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TVO’s focus criticized by opposition at Queen’s Park

TVO’s declining volume of in-house programming was noted this week at the Ontario legislature, as the NDP Culture critic asked the Education Minister when the public will see a reversal of that trend.

“Given the ongoing decline of TVO in-house production, given that we have capable film and television people working at TVO who can produce good revenue-generating content, what assurances will you give that Ontarians will see more actual television that reflects their lives and more of their stories produced by TVO itself?” NDP MPP Peter Tabuns asked Leona Dombrowsky in Question Period Monday. (you can read the entire exchange here.)

Dombrowsky avoided the question and said that her government is “committed to providing resources to public education television through TVO and TFO in both our official languages” and later on pointed to tax credits provided in the film industry as evidence of support for public education television.

The question came on the same day as a CMG general meeting where members expressed their concern about the decline and other problems linked to it, notably fewer resources to produce programs and corresponding pressure on employees to do more with less.

“We’ve discussed our concern about the trends with senior TVO management, and we hope to be able to develop an ongoing process for more substantial talks,” says Lise Lareau, national president of the Canadian Media Guild. “Many of us are worried that with all the efforts to create an online presence for TVO, its broadcasting presence is being left behind. TVO produces less than half the hours of programming that it did a decade ago.”

The figures showing the decline in production hours were part of a union submission to the provincial pre-budget consultation in February, which called for an additional $1M to develop a new Ontario-specific TV program. While specific budget figures for TVO are unavailable, there are indications its allocation has been increased, though there is no word of any management effort to direct any of it to programming.

Also on Monday, Guild members were advised that TVO’s French-language counterpart TFO now has its own separate branch within the CMG structure. The decision was made by the Guild’s National Executive Committee, recognizing that TVO and TFO are now completely separate organizations with different funding, separate collective agreements and different mandates. The new TFO branch will be holding elections for its new executive in the coming weeks.

For more information please contact CMG staff representative Keith Maskell at keith@cmg.ca .

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