The Canadian federal government has plans to amalgamate the Canadian Television Fund and Canada New Media Fund as a re-branded Canada Media Fund, which could have bad implications for the indie doc-maker, says the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC).
The Canadian government will invest CDN$134.7 million annually into the fund, which focuses on supporting drama, comedy, children’s programs and digital platforms, with documentaries, variety and performing arts programming only making the cut if ‘a project can pass a test demonstrating that the market alone would not support its creation,’ says the release from the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Speaking up for the little guy is the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), which is going to keep a close watch on the CMF and will be vocal in presentations to the government to represent their members’ concerns.
The CTF has invested more than $2.7 billion since 1996 on 27,000 hours of English, French and Aboriginal TV production. Documentaries received almost 20% of the previous fund, which comes to about 40% of all programming hours produced.
Betsy Carson, co-vice chair of DOC, says, ‘We’re glad to see that the government is going to continue to support the fund, which is an important thing, but the governance of it, as proposed in this release, is very worrying to us.’
She furthers, ‘Traditionally the CTF has been a very complex and delicate balance of a number of interests and they’ve been doing this for many, many years now and what this proposal does is tip the whole balance in favor of the cable companies.’
The proposed CMF board will have a controlling majority nominated by the cable companies, who control and own a large majority of broadcasters, which will lead to accountability and conflict of interest issues, says DOC.
‘There’s a potential for opening the door to regulating content to people who should not be regulating content, because if the current broadcaster envelope system which is in use now [is discarded] – the Heritage Minister has said that the CBC’s envelope will no longer be there – then we will be back looking at a previous incarnation of decision-making which is very subjective,’ says Carson. ‘If there is no balance on the governance than there will be no balance on the decision-making side as to the content. Effectively it opens the doors to censorship.’
Independent production companies will have no representation on the board and instead will take up a consultancy position with broadcasters and creators. The playing field of the proposed CMF places broadcasters on the same level as independent producers, which DOC states as ‘anything but level’ as indie producers must then compete with broadcasters for funding.
Still, when asked how documentary funding would be affected by the new proposed fund, the Office of the Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages responded in an e-mail statement to realscreen that ‘We are not ‘moving away from’ documentaries with the Canada Media Fund (CMF) announced on March 9, 2009. Documentaries continue to be eligible.’
Before the CMF is officially launched on April 1, 2010, the Minister promises to consult with the industry and DOC plans to be there every step of the way, highlighting these concerns.