The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is asking the CRTC to back peddle and amend a controversial condition of licence so that it can continue to broadcast blockbuster films. The licence amendment request made public May 15 asks the commission to remove a condition of licence that requires it to remove popular movies from its schedule by Sept. 1, 2003 (Broadcasting Public Notice 2003-26). When the public broadcaster had its licence renewed on Jan. 6, 2000, the CBC was given three years to phase in the ban on blockbuster films. At the time, it caused a major blowup between CBC president and CEO Robert Rabinovitch and then CRTC chair Françoise Bertrand. Back then, the debate centred almost exclusively on financial considerations. But today the public broadcaster has shifted the debate and claims the major consideration for being allowed to air films is connected to the CBC's ability to fulfill its mandate. "Further corroboration of the role of the CBC in providing a diverse programming service is found in the 1991 Broadcasting Act…," the CBC states in its application for the licence amendment. Unlike back in 2000, the licence amendment request is short on specifics on the financial repercussions for the CBC if it were to lose the ability to air blockbuster films.  Addressing the CRTC's concern that the scheduling of blockbuster movies was to maximize ratings and advertising revenue, the CBC states that high audience numbers and advertising revenue are not its targeted objectives. Jason MacDonald, senior media relations officer for the public broadcaster, would not reveal the current financial implications of the removal of blockbuster movies from the schedule. But when the public broadcaster was calling its conditions of licence "fiscally irresponsible" a few years ago, CBC brass said the ban on blockbuster movies would deplete about $165 million in revenue from its French-language television network and $88 million from the English-language network.  Saying that he was not around in 2000, MacDonald could not explain the CBC's dramatic shift from one of financial concern to one of fulfilling its mandate to bring diverse programming to its audiences. Calling the licence amendment his file, he said it would be inappropriate for Canadian Communications Reports to talk directly to CBC personnel more familiar with the events of 2000. In its request for an amendment, the CBC states that the broadcast of "feature films is very clearly not the major focal point of our programming strategy" and that it intended to broadcast movies not available on the private networks. "Only CBC chooses to broadcast such films as The English Patient, Chocolate, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Shakespeare in Love, which are clearly films that reflect the best of the world and not available from other broadcasters. As such, not only does their broadcast provide an important complement to the CBC's public service role and mandate to serve Canadians, but in so doing we help increase Canadian public awareness of these significant, high quality works that would not otherwise occur," writes the CBC in its submission. It refers to its current condition of licence as being too far-reaching and restrictive.  The current condition of licence prohibits the CBC after September 1 from broadcasting in peak hours any film that was theatrically released in Canada within two years, and any movie listed in Variety magazine's top 100 grossing films in the United States and Canada in the last 10 years. Most of the films on that list are mainstream Hollywood flicks, a fact not lost on the CRTC. In interrogatories, the CRTC asks the CBC if it would be amendable to a cap on the number of top-grossing films it could air or if it would agree to a condition of licence that would permit it to air foreign and/or independent films of artistic and cultural value. The CBC responds "no" to both questions. It states that an analysis of its past practices demonstrates that no cap is necessary, and that "there are no clear guidelines or definitions to establish precisely what constitutes artistic and cultural value."  The CRTC also asks the public broadcaster how such films as My Favorite Martian and Happy Gilmore, aired during 2001-2002, fulfill the expectations of providing productions of artistic and cultural value. The CBC responds that the films were useful in generating a lead-in audience for Canadian programming. Moreover, it notes that both films were purchased as part of packages. Back in 2000, the CBC had 30 days to appeal the conditions of licence imposed on it by the CRTC, but it declined to do so. Instead, it has now come forward with a licence amendment request. Comments on the request are due by June 13.  In the past, private broadcasters have complained that the publicly funded CBC is driving up the price of acquiring foreign films. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) declined to comment at this time on the CBC's request, indicating that it will file its comments by the deadline.