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Canadian performers say it's absurd that the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) claims to be "Putting Canada First" when nothing could be further from the truth.

"Canada's private broadcasters are throwing themselves a party in Ottawa this week at the annual CAB convention," said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA). "While they're congratulating themselves for all the good things they're doing for Canada, their schedules tell a different story. CTV has only two one-hour Canadian dramas on its schedule. Global has one—and it's a rerun. How is this putting Canada first?" he added.

CTV Inc. is a Canadian broadcast communications company with conventional television operations across Canada and a leading position in the specialty television sector. It's broadcasting signals cover 99 per cent of English-speaking Canadian households. By Global, Waddell refers to the television division of the vast CanWest Global Communications Corp.

In his statement, issued on Monday by ACTRA, Waddell stressed some facts about Canada's private television broadcasters:

·They spent four times more on U.S. and foreign drama than they did on Canadian drama—$382 million on U.S. product and $93 million on Canadian in 2003.

·Their spending on drama was 70% of total spending on all U.S. foreign programs but only 17% of spending on Canadian programs.

·They spend more on foreign programs than their counterparts in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and pay the lowest average licensing fees on indigenous drama. Canadian English-language broadcasters cover 18% of production costs for an indigenous drama; in the U.S., broadcasters cover 81% or more.

·They cut spending on Canadian drama and variety programming by 20% between 1998 and 2002.

·They doubled their profits last year.

Waddell complained that Canada's private broadcasters have embraced the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission CRTC's 1999 Television Policy that gave them breaks with respect to drama content and spending requirements.

"Private broadcasters are putting U.S. culture and their shareholders first. It's time for the government to intervene and order the CRTC to fix the system by introducing new spending and content requirements," said Waddell. "Maybe then broadcasters can throw themselves a party they deserve."

ACTRA has said that the Canadian union and its partners in the arts and cultural industries will remain vocal on important cultural issues. These include fighting moves to relax rules restricting foreign ownership of media, ensuring the CRTC is directed to review its 1999 Television Policy.

ACTRA is a national organization of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of more than 21,000 members across Canada. ACTRA celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2003.

CAB refers to itself as "the national voice" of Canada's private broadcasters, representing the vast majority of Canadian programming services, including private radio and television stations, networks, and specialty, pay and pay-per-view services.

—Roger Armbrust

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