ACTRA, the Canadian performers union, is wishing a fond farewell to the outgoing chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television & Communications Commission, and telling him not to let the screen door hit him on his way out. It’s another clear signal all is not well with Canada’s English-language broadcasting industry – something the Toronto-based union has been complaining about for years.
Responding to reports that Jean-Pierre Blais has not applied to renew his term as chairman of the Commission, ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell said in a statement that “We wish Mr. Blais well in his future endeavors and agree it is time for a change and a new direction at the CRTC.”
The commission, Waddell said, “was envisioned to regulate broadcast and telecommunications, as well as to protect Canadian culture.” But under Blais’ leadership, he said, “the CRTC embraced an approach that undermined Canadian storytellers instead of protecting them. We look forward to the appointment of a new chair and new commissioners who understand the challenges of the film and television sector, and the need to see Canadian stories on our screens.”
One of the union’s chief complaints is that money earmarked for Canada’s English-language TV programming has been sharply reduced – by some $200 million over the next five years.
“We’re just fighting for our existence here,” Waddell told Deadline. “We’re living on top of the biggest content creator in the world,” and without continued support for Canadian content – called “programs of national interest” – broadcasters “would be buying American product and showing that.”