The government has modified a tax credit now making TV talk shows eligible to receive funding.
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly was unable to provide a cost for the retroactive tax credit, but indicated it would create jobs in the industry.
“Talk shows are important platforms for our local talent and give a voice to Canadian diversity. This genre provides a platform to discuss current issues and promote Canadian arts and culture,” Joly said in a statement emailed to CBC News. “Opening the tax credits to the talk show genre will certainly stimulate job creation in the sector.”
The tax credit has been at the centre of a controversy in recent months after a reinterpretation of the rules by government officials led to shows like Marie-France Bazzo’s BazzoTV losing its tax credit.
The move could also benefit television production companies in the rest of Canada where talk shows, up until now, have been largely produced in house by television networks.
“It would give those [shows] an opportunity to develop in Canada and be financed — so that is a positive step for the Canadian production community,” said Stephen Selznick, a media and entertainment lawyer with Cassels Brock in Toronto.
Selznick said it will be interesting to see whether provincial governments follow the federal government’s lead and change their own rules to allow talk shows to be eligible for their programs.
The Canadian Media Producers Association was pleased with the government’s move.
“The CMPA welcomes the government’s modifications to this tax credit program, as it will provide stakeholders with certainty regarding funding eligibility for a broader range of Canadian content productions,” said Andrew Addison, vice-president of communications and marketing.
“Ultimately this move supports the production of content that has a strong audience demand.
However, tax watchdogs question whether a government running a deficit should be handing out tax money to talk shows.
“It seems like a very strange thing to do at a time when we are short of money to begin with,” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director for the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. “I don’t think most Canadians would agree that subsidizing talk shows is a valuable use of their tax money.”
The government’s move centres on the Canadian film or video production tax credit, a program introduced in 1995 to “encourage the creation of Canadian film and television programming.” The fully refundable tax credit is equivalent to 25 per cent of the qualified labour expenditure of an eligible production.
“It’s used by a lot of them to finance,” said Selznick. “Most of them could not produce their content without that credit.”