Documentary filmmakers are calling for a review of the $300 million Canada Media Fund, the new-look amalgamation of the CTF and Canada New Media Fund, saying changes to government funding put the independent documentary industry at risk.
Speaking at a press conference Monday during Toronto’s Hot Docs festival, the filmmakers called on the Department of Canadian Heritage to maintain funding for independent producers at its current level and to cap the use of funds for in-house productions by broadcasters. They also called for a ‘truly independent’ CMF board, suggesting that, as currently proposed, cable companies will have inordinate sway over CMF funding decisions.
Among the filmmakers in attendance were Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, director and co-producers of Act of God, which opened Hot Docs; Kevin McMahon, whose new film Waterlife screened as a special presentation; Mark Achbar, who directed the 2003 hit The Corporation and holds an executive producer credit on two Hot Docs titles; veteran doc filmmaker John Walker; and John Christou, producer of Up The Yangtze.
Baichwal and de Pencier expressed concern that the new fund places emphasis on drama, comedy and children’s programming. ‘Without a strong commitment to Canadian documentaries, the CMF may represent a drastic decline in documentary funding,’ said Baichwal.
Achbar said that by allowing cable companies to nominate five of seven board positions, the government was effectively ceding control of the fund to the cable industry. He suggested a conflict of interest would be unavoidable.