Unions, guilds react to CRTC licensing decision

The CMPA, DGC and other associations have come out in opposition to the decision to set PNI at 5% of revenues.

red tvThe CMPA, WGC, DGC and ACTRA have all come out against the CRTC’s recent licensing decision for major English-language broadcasters.

Specifically, the unions and guilds object to the decision to set Programs of National Interest (PNI) spending for Corus, Bell and Rogers at 5% of revenues. A report commissioned by the associations in August, found that Bell historically averaged PNI levels of 8%, with Corus at 9% and Rogers at 5%.

The guilds had all proposed PNI requirements be set at more than 5%. The DGC proposed PNI expenditure for all three groups be set at 9%, while the CMPA argued for an average of the historical levels of the three Groups.

All the associations stressed that as broadcasters’ revenues decline, they are already investing fewer dollars on dramas, documentaries and other programs of national interest. A reduction in the PNI rate would only magnify those losses.

“For years, the CRTC has said it’s shifting focus from the number of hours of Canadian programming on air to the investment broadcasters make in original content. Now, they’re cutting the investment requirements, too. The Commission is betraying its own word and betraying Canadian creators,” DGC National president, Tim Southam, said in a statement.

“You can’t make great programming with fewer dollars and that appears to be the potential outcome of this decision and that doesn’t seem to line up with the stated objectives of the CRTC or for that matter, Minister [Melanie] Joly, who as we all know has been very focused on increasing the export potential of Canadian screen-based content,” Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO of the CMPA told Playback Daily. “You can have the best export strategy in the world but it won’t succeed if you’ve got nothing to sell.”

In a release, the DGC and WGC argued that because Corus and Bell will now only be required to contribute 5% of revenues (compared to the 9% and 8% they’d historically averaged) the CRTC’s decision will drain $200 million in funding from Canadian programming over the next five years.

For its part, the CRTC argued a 5% PNI would allow the broadcast groups to compete on an equal footing and give them flexibility to adapt in a competitive market.

While the three major broadcast groups must devote 75% of their PNI spend to independently produced programming, a definition of what constitutes “independently produced” was not laid out in the CRTC’s decision. The CMPA had argued strongly in favour of setting a new definition, stating in its submission to the CRTC, “To be truly ‘independent’ and not merely a broadcaster’s service company or an adjunct to a broadcaster’s in-house production team, a producer must meaningfully own and control both its production company and the content it creates, and must meaningfully reap the economic benefits of its efforts.”

At the November hearing, the CMPA specifically took aim at Corus’ producer of record program, which it argued gives Corus control of the rights of the concept and underlying format of a program. Mastin argued at the time that the deal “offloads all the risk to the production company, while allowing Corus to reap the benefits of the show.”

Mastin said that he was “disappointed that this fundamental issue wasn’t addressed” in the licence renewal decisions.