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Filmmakers Call Foul To Canadian TV Fund

Independent film producers are calling foul over the amount of funds going to Quebec. French-language productions are guaranteed at least a third of the CA$200-million a year provided by the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) and Quebec-based film companies this year are receiving nearly 40% of the federal funds. Another sore point is that in years past Cinar Corp., the Montreal-based producer of childrens series, has received as much federal funding as the entire Alberta industry. Currently, Cinar is under investigation for using false Canadian names on scripts by U.S. writers to obtain Canadian tax breaks. In an interview with the Parliamentary Bureau, Alberta documentary maker Garth Pritchard said that many independent filmmakers are afraid to speak out for fear of being "blacklisted." Pritchard calls the CTF an old boys' network that funnels the lion's share of the Canadian Television Fund to profitable firms in Montreal and Toronto. Telefilm Canada administers half the television fund, while a separate CTF board administers the other half. Consultants for the CTF François Colbert and David Silcox, have stated in reports that English-language producers found the one-third, two-thirds division between French and English productions to be "irritating," because only 25 per cent of Canada's population is French-speaking. The report also stated there is a "lack of resources [in the fund] to meet regional needs." CTF chairman Richard Stursberg said, "We have to remember the fund is not primarily an industrial fund aimed at job creation. It is a cultural fund; we look at what is the program as opposed to what is the company." In 2000, Quebec-based companies received 37.5% of all CTF cash, while Ontario companies received 32% and the rest of the money was divided amongst the rest of the country. Cinar alone has received an estimated $8 million in federal funding in the past five years, including $4.3 million in 1996-97. That year, the entire Alberta industry for documentaries, dramas, children's shows and variety shows received less than $4.3 million in CTF funding. Pritchard agrees that much of the Canadian industry is based in Toronto and Montreal, which is why those cities get more funding. However he said the bigger recipients are the publicly traded companies and independents are left in the dark.

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Rick DeMott
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