Canwest’s Leonard Asper lays blame

“Neither the bad economy nor debt taken on by broadcasters are to blame
for profit declines at Canada’s major television networks,” said CEO
Leonard Asper of Canwest Global Communications Corp., according to a story in the Globe and Mail.

The problem, Asper told Canadian broadcast regulators, is the broadcast
regulators — because broadcasters “operate in an unfavourable
regulatory environment.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is in hearings over renewal of broadcast licences.

The major networks want the right to charge fees, an idea already
turned down by the CRTC because, noted the Globe, “the regulator was
concerned about how the money would be spent. The CRTC doesn’t want to
approve new fees that will end up being spent on U.S shows.”

Cable companies, such as Rogers, oppose network fees.

The issue is especially crucial to Canwest, owner of Global television.
The company missed several payment deadlines and is still in talks with
lenders — currently with a May 5 deadline. Canwest’s debt is nearly $4
billion. (A J-Source overview of Canwest is here.
But Asper told the CRTC not to blame his family company’s debt for
problems with its broadcast properties. “Debt is a separate and
distinct issue and it is not the cause of structural problems,” he
said, reported the Globe.

Television networks have been criticized for buying expensive foreign
programming instead of Canadian content — but that is also not part of
Canwest’s problem, Asper reportedly told the CRTC. “The problem is not
caused by our spending on foreign programming. Our business model
depends on using profits from U.S. prime-time programming to subsidize
Canadian programming which doesn’t make money.”