CFC becomes ally in BCE’s fight to acquire Astral
The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) announced today that Bell Media has signed on as a sponsor of its flagship TV development program, which will be rechristened the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program.
Bell’s sponsorship succeeds that of the CBC, which had sponsored the program for the past five years. Bell has pledged to commit approximately $600,000 to the program over the next three years.
“It’s an extraordinary investment in the CFC and this program for the long-term,” said Kathryn Emslie, the CFC’s chief programs officer, film, TV, actors and music. “Their involvement gives us a great deal of stability – we know we’re going to be running this program for the next couple of years. In this day and age, it’s huge to have that kind of security.
Established in 1999, the Prime Time TV Program offers total immersion in episodic TV writing, series development and in-depth understanding of the TV marketplace. Under the sponsorship agreement, Bell will work with students and provide perspective and insight on the Canadian TV market, said Emslie.
The two entities will also work to break down what Emslie characterized as “perceived barriers” between Bell Media TV executives and creative talent.
Graduates of the Prime Time Program have been involved in more than 100 television series since its 1999 debut, among them several well-known Bell Media properties including Degrassi: The Next Generation, Flashpoint, The Listener and Saving Hope.
“We’ve had about 128 writers come through that program since 1999, and the vast majority are actively working in story rooms, creating new shows,” said Emslie.
“The impact on both the cultural and economic side is huge,” she added, noting that graduates have subsequently been involved with approximately 100 shows. “The reach of this program is pretty significant. It is the program that everyone in the television industry is actively looking to recruit talent.”
The announcement comes on the same day that the CRTC kicked off hearings in Montreal that will determine if Bell Media parent BCE’s planned $3.4 billion acquisition of Astral Media will go ahead.
The CFC expressed its approval of the merger in an intervention filed by CEO (and former CBC programming head) Slawko Klymkiw last month. In the intervention, Klymkiw noted that Bell Media/BCE have been “true collaborative partners” of the CFC for more than 15 years.
“It is critical for the Commission to understand the importance of the connection between the CFC and partners like BCE; important not only for the CFC’s training programs, but the importance of the development and production of Canadian programming in our multi-platform universe which is at the heart of the CRTC’s objectives,” he wrote.
“BCE has a proven record of commitment to the success and vitality of our Canadian broadcasting industry,” he added. “I urge the CRTC to support BCE in its quest to help us tell good stories – Canadian stories.”