Loren Mawhinney Part 1: Boards

Interviewed by Fil Fraser at Banff World Media Festival on June, 2011

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My name is Loren Mawhinney; I am Vice-President of Factual Development for E-1 television, which has become over the last couple of years the largest production and distribution company in Canada.

Fraser. You have been involved in almost every board there is: on the Banff board, and others. How you see that experience and your contribution to the Canadian production industry?

Mawhinney. It is a privilege to serve on boards; you get a lot more than you give. When I was at Global Television, which was a very successful broadcaster in those days, we were a large supporter of Banff, Canadian Film Centre, and a number of other cultural institutions. Working on boards with your colleagues, not for the company's profit, is an interesting and dynamic way to get to know other people. To work with a common purpose is very rewarding.

F. One of the things that boards do is to advocate for policy development and change. What are some of the policy developments that you've seen over the years that you think were critical for the industry?

M. I think the 1999 CRTC [Canadian content] ruling [on new media was important]. Broadcasters will do that on their own: we had Traders and Due South and a number of other wonderful programs at the time. But, when economic times get tougher, you find broadcasters don't necessarily want to do that on their own without incentive or regulation. You do learn that sometimes regulation in terms of forcing the appetite for Canadian drama is helpful.

F. It could help and it can hinder.

M. The good thing was BCE-CTV's first license hearing, when CRTC allowed BCE to spend their benefit dollars on their own programming. There was suddenly a confluence of energy, money, and goodwill; and it created huge hits like Corner Gas. So that was a very positive turn in our industry.

F. What are the challenges today for the regulators? Do they have a role? Is it bigger or smaller in terms of sustaining the industry?

M. When I was a broadcaster, when you put something on the air, everybody watched because there was far less competition. If it was on the air, people watched. There were fewer services available, so the advertisers spent money on the conventional services; they weren't cannibalized by the specialties. In some ways, it was a lot easier 20 years ago and it could be a very lucrative business. Last year, with Global going bankrupt, with CTV making regular calls on their investors for influxes of cash… it's a very challenging business right now. For the Commission to ensure that the broadcasters are healthy, and not feeling that they're unfairly penalized because they have to do CanCon when over the air services like Netflix have no obligation to contribute to the Canadian industry… that's a really challenging role for them to have. How do you regulate the Internet?

Loren Mawhinney Part 2: Regulation and Finance