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TVO to get $25-million makeover Add to ...

TVOntario will receive $25-million in new government funding over two years as part of a plan to focus more closely on education and learning.

TVO chief executive officer Lisa de Wilde will unveil at a news conference Thursday a revamped lineup of programs for the province's public broadcaster, aimed at deepening its roots as the education channel for parents, children and anyone else interested in learning, said sources familiar with the announcement.

The shift will affect TVO staples such as Studio 2, the station's flagship current-affairs program hosted by Steve Paikin and Paula Todd, another source said.

"What you're going to end up seeing is new programs that build on the strength of Studio 2," he said.

Ontario Minister of Education Sandra Pupatello will also be on hand to announce that TVO will use a portion of the much-needed government funds to replace its antiquated television cameras with digital equipment, the sources said.

The changes follow a strategic review that TVO's board of directors did at the request of the education ministry, TVO spokeswoman Jill Javet said yesterday. Last September, the ministry asked the board to align the broadcaster's activities with the government's education priorities and to make it "as relevant as possible to all Ontarians," the ministry said in a news release at the time.

TVO receives $45-million a year in operating funds from Queen's Park -- an amount that has remained unchanged for a decade, Ms. Javet said. The broadcaster has 500 employees.

One of the sources said TVO has been making do with cameras that are 20 years old and vans that are 10 years old.

"The place feels like it's held together by duct tape," he said.

Ms. Javet declined to comment on the content of today's announcement or the funding. But one of the sources said the programming changes are aimed at deepening and strengthening TVO's reputation as an education broadcaster. The revised lineup will expand programming that focuses on parents and their children, and on other audiences interested in learning, she said.

The fact that TVO focuses on education in a broad sense has always left it open to criticism that it is not doing enough in that area, the source said. The fact that the announcement will be made at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies will help reinforce TVO's commitment to postsecondary education, he added.

"I would infer from the location that the Munk Centre will have a more significant role than it has had in the past," he said.

The government requested the strategic review last September after responsibility for TVO was transferred from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to the Ministry of Education. At the same time, the government replaced Isabel Bassett, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and the partner of former Tory premier Ernie Eves, as chairperson and CEO. Independent film producer Peter O'Brian succeeded Ms. Bassett as chairman and Ms. de Wilde was appointed CEO.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Pupatello declined to comment yesterday on the TVO announcement.

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