A group of Canadian filmmakers led by producer Robert Lantos is trying to launch an all-Canadian movie channel.
Denys Arcand, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Paul Gross, Guy Maddin, Deepa Mehta and Denis Villeneuve are among the supporters of an application to the federal broadcast regulator for Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel.
Starlight spokesman Norm Bolen said the station would be devoted entirely to Canadian movies — particularly feature films intended for theatrical release — as well as documentaries, TV shows and made-for-TV movies.
Starlight would also invest a forecast $23 million a year back into Canadian film production, with the aim of supporting 10 to 12 feature films a year, he said.
Homegrown films 'abandoned'
Homegrown feature films have been largely "abandoned" by the country's broadcasting system, said Bolen.
Bolen noted that unlike most other Western countries, Canada hasn't done a lot to ensure feature films — which often get a very limited theatrical release — are part of the content mix on the broadcasting system.
And broadcasters tend not to air feature films because they're harder to promote than long-running series they can build a franchise around, he said.
"In the past, Canadian broadcasters did focus more attention on Canadian feature film and they did fulfil some of their broadcast obligations by scheduling feature films," said Bolen, former president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association who has worked extensively in private and public broadcasting.
CRTC hearing in April
"But over the years, they've reduced the amount of Canadian film in their schedules to the point where it's virtually non-existent and instead have chosen to do other kinds of Canadian programming. That is creating a huge problem for our viewers."
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is set to hold a hearing to review the application on April 23.
The application asks that Starlight be a "mandatory distribution channel," meaning it would get mandatory carriage in all digital households in English Canada (around nine million households).
Films to roll without ads
That also means it would be one of the channels that automatically come with a package of digital television services Canadians buy from their cable company or satellite distribution.
Bolen said it would result in an added cost of about $10 or $11 per year on a cable or satellite package.
Bolen said the station would air largely without commercial interruption.
Its revenue stream would largely come from the mandatory wholesale fee cable and satellite companies would pay to the CRTC in order to have the station.