"We need more Canada on TV," Trailer Park Boys star Robb Wells told the federal broadcast regulator on Friday as hearings continued into Canada's broadcasting environment.
Wells, who plays the pot-smoking ex-con Ricky on the popular program, was representing ACTRA, Canada's actors' union.
ACTRA, and other groups representing the creative community, including the Writers Guild and Directors Guild of Canada, were unanimous in asking that rules guaranteeing market protection for genre channels not be changed.
"Don't import the drama disaster on the conventional TV side to the genre side," said Wells, speaking to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Gatineau, Que.
The groups also urged the CRTC to tie any opportunity for broadcasters or satellite and cable firms to make more profits to provisions of more Canadian content.
Wells appealed to the CRTC to save jobs and affirm the broadcast act by not deregulating protection for the genre channels.
"Trailer Park Boys has been running for seven seasons and provides steady work for 80 people and been a big hit with audiences," Wells said. "That wouldn't have happened without the CRTC rules to support Canadian programming."
However, Trailer Park Boys, which runs on Showcase and is filmed in Nova Scotia, was centred out by Jim Shaw of Shaw Communications in earlier submissions to the CRTC as an example of how Canadian money was being squandered on poor quality programming.
Monique Lafontaine, director of regulatory affairs at the Directors Guild, said the guild believes the cable and satellite distributors will drop Canadian services under a deregulated regime, resulting in fewer channels to buy Canadian programming.
Hours devoted Canadian drama has fallen sharply since 1999, when the CRTC relaxed rules that forced broadcasters to create new drama.
That deregulation led to the cancellation of Cold Squad, a Canadian crime drama, because broadcaster CTV was able to buy a copycat U.S. show, Cold Case, much cheaper, said actress Julie Stewart.
The new round of deregulation will threaten shows such as ReGenesis, Trailer Park Boys and Rent-A-Goalie that run on the genre networks, according to Rent-A-Goalie head writer Graeme Manson.
"A big problem for us is shorter episode orders," he said, pointing out that stations are ordering shorter seasons, which makes it more expensive for producers and harder to market their program.
Then when episodes run out, channels will bend the rules on Canadian content, as when History Channel ran CSI New York as its Canadian content, he said.
'Everywhere you look you see CSI'
"Everywhere you look you see CSI — five different channels in prime time," Manson said. "Canadians don't need more CSI, they need some choice."
The CRTC sees content rules as difficult to enforce, but that is no reason to get rid of the rules, he said.
"If the CRTC had the ability to fine broadcasters or punish them when they break the rules, then it might be easier."
CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein said the regulator shares the goal of getting more Canadian stories on TV.
"What we're talking about here is the means of getting there. Don't doubt we all share the same goal," he said.
All unions presenting supported fee-for-carriage by conventional broadcasters such as CTV, CBC and Global, but only if they devote additional money to Canadian programming.
The broadcasters, who presented earlier in the hearings, have asked for fee-for-carriage, in which cable and satellite firms would pay for their signal.
ACTRA also proposed an increase in the cable industry contributions to the Canadian Television Fund, to support the production of programming.
The cable and satellite industries have opposed both fee-for-carriage and increases to the CTF, saying what they need is less and more simple regulation.