CRTC reverses decision to slash Canadian programming requirements


TORONTO — Canadian entertainment associations are applauding the reversal of a decision that would have decreased the amount private-sector television groups are required to spend on Canadian programming.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Thursday that it had reconsidered a decision it made last year and will now require Bell Media, Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. to spend 7.5, 8.5 and five per cent respectively of their previous year’s revenues on Canadian programming. The trio previously had to allocate five per cent of their revenues to such content.

The CRTC’s decision also means French-language television groups Quebecor Inc. and Groupe V Medias will have to invest 75 per cent of their original programming expenditures in original content in a year, up from 50 per cent in the prior ruling.

Groups in both the English and French market will also be required to allocate an average of $5.5 million a year to support the production of musical programs.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), a national union representing 25,000 professional performers in the country, called the decision “a win for Canadian storytelling.”

“This was an important battle for us and our members to say it should not be a liability or a problem for broadcasters to produce Canadian stories. It should be in their interest,” said Elliott Anderson, the director of public policy and communications.

Broadcasters argued that they shouldn’t be saddled with the burden of telling Canadian stories because they are competing with U.S. streaming giant Netflix.

“I think it was nice that the CRTC did not side with the argument and (said) this is something that is worthy,” he said.

Scott Garvie, chairman of the Canadian Media Producers Association advocacy group and the senior vice president of production company Shaftesbury, was equally enthusiastic about the decision.

“Today’s CRTC decision means more jobs, more economic output, and most importantly, more of the shows that Canadians love,” he said in a press release.

“By increasing the required investment in programs of national interest, the CRTC has underscored the important role that Canada’s independent producers and other creators play in a broadcasting system that reflects the diversity of voices, perspectives and stories that make up our national culture.”

The CRTC’s change in requirements comes into effect on Saturday and will last until 2022.

The modifications were triggered by the federal cabinet asking the CRTC to re-evaluate its decision in May 2017 and rounds of consultations done in both the English and French markets.

Dimitri Gourdin, Groupe V’s executive vice-president of strategy and communications, said the company already exceeds the CRTC’s requirement, by dedicating 94 per cent of its budget to original French-language programming.

However, Gourdin said he was “not happy” that the CRTC was placing more regulations on television companies.

“Our industry is under tremendous pressure coming from the declining advertising dollar, from the competition from other platforms and from outside of Canada. The industry is really under pressure and this is a question of surviving,” he said.

Gourdin said he was also frustrated with the requirements about supporting music programming.

“What the CRTC wants from us as broadcasters is to support video clips and we all know that no one is consuming video clips on TV,” he said. “That is why I think that the CRTC is totally disconnected from reality.”

Rogers and Quebecor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Corus spokeswoman Cheryl Fullerton told The Canadian Press the company was reviewing the decision, but had nothing further to say.

Bell refused to comment.


Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:CJR.B, TSX:QBR.B)

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press