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News | 04/13/2005 4:00 am EDT

Don’t change foreign ownership rules: Frulla
Canadian Heritage minister Liza Frulla’s response to the Lincoln report on broadcasting recommends that existing foreign ownership limits for broadcasting and telecommunications be maintained at current levels. Her response, contained in the document Reinforcing Our Cultural Sovereignty – Setting Priorities for the Canadian Broadcasting System that was tabled in the House of Commons on April 4, states, "For greater clarity, the government wishes to indicate that it is not prepared to modify foreign ownership limits on broadcasting or content more generally. That being said, the government has recently announced its intention to appoint a panel of eminent Canadians to review Canada’s telecommunications policy and regulatory framework. This panel will be asked to make recommendations on how to move Canada to a modern telecommunications framework in a manner that benefits Canadian industry and consumers. In the context of this work, the panel may be helpful in shedding new light on this very important issue." It is the reference to the three-member panel that worries many in the broadcast industry. Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) national executive director Stephen Waddell tells Network Letter, "Obviously, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and the Department of Canadian Heritage have both been consistent in opposing the modification of the foreign ownership limits. But what concerns us, of course, is Industry (Canada) and the Standing Committee on Industry’s position…We’re quite concerned again that (Frulla’s response) mentions the government-appointed panel reviewing telecommunications…because we know and, in fact, the minister has said in her statement that broadcasting content and telecommunications are so intertwined these days that you can’t accommodate changes to the telecom sector that would not affect the broadcasting sector." The issue of foreign ownership has divided players in both the telecommunications and broadcasting industries. Broadcasters, such as Astral Media and CHUM Ltd., and the unions representing the creators vehemently oppose changes to current foreign ownership rules.

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