Jobs Minister Shirley Bond defends B.C.’s Bollywood awards

NDP says TV ratings of 30 million Indian households show the B.C. Liberals blew $11 million on an election stunt

Premier Christy Clark announces B.C.'s sponsorship for Times of India Film Awards at Vancouver news conference, Jan. 22, 2013.

VICTORIA – TV ratings of around 30 million households in India don’t mean an unhappy ending for B.C.’s $11 million investment in hosting a Bollywood movie awards show, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says.

Premier Christy Clark was widely criticized for the decision to invest $11 million to host the Times of India Film Awards, an upstart competitor to India’s 60-year-old National Film Awards that was staged in Vancouver April 6. At the time, Clark said the show would be seen by 400 million people.

NDP leader Adrian Dix zeroed in on the TV ratings in the legislature Wednesday, calling it a “vastly inflated” and “totally fictitious” rationale for spending millions on the awards show.

An NDP freedom of information request for the business case behind the awards uncovered “a couple of emails, a press release … and a poster with the premier’s picture on it,” Dix said.

Bond said the Indian newspaper group reports 32 million TV screens for the June 16 telecast in India, with as many as 20 million South Asian people in other countries seeing an international simulcast. A webcast by Sony reached another eight million online viewers, and the program will be rebroadcast on TV as many as 11 more times, Bond said.

Asked if B.C. would sponsor the event again, Bond didn’t rule it out.

“We recognize the benefit of reaching out to India, and this is one way to do it,” she said. “We’re going to measure the outcomes.”

Bond said the week-long event, with launch news conferences in Vancouver and Mumbai, a global voting campaign and a music event at the PNE before the main awards show, generated 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C. The Times Group also booked 3,000 hotel rooms in Vancouver.

Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains told the legislature the $11 million would have been better spent on school expansions for students in portable classrooms in his constituency.

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