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HOUSE OF COMMONS
OTTAWA, CANADA
K1A 0A6




The Standing Committee on Official Languages has the honour to present its

 

EIGHTH REPORT

 

 

FRANCOPHONE TELEVISION PRODUCTION IN MINORITY ENVIRONMENTS

Francophone television production in minority environments: a significant development

Through their work, a dozen or so francophone producers living in minority environments relate the stories and life experiences of their community.  Their impact is twofold.  In cultural terms, they reinforce the socio-cultural identity of their community by giving it visibility and expression.  In economic terms, they are synonymous with the creation of jobs for writers, actors, screenwriters and technicians in the audiovisual industry.

In 1999, these producers formed an association, the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada (APFC), which set itself the mission of  working [translation] " to develop the francophone film, television and multi-media industry across Canada".([1])  Four years later, the results speak for themselves.  Between 1999 and 2002, the total value of licences accorded by broadcasters grew from $1.6 million to $4 million.  The number of hours of programming produced on Canadian television also grew in this period [Figure 1].

 

 

Source: APFC, La production en français à l'extérieur du Québec : considérations relatives à la diffusion (document submitted to the Department of Canadian Heritage, December 2001) and APFC, brief to the Standing Committee on Official Languages, June 3, 2003.

Despite real progress, francophone television production outside Quebec continues to be vulnerable.  The recent announced changes to the Canadian Television Fund and cuts in its budget threaten this progress. 

Cuts to the Canadian Television Fund budget and the revision of the rules of allocation of the Licence Fee Program (LFP)

On February 18, 2003, the  Government of Canada  announced that it was contributing $150 million over two years to the Canadian Television Fund—a reduction of $50 million ($25 million annually) from previous years.   This cut was doubly painful as the $40 million reserve had been completely used up in 2002-2003 and as the $4.6 million contribution by class 1([2]) cable companies, which are now permitted to allocate their 5% contribution to local programming rather than to the Canadian Television Fund, as the result of a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).   In all, the Canadian Television Fund was faced with a loss of nearly $70 million for 2003-2004 from the previous year.

In the fall of 2002, the Canadian Television Fund reviewed the rules for allocating funds from the Licence Fee Program.  The LFP's guidelines now give broadcasters the overriding voice in the evaluation of projects submitted to the Fund.  Broadcasters in Canada whose programs had received financial support from the LFP in the past three years were entitled to qualify a number of productions as "priority".

According to the updated LFP classification results for the spring round of submissions, proposals submitted by francophone producers in minority environments were hard hit by the criteria changes announced previously.  While the overall rate of refusal was approximately 60% and 50% for the two rounds of submissions, the rates of refusal of projects of francophone producers in minority environments were 72% and 78% respectively.  In 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, over 20 projects received annual funding, as compared with the 4 out of 17 that were proposed in 2003-2004.  In the area of documentaries, a slot in which the members of the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada excel, only 2 projects out of 46 in the francophone envelope were funded for francophone productions outside Quebec.

 Every year, the two CTF programs (the Licence Fee Program and the Equity Program) are both broken down into linguistic envelopes: two thirds of the funding committed annually goes to English productions, and the other third goes to fund French-language projects.  It should be pointed out here that francophones in minority environments represent 15% of Canada's francophones.([3])   We note that, in the past six years, funding given to francophone producers in minority environments did not reach 15%  of the francophone envelope, despite a substantial increase in the past two years.  [See Figure 2]

 

 

Source: Canadian Television Fund activity reports for 1997-1998, 1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2000-2001, 2001-2002.  For 2002-2003, the figures are taken from the Fund's data base.

Accordingly, the Committee believes the funding given francophone producers in minority environments must be stabilized in the coming years.  The Committee therefore makes the following recommendation.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 The Standing Committee on Official Languages calls on the Government of Canada to re-establish, indeed even increase, its contribution to  Canadian television production and confirm it for the next five years.

 

RECOMMENDATION

The Standing Committee on Official Languages recommends that the Government of Canada set aside immediately a minimum of 15% of the francophone envelope of the Canadian Television Fund, or of the funding of any new structure that might replace the Fund, for television productions of francophones in minority environments, a figure that represents the relative weight of the francophone minority communities in the Canadian francophone population.

 

 

Support from broadcasters for francophone minority environment television production

 

We noted that some francophone broadcasters still give francophone producers in minority situations little opportunity.  TFO, the only francophone broadcaster outside Quebec, is still the principal partner/broadcaster of francophone productions outside Quebec with 60% of the licences granted.  In recent years, however, up to 2002-2003, support from the Société Radio-Canada for regional francophone television productions increased.  The increase was due in part to the SRC's establishment of a career development program, which remains in effect, aimed at training francophone writers and producers from minority language communities.  The project was funded in part by the Interdepartmental Partnership with Official Language Communities (IPOLC)([4]), in co-operation with partners, such as Telefilm Canada and the Institut national de l'image et du son (INIS).  Another IPOLC agreement between Telefilm Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage was also ratified to promote the growth of independent francophone production in minority environments.([5])  Clearly, help provided by Canadian Heritage under the IPOLC has contributed to the growth of television production in francophone minority communities.

