Canada TV biz balks at U.S. spending clampdown

Tue Mar 3, 2009 10:29pm EST
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By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Canadian broadcasters are criticizing a proposal by the country's TV regulator to curb their U.S. programing expenditures in a bid to promote homegrown production.

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission said Tuesday it will consider imposing a "1:1 ratio requirement" between Canadian and foreign programing expenditures on domestic broadcasters during license hearings scheduled to begin April 27.

CTVglobemedia, which runs primetime ratings leader CTV, said it "would not be able to comply" with such an order.

"While the returns on U.S. programing are diminishing -- both for Canadian and U.S. broadcasters -- it is still by far the most profitable programing category and is critical to support the Canadian segments of our schedule, which are by and large not profitable," CTVglobemedia said in a written submission to the CRTC.

Rogers Broadcasting, which runs a string of Citytv stations, said that imposing a cap on U.S. expenditures was "not financially viable and would seriously impact the already fragile financial situation of the Citytv stations."

Rogers echoed other broadcasters in arguing that the prices it pays for new and returning U.S. series are largely set in stone as part of existing output deals with U.S. studio suppliers.

The CRTC argues that Canadian broadcasters kept their Canadian and foreign program expenditures roughly in balance until the mid-2000s, but in recent years have allowed their U.S. series spending to spike as U.S. studios drive up prices for their product.

Canadian TV guilds and cultural nationalists have applauded the CRTC's 1:1 ratio proposal as a way to encourage more homegrown series production.

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)