Warning – this is a wonky post.
In last week’s Corus CRTC hearing there was one recurring line of questioning that I thought deserved its own blog post because I suspect that most of you are not aware of its full significance and might need some context.
Commissioner Raj Shoan asked each of the English creator groups (ACTRA, CMPA, WGC and DGC) if they could identify any impact that the new Group Licensing Policy (frequently referred to as GLP and now an entry in my Acronym Decoder) had had on their sector. Jay Thomson of CMPA and Peter Murphy of the DGC responded that the creators do not have access to the spending data to assess how spending on a group basis and through PNI compares with the previous regulatory framework. (CMPA para 1615, DGC para 2033-2035).
In the Reply phase of the hearing Gary Maavara responded that the creators had enough information from the CRTC Pay and Specialty Financial Summaries to determine what impact GLP was having on the pay and specialty sector. (para 2386)
In my opinion, this is wrong.
Back in the summer of 2012, I was a part of the creators’ group that went to the CRTC and asked for detailed reporting that reflected the new GLP framework (Disclaimer – because of that involvement I do feel some ownership of this issue, still). Existing reporting provides stakeholders with OTA aggregated reports on spending by program category, pay and specialty aggregated reports on spending by program category, individual pay and specialty service revenue and total program spending reports, aggregated conventional spending by corporate group and by program category and benefits spending by corporate group.
Seems like a lot of reports, right? Yes, but there are no reports by the entire group and corporate groups are now able to allocate their CPEs across the group, with certain conditions. There are also no PNI reports (by group or service or licence category) and the regulatory framework allows groups to allocate their PNI CPE across a group, with certain conditions.
Why are these reports necessary? The GLP was put in place to provide broadcasters with flexibility in their programming and expense allocation across their corporate group without letting them decrease their Canadian programming obligations and specifically protecting more expensive Programs of National Interest. After many years it had been proven, through extensive data, that the previous priority programming policy framework had allowed broadcasters to meet their obligations through low cost programming, resulting in a significant drop in spending on Canadian drama and documentaries. The creative community hopes that GLP works and reverses the trend in spending but wants to see the data to ensure that it works. If it isn’t working – well it’s better to learn that earlier and try to deal with any problems promptly rather than have the system fail Canadian programming for 11 years (that’s not an exaggeration sadly). If it is working – well I’d love a good news story!
I understand from the creator’s group that while the CRTC is working on the question of reporting, no decisions have been made and the requested reports from the first year of the GLP (2011-12) are not available. It is a tricky issue dealing with what legally can be provided, what the CRTC’s obligations are and pushback everyone knows will come from the broadcasters. I’m not sure why Commissioner Shoan asked the question that he did, unless it was to see if the creative groups had other ways of measuring impact. Production is up. CMPA’s Profile says that (2012 had a 21.3% increase over 2011), there are more Canadian shows in the Top 30 than in previous years, there are production crews all over Toronto streets (and other cities but I live in an area of Toronto where crews love to shoot so let me tell you – I’ve noticed an increase!). The real issue is whether the increase in production is because of benefits (and will drop when they expire) or because of the GLP or some combination. There are other questions like whether PNI is being appropriately allocated amongst drama, documentaries and award shows or all being spent on the more expensive drama shows. None of these questions can be answered with the existing reports.
Hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. In the meantime, the existing reports only tell half the story.