Péladeau threatens court action against CMF

Wants funding remit widened to include programs like Star Academy

Three years after he stopped paying into the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) in protest cable mogul and Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau is threatening to go to court to change the new Canada Media Fund’s eligibility criteria.

In a letter sent to Heritage Minister James Moore in mid-June Péladeau said the government must make programs such as the reality TV talent contest Star Académie eligible for CMF funding or the company will ‘legal action,’ reported Montreal’s French-language daily La Presse in a June 23 article.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by La Presse, Péladeau blasted the CMF and its board for not financing Star Academie, which is a cross between Big Brother and American Idol and is a major ratings grab for Quebecor Inc.’s network TVA; it drew three million viewers at the peak of its popularity. Quebecor maintains Star Academie is a variety program showcasing Quebec talent and therefore should be get money from CMF.

The Executive Director of the Writers Guild of Canada Maureen Parker, who sits on an CMF advisory group with Quebecor and other industry players, says the executive is lobbying the minister because he’s not having any luck with the CMF staff and board. ‘Quebecor puts forward this argument on a regular basis. It has been rejected because it is entirely self serving. Quebecor is a broadcaster, producer and a BDU,’ says Parker. ‘Basically they want to use public money to finance their productions and put the profits directly in their pockets. This is missing the whole purpose of the CMF. It is a small fund meant to support drama and documentaries, which are difficult to fund in the marketplace.’

Quebecor Inc. and Quebec’s producers’ association, the APFTQ wouldn’t provide comment for this article. Heritage spokesman Jean-Luc Benoit said the minister received the letter and will respond.

Péladeau has been pushing the federal government to adopt his vision of how to fund Canadian TV and online content since he and Jim Shaw temporarily stopped making payments to the former CTF fund three years ago.

Péladeau’s wish list was clearly a guide for those in charge of the new CMF’s structure. In addition to giving cable providers more power to govern the fund than they had under CTF and removing CBC/Radio-Canada’s special status – two of Péladeau’s major requests – Moore’s favors multiplatform content that has the most potential to generate high ratings. And it permits broadcasters to access CMF money with in-house programming.