Monthly Archives: July 2014

Self-Promotion – CMF Blog Post on CBC’s Punchline

I just wanted to let you guys know that I wrote another blog post for CMF’s Watch Squad, this one on CBC’s new online comedy channel (do not call it a portal) – Punchline.  It’s an interesting new venture that I’ll be watching both from the perspective of content creators (a new distribution channel that doesn’t require broadcast, a new way from a broadcaster to develop and test out material and talent) and as a solution to CBC’s funding woes as they move some of their content to the less expensive digital platforms.  It also plays into the CBC’s role as a public broadcaster and the constantly shifting perspective of what that means for those inside the CBC.  There are policy implications as that platform is unregulated.  That doesn’t mean much for Canadian content concerns since it is the public broadcaster and their focus is Canadian comedy but what about the other policy goals of the Broadcasting Act like accessibility, diversity and regional reflection.  What about accountability?  It may not be an issue now but it certainly should be monitored. 

I think Punchline is a great opportunity for comedy in Canada and I’ll be watching it’s development.  And I loved that I got to meet with comedy people at the CBC and pitch them on revisiting my fave CBC comedy show, “Michael Tuesdays and Thursday” – I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that!

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DHX Approved for Family Channel Purchase

This one is no surprise.  The kids industry was very positive about DHX buying the Family Channel services and becoming an independent (i.e. non-vertically integrated) broadcaster.  DHX clearly knows the kids market.  So this is just a quick blog post about the highlights of the decision.

As usual, there was a slight increase in the purchase price from $170 million to $173.1 million to cover the value of assumed leases.  That will increase the benefits package from $17 million to $17.3 million.  The package was allocated 85% on screen and 15% social benefits as is now expected.  Specifically it goes to:

$8 million for drama and comedy production

up to $5 million for partnerships with public broadcasters and APTN for co-licensing

$1 million for associated digital media

$1.5 million for a Children’s and Family Development Fund for new entrants to the kids sector, regional producers, OLMC’s and French language producers.

$1.6 million to regional opportunities and training in children’s script writing (social benefits)

The package hit all the right notes and was approved.

There were a couple of other issues in the decision that are relevant.  By pulling the Family Channel services out of the Astral group, the group CPE had to be recalculated.  DHX proposed 21% based on the average spend in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  This was not consistent with the formula used for all of the other groups and the CRTC adjusted it to 22% based on 2009, 2010 and 2011.  DHX’s proposal also included 2012, the year that Astral stopped spending money because they were in the process of being bought, which is why the CRTC’s CPE went up even though it includes the 2009 recession.

DHX asked that the requirement to spend 75% of PNI CPE on independent production be reduced to 60% with the ability to fill up to 40% of the program schedule on their own production.  DHX has a substantial catalogue of Canadian children’s programming and that side of the business will continue.  The CMPA was ok with the proposal as long as CPE spent on independent production is to be spent on original independent production and not repeats.  The CRTC agreed.  This is interesting because it is the first time that the CRTC has specified that CPE needs to be spent on original programming.  The Group Licence Policy was supposed to prevent a reliance on repeats because of the sheer volume of spending required.  The independent production community all along thought that the levels for PNI were set too low and now reporting, to the extent that it is usable, suggests that broadcasters are in fact relying on repeats for their PNI CPE and spending their original dollars on incremental benefits spending.  As a result, CMPA is proposing in their Talk TV submission that PNI CPE should be spent on original programming.   The CRTC may be open to this.

Federal Pre-Budget Consultations – Is There Any Point?

As part of the usual budget development process, the federal government launched pre-budget consultations June 6, 2014. The public has until August 6, 2014 to submit written submissions on what they would like to see in the budget. As the press release says, “Suggestions made by Canadians and the pre-budget report compiled by the Committee will be considered by the Minister of Finance in the development of the 2015 federal budget”.

After several years of a majority Conservative government, I believe that a few stakeholders, particularly those in the cultural industries, may be wondering if there is any point in participating in this process. Does the government listen to suggestions from the public or just do their own thing? Is there any point in going to the effort of writing a submission and trying to get on the witness list for the Finance Committee hearings?

I think so. Here’s the thing. The government may not listen. In fact, it probably won’t. I think that the government is looking to the 2015 election now and the upcoming budget will have that in mind. It will be about votes and I do not think that this government sees many votes for them in this sector. In film, television and digital media we got copyright reform (whether we are happy with it or not) and the Canada Media Fund made permanent. I do not think that we can expect anything else in the coming year. So what’s the point?

First, parliamentary committees are always a good way to raise the profile of an issue for government bureaucrats and provide them with data and resources. When the parliamentary committee system is dysfunctional, as it can be argued it is today, this can be the greatest value in participating in a committee process. Many issues take years to work their way through government departments, regardless of who is in power. Annual pre-budget consultations are a good way to keep publicly saying that an issue needs to be resolved and providing up to date data.

Second, there will be an election at some point in 2015 and now is a good time to let all political parties know what your top issues are. You can directly lobby them to try to get in to the party platform but a well-reasoned submission followed by an articulate presentation and well-answered questions will be noticed. There is no guarantee that your issues will fit within any party agenda but in my opinion attempting to influence party platforms in your favour is better than sitting back and complaining afterwards that you were ignored.

Besides, the Finance Committee has limited submissions to 2000 words so this really will not be a big effort on your part. Come up with the top 2 or 3 budget issues, describe them briefly and submit away. Hearings will be over the fall in Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Yellowknife and Vancouver as well as in Ottawa. What do you have to lose?