CRTC's New CanCon Rules: Bigger Budgets, But Maybe Fewer Shows

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Canada's federal TV regulator says it's bringing in new rules to encourage bigger budget, higher quality Canadian programs, but homegrown performers fear the changes could ghettoize Canuck fare.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says it wants broadcasters to dedicate a minimum percentage of their budgets to homegrown production, instead of guaranteeing eight hours a week of Canuck shows during key prime time hours.

It says it will also allow CTV and Global to put a portion of their Canadian content onto specialty channels, which include Bravo and Showcase.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 22,000 performers across the country, says that could marginalize homegrown shows.

The changes were announced as the CRTC renewed the licences for English-language services operated by several media conglomerates.

Over the next five years, Bell Media, Corus Entertainment and Shaw Media must allocate at least 30 per cent of gross annual revenues to the production of Canadian programs while Rogers Media must spend at least 23 per cent over the next three years. Previously they had no such financial obligation.

CRTC commissioner Rita Cugini says the funding requirements address years of criticism that broadcasters were not spending enough money on Canadian fare.

Even though they are no longer required to air Canadian shows between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., she says conventional networks would still be obligated to air 50 per cent Canadian content between 6 p.m. and midnight.

The changes also allow conventional networks to put up to 26 per cent of Canadian production funds towards programs on specialty networks.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 22,000 performers across the country, says it's not enough to just fund Canadian programming.

"You also have to put it where the most eyeballs are, and that’s on the conventional television networks," alliance president Ferne Downey said Wednesday in a statement.

"We agree that broadcasters need flexibility, but ghettoizing Canadian drama on specialty stations would not be the answer. In a world where Canadian content creation will rise and fall in proportion to broadcasters' revenues, we're definitely all in this together."

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