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CTV cancels 'Fashion Television,' Beker bound for 'new projects'

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TORONTO - Canadian style mavens reacted with shock as word spread Wednesday that "Fashion Television" is being pushed off the runway, apparently the victim of mounting competition and endless online rivals.

CTV confirmed the show's end after host Jeanne Beker broke the news on Twitter, sparking a flood of protests and tributes from fans including Toronto-bred fashion personality Jay Manuel of "America's Next Top Model."

"Say it isn't so!" tweeted Manuel, who also hosted two seasons of "Canada's Next Top Model" with Beker as a judge.

"I grew up learning the world of fashion from (Beker). It's a sad day!"

Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, said news of the cancellation blindsided many in the industry.

"This is really shocking, I don't know anyone who saw this coming," Morra said hours after word spread online.

"Usually in the fashion world we get sort of rumblings through the fashion grapevine ... but this was a big shock."

Beker revealed the news on Twitter by writing, "This dream is over: After 27 glorious years, FT production ceased today."

"So sad to see some of my closest colleagues move on," tweeted Beker, who had interviewed virtually every top designer on the show, including Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and the late Alexander McQueen.

"But life's about change! We have to embrace that. NEW dreams now. Looking forward to working with Bellmedia + evolving the FT brand."

The weekly half-hour series was one of the first to delve deeply into the fashion world by affording it serious coverage more typically reserved for news and sports beats.

Its broad reach made elite couture designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier household names in average Canadian living rooms and transformed little-seen runway shows into a new form of televised spectacle.

Created by Jay Levine in 1985, "Fashion Television" began as a local production of Citytv in Toronto but was picked up by sister stations across the country as its popularity rose. It jumped to CTV in 2008 after CTVglobemedia bought out its parent company, CHUM.

Toronto-born designer David Dixon credited "Fashion Television" with helping him cement his chosen career path as a teen.

He recalls debuting on the show as part of a feature on up-and-coming Canadians in the late '90s as "life-altering."

"It was really quite the awe-inspiring moment because every designer wanted to be featured, and over the years they've continued supporting the brand," said the homegrown womenswear designer.

"Breaking into that first moment of 'Fashion Television' and being interviewed by Jeanne Beker was momentous."

CTV says production on "Fashion Television," which was also broadcast in the United States and Europe, was suspended Wednesday but gave no reason for halting the series. It said 10 positions would be lost.

"The iconic Jeanne Beker remains with Bell Media and the company looks forward to an exciting future with her, including the development of new projects," CTV said Wednesday in a statement.

"Bell Media remains committed to the fashion genre and will continue to grow FashionTelevisionChannel to deliver a broader appeal for viewers, advertisers, and distributors."

Morra suggested that growing competition from other outlets had eroded the show's impact.

She noted that Beker and her team was the only TV crew covering fashion on the ground when she started 20 years ago.

"Now, though, you can't count the number of TV crews that are there trying to cover things. 'Fashion Television' really was a pioneer and really that came from Jeanne and Jay Levine," Morra said of the show, which also delved into the worlds of photography, architecture and design.

"For somebody who's into fashion there are different people that you can follow on the web or through Twitter. There's just different ways of satisfying that hunger for a little bit of fashion eye-candy."

Lisa Tant, editor-in-chief of Flare Magazine agreed, adding that she was not entirely surprised by the cancellation.

"There are so many different people doing it," said Tant. "And it's an expensive show to do."

She credited Beker with helping transform the runway show into an eye-popping showcase geared towards a broad TV audience.

"Jeanne has a really keen eye for entertainment and now the big shows in Europe are spectacles and they make fantastic TV," she said.

"And I think those designers know that. They're not just putting on a show for buyers or press, they're putting on a show, a spectacle, an entertainment to appeal to people."

Morra called Beker "an ambassador" of Canadian fashion, noting that the TV personality often wore homegrown garments and promoted Canuck fare wherever possible.

"For fashion lovers, this is like the cancellation of 'Hockey Night in Canada,'" she said of the end of "Fashion Television."

"Not because it was the only place to get that information or see those games, so to speak, but just because 'Fashion Television' and Jeanne Beker really are Canadian institutions and were loved by many, many people. But obviously not enough."

— With files from reporter Lauren La Rose in Toronto

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