Deirdre McMurdy, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007
Jim Shaw is ticked off.The CEO of Shaw Communications is tired of subsidizing the CBC. He’s frustrated by spending five per cent of his company’s annual revenues on television programs no one watches. He refuses to pay broadcasters a fee-for-carriage of their signals as well as part of the freight on their production costs. And he’s prepared to blatantly breach CRTC regulations to make his point.
As the result of a typically blunt letter written by the burly, Harley-riding cable executive on Dec. 20, there are an awful lot of people scuttling about in the private and public sectors: Their fear is that Mr. Shaw’s aggressive stance may set a precedent for other disgruntled cable companies.
The letter, obtained by the Citizen, expresses Mr. Shaw’s “dissatisfaction” with the “performance, operations and governance” of the Canadian Television Fund.
That dissatisfaction has a steep price tag: about $56 million a year.
As the largest private sector contributor to the fund (all cable operators are required to contribute five per cent of their revenues to the fund, less the amount they spend on community initiatives), Shaw Communications is refusing to pay another nickel unless there is an immediate restructuring.
Noting that “over the past 10 years, Shaw has contributed over $350 million in direct subsidies to the Canadian production industry,” Mr. Shaw observes the fund “has become nothing more than a means of subsidizing broadcasters, pay and specialty services and independent producers to produce Canadian television programming that few watch and has no commercial or exportable value.”
He is particularly rankled that a full 37 per cent of the fund’s revenues are set aside annually for the CBC/SRC — something he declares “should be ended immediately” in light of the fact that the “CBC already receives over $1.2 billion from Canadian taxpayers in the form of grants and mandatory subscriber fees.”…
On the regulatory front, Mr. Shaw already incurred the wrath of the CRTC’s newly-minted interim chairman, Michel Arpin, at the television policy hearings last fall.
Mr. Arpin publicly censured him for taking out newspaper advertisements urging Canadians to directly contact the regulator to express their outrage over the proposal that cable operators pay broadcasters a fee-for-carriage of their signals.
By refusing to make further contributions to the Canadian Television Fund, Mr. Shaw is openly flouting a CRTC regulation — although the CRTC has not yet been formally apprised of this action.
Keep on flouting, Mr. Shaw. Bring the whole leftist cabal down. Use the money they are extorting from you to fund your legal defense. Hold out for a couple of years and your competitors will join you to squeeze the marshmellows to powder. They won’t have any money and the whole thing will collapse.