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Canuck quotas ditched in global programming play

Canadian media watchdog the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has relaxed programming quotas in an effort to encourage the production of “compelling and high-quality content” for local and international distribution.

The previous rules dictated Canadian channels must spend budgets on original daytime shows, but these quotas – currently at 55% – are being reduced to allow local and specialty channels broader slates that can compete with the vast libraries of on-demand services.

This will allow channels such as HGTV Canada and MusiquePlus to “acquire or produce shows that better respond to their audiences’ interests and needs”.

“For too long, narrow criteria have prevented potentially successful content from being made by Canadians,” said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais. “In a world where the content’s origin is secondary to its quality and desirability, we need to show more flexibility in determining which productions can benefit from financial support.

“We are taking the first steps in this direction with two pilot projects, and encouraging others to join us on this exciting journey. Let’s give the world great content made by Canada.”

However, broadcasters must still invest at 75% of funds for independently-created programming such as drama and documentaries, and half of schedules between 6pm and 11pm must still be local productions.

Furthermore, the CRTC will allow video-on-demand services such as Netflix and CraveTV to offer exclusive programming separate to the quota system, providing they are available to all Canadians without a TV subscription.

This is the latest announcement to come out of the on-going Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians process, which has sought to better equip television channels and regulate SVOD services such as Netflix.

“To foster the continued success of Canada’s creative talent, the CRTC is removing barriers that stand in the way of innovation and reinventing its approach to content made by Canadians,” the regulator announced yesterday. “These measures will ensure the creation and promotion of compelling and high-quality content that audiences in Canada and abroad want to watch.”

Meanwhile, the CRTC is launching a pair of pilot projects for live-action drama and comedy series with a budget of C$2 million per hour based on best-selling novels from Canadian authors will be considered Canadian productions, providing certain additional criteria is met.

“These changes are intended to support a production sector that has the financial capacity to develop scripts and concepts, as well as to create and market big-budget productions that can attract global audiences,” the CRTC said.

The regulator also called on “other policy makers and funding agencies to follow suit for the benefit of the television system and Canadians. For instance, existing funding models could be updated to provide incentives for international co-productions and co-ventures, promotion and international distribution opportunities, and the creation of online content”.