The two-week-old controversy sparked by cable giants Vidéotron and Shaw Communications Inc., declaring that they would hold back contributions to the Canadian Television Fund, CTF, has highlighted some of the central issues of Canadian media regulation. In yesterday's Le Devoir, Quel modèle de télévision ?, editorialist Jean-Robert Sansfaçon, recalls that private sector obligations to support cultural objectives are at the heart of the system.
Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after Vidéotron's parent company Quebecor Media announced that it was creating its own private programme fund (eligible only to its own broadcast subsidiaries), the company reversed course on Tuesday and said it would resume payments to the CTF. The reversal came within hours of a statement issued by both Heritage Minister Bev Oda and new CRTC chief Konrad von Finckenstein affirming that regulatory requirements would be respected. Ultimately, the CRTC has the power to remove a cable company's license to operate a monopoly service in a given territory. Details of the controversy can be followed on the Media Monitor section of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting web site here
Industry groups, especially those representing the creative sector, have been following this issue with obvious interest. For the reaction of the Writers Guild of Canada, WGC, click here. The CTF was one of several contentious topics discussed at the WGC/Media@McGill mini-conference on screenwriting last Monday evening.