadily spending more each year on foreign shows and spending less on Canadian drama.

“If this continues we will only see American lives and American values reflected on our TV screens.”

Since the CRTC wouldn’t change requirements in the middle of the private broadcasters’ licence terms, the WGC had no choice but to wait for the upcoming licence renewals – scheduled for 2007 and 2008 – to ask that minimum drama spending requirements be put in place. But now, due to pressure from the broadcasters, the CRTC has announced it may embark on a television review and push back the licence hearings for another few years.

“We all agree that we need to look at how new technology is changing the television industry, but it doesn’t need to delay the licence renewal hearings,” says Parker. “Combined policy and licensing hearings have been done many times in the past, and it actually is a benefit. The commission will have real applications to help form its policy decisions.

“Besides, there is no quick fix to the technology issue. This will be ongoing and it shouldn’t get in the way of broadcasters making a few Canadian shows.”

Another pressing reason not to delay the licence renewals is the fact that drama spending obligations from ownership transfers and new TV licences will also soon be drying up. Most of this money needs to be spent before August 31, 2008, and after that the Canadian drama spending requirement for all the broadcasters combined drops to a paltry $5.1 million.

“We know that Canadian drama is more expensive to produce than buying ready-made American programs, but these broadcasters can’t just simulcast American shows and expect to keep their licences,” says Parker.

“That’s why the licence renewal hearings are so important. Even when they are making money these broadcasters won’t spend the extra cash to produce Canadian programs. Without minimum drama spending requirements Canadians won’t have the homegrown programming choices they deserve.”

The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) is the national association representing more than 1,800 screenwriters working in English-language film, television, and new media. In addition to negotiating, administering and enforcing collective agreements with independent producers and broadcasters, the WGC works with government agencies to increase the support available to professional screenwriters.

For more information please contact Barb Farwell, Director of Communications, 416-979-7907, ext. 5234 or b.farwell@wgc.ca


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