However, the progress is fragile. In the last round of LPF submissions (2003-2004), the Société accorded only 13 points of the 420 available to it to projects from outside Quebec.   The Committee expects the Société to do better at the next round of application submissions, to take place in the fall of 2003.  It should give higher priority to francophone productions in minority communities.  We would remind the Société that the CRTC stated clearly in its Decision 2000-2 of January 2000 that "CBC French-language television should maintain and even increase regional production."([6])   The Decision also states that the SRC committed to invest $7 million in independent regional production over the course of its licence.

The Committee would remind the other francophone national broadcaster, TVA, that it has obligations with respect to francophone content in minority situation.  In 1998, the CRTC approved national distribution of the French-language television service of TVA.  Decision 2001-385, in effect from September 1, 2001 to August 31, 2008,  carried three conditions of licence over from 1998:

·        The licensee must broadcast a minimum of six special events per year reflecting the Francophone reality and experience outside Quebec.

·        The licensee must include, as part of the TVA network programming, a weekly 30‑minute program on Francophone life outside Quebec.

·        The licensee must reinvest at least 43% of the excess of its revenues over expenses related to the expanded distribution of its service outside Quebec in the improvement of programming focusing on Francophones outside Quebec.([7])

With TVA half way through the term of its licence, we do not rule out the possibility of inviting it, and other francophone broadcasters, to appear in the coming months to explain to Committee members how they are meeting their obligations.

Finally, the Committee would like to mention that it held only two meetings on the various problems relating to the Canadian Television Fund and francophone minority environment television production.  We were unable to consider the situation of English-language television production in Quebec in depth.  It faces different but real challenges.  For example, anglophone productions from Quebec have to penetrate an anglophone market, where American productions are highly competitive.  In addition, anglophone producers in Quebec often have difficulty gaining access to anglophone broadcasters, which are located primarily in Toronto.  The Committee may well consider this question in the near future.

In conclusion, some witnesses indicated a real problem existed between the management of Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund.  The field of television finds itself with two funds, two administrative programs and two administrative boards.

RECOMMENDATION

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada thoroughly review both the administration and the structure of the Canadian Television Fund and of Telefilm Canada.

 

 

 



[1]     Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada, three-year strategic plan 2000-2003, June 2000, p. 5.

[2] Reference here is to class one cable companies with fewer than 20,000 subscribers.

[3]  This percentage is based on the population whose mother tongue is French, established on the 2000 census by Statistics Canada.

 

[4]  The IPOLC is a five-year initiative of the Department of Canadian Heritage worth $5.5 million annually, which is intended to encourage federal departments and agencies responsible for the application of section 41 of the Official Languages Act to promote the growth of official language minority communities and to support their development within their respective mandates.

[5]  The agreement has three main parts: development of national and international markets, professional training and development and support for developing projects.

[6]  CRTC Decision 2000-2, paragraph 59 (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Decisions/2000/DB2000-2.htm).

[7]  CRTC Decision 2001-385 (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Decisions/2001/DB2001-385.htm).






REQUEST FOR GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

 

 

 

            Pursuant to Standing Order 109, your committee requests the government to table a comprehensive response to this report.

 

 

            A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meetings Nos 25, 26 and 29) is tabled.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,




Mauril Bélanger, M.P.
Chair





Dissenting Opinion of the Bloc Québécois

 

 

Report on Francophone Television Production in Minority Environments

Standing Committee on Official Languages

 

 

The Bloc Québécois cannot support the Standing Committee on Official Language’s Report on Francophone Television Production in Minority Environments. Although the Bloc Québécois concurs with the Committee that the funding given francophone producers in minority environments must be stabilized, it cannot accept that this stabilization occur to the detriment of Quebec.

 

Specifically, the Bloc Québécois cannot support Recommendation 2, which recommends that “the Department of Canadian Heritage set aside 15% of the francophone envelope of the Canadian Television Fund for francophone minority environment television programming” because this does not guarantee respect for Quebec’s share of the budget envelope for television production.

 

Quebec represents the largest pool of francophones in North America. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that its television-production potential is not compromised by funding that fluctuates in relation to cuts and increases to the Canadian Television Fund.

 

The Bloc Québécois recommends that the francophone envelope of the Canadian Television Fund for francophones outside Quebec be increased until it represents 15% of the total envelope for francophones in Canada. This would ensure that the budget for Quebec is not cut. The problem is not the distribution of budget envelopes among francophones across Canada but, rather, an overall shortage of funds for Canadian francophones as a group.

 

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