CRTC ups PNI spending requirements for Bell, Corus

CRTC

The CRTC has increased the programs of national interest (PNI) spending requirement for both the English and French-language large television ownership groups.

The move comes in response to the federal government’s Order-in-Council, asking the CRTC to reconsider its May 2017 decision in which it cut the minimum PNI expenditure requirement to a uniform five per cent of revenue for Bell, Corus and Rogers – almost half the previous requirement of nine to 10 per cent.

Unions representing Canadian screenwriters, directors and others, blasted the decision, saying the move was equivalent to slashing the broadcasters’ investment in Canadian programming by $200 million over five years.

With the percentage now based on historical expenditures, Bell’s requirement will increase from five per cent to 7.5 per cent of the previous year’s revenues. Corus’ spending requirements will go from five per cent to 8.5 per cent, while requirements for Rogers will remain at five per cent.

For the French-language market, the CRTC will now require each group to make significant investments in the creation of French-language programs, representing 75 per cent of its Canadian programming expenditures for original French-language programs starting in 2019/20. The percentage in 2018/19 will be 50 per cent, giving the groups time to adjust to the new requirements.

The CRTC determined that the groups in both language markets will have to allocate an average of $5.5 million per year to support the production of musical programs (FACTOR and MUSICACTION). The expenditure will be imposed from 2019 to 2022, and ensure regulatory uniformity among the groups.

“It’s extremely heartening that the commission, under the leadership of Chairman Ian Scott and vice-chairperson (Broadcasting) Caroline J. Simard, have righted the wrong created by the earlier decision,” said Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) executive director Maureen Parker. “It’s almost unprecedented to have an appeal to the federal cabinet go forward and meet with this kind of success. It’s also a marker of the Liberal government’s commitment to Canadian culture, as it was at the government’s behest that the appeal went forward. Kudos to the CRTC for taking it over the goal line.”

The PNI designation covers traditionally difficult-to-finance Canadian-focused drama, scripted series, documentaries, variety and awards shows.

WGC says based on revenue projections, the move means up to $289 million more in broadcaster spending on PNI over the remaining four years of the licence term. Operating under the May 2017 decision for the past year, the WGC says it noted a decline in production of original programming.

Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) national executive director Dave Forget told Broadcast Dialogue, the decision is a win for everyone.

“In practical terms, that’s many hours of programs and multiple series that Canadians would have been deprived of and thousands of hours of work for our members,” said Forget. “We also think it’s a win for the broadcasters because these are programs with high impact and Canadians who are fans of this content will see more of what they enjoy watching.”


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