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Madame Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for your invitation to appear before you today to discuss the Canadian Television Fund.
At the outset, let me just say that we believe the CTF is a critically important element of the Canadian broadcasting system.
Without the support provided by the CTF to independent television producers, there would be very little in the way of Canadian television programs that would capture Canadian experiences, sensibilities and perspectives, and would showcase actors, writers and directors who are Canadians.
In English Canada, we would be a nation entertained almost completely by the stories, experiences and stars of other nations, primarily the US.
On French television, the Fund ensures a healthy balance between public and private television choices. It ensures a variety of television programs, whether it is in drama, documentaries or children's television. That balance is one of the goals enshrined in Canada's Broadcasting Act.
Thanks to the CTF, we have a vibrant independent television production sector in every region of the country employing approximately 20,000 people and creating 2,300 hours of prime-time Canadian programming. And it is efficient. Every dollar of CTF money levers more than three dollars of Canadian programming.
From the viewer's point of view, the CTF is also increasingly successful.
Canadian audiences to CTF-financed productions are now up across all genres. Across Canada, English television audiences are up from 32 per cent in 2003 to 34 per cent in 2005. On French television, they are up from 32 per cent to 56 per cent for the same period.
For broadcasters, the CTF permits the establishment of effective partnerships with Canadian independent producers for the creation and airing of Canadian programming. As you can see from the slides we have circulated this morning, the result is an important part of CBC/Radio-Canada's prime-time schedules.
These slides also reveal the basis and importance of the so-called "CBC/Radio-Canada envelope."
The effect of this envelope is to allocate 37 per cent of CTF money to independent producers whose television programs are broadcast on CBC and Radio-Canada.
Government created this envelope because, as you can see from these slides, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only broadcaster with the "shelf space" – the largest space in its schedule – to offer mostly Canadian programs when most Canadians are watching television, that is during prime time.
As you know from other witnesses who have appeared before you, CBC/Radio-Canada does not receive CTF money. Independent producers are the recipients of this funding.
The CBC/Radio-Canada envelope created by Government also recognizes that the mandate of a public broadcaster is different – that it should not simply offer the programs that can chase the largest audience in competition with private broadcasters but instead, offer high-quality Canadian programming as per its mandate.
By making more and varied Canadian programming available when more Canadians are watching, the CBC/Radio-Canada envelope is therefore an effective mechanism for achieving the objectives of the Fund: promoting Canadian culture and identity. I should also point out that in order to promote this objective, the Government had originally set aside 50 per cent of the CTF for productions airing on CBC/Radio-Canada.
Another key aspect of the Canadian Television Fund is its independence. Since its creation, the CTF has been required to act independently of the overriding financial interests of any particular stakeholder, group or corporate interest. We believe this independence is vital to the continued success of the Fund.
In fact, we believe that the Fund could become even more effective if greater independence were established at the Board level. These issues are to be examined further through the CRTC review process now underway.
But these kinds of ongoing improvements are part of how the Fund works. And let me be clear, the Canadian Television Fund is working extremely well. Without it, there would be very little independent production in Canada, and CBC/Radio-Canada would be hard-pressed to continue to offer the Canadian programming that Canadians want; the programming that is essential to our mandate.
We would be pleased to answer your questions.