DOC report paints bleak view for Canadian documentary

Canadian documentary production is facing its steepest decline in volume in almost a decade, according to a report from The Documentary Organization of Canada.
June 18, 2013

Canadian documentary production is facing its steepest decline in volume in almost a decade, according to a report from The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC).

DOC has this week published the fifth volume of Getting Real: an Economic Profile of the Canadian Documentary Industry, which takes an in-depth look at the state of Canadian documentary production up to the end of 2010/11. The findings make for grim reading for non-fiction filmmakers in the Great White North.

According to the longitudinal study, overall documentary production volume has declined by more than CAD$100 million (US$98 million) since 2008/09, dropping from $495 million to $390 million.

It adds that 457 documentary projects were produced in 2010/11, as opposed to 591 projects in 2008/09, and says 4,000 jobs (full time equivalents) have been lost over the time period.

Doc production in the English-language market declined by 25% from 2008/09 with almost all regions of the country being affected, while total French-language documentary production volume has decreased by nearly 12% since 2008.

The report also claims that total English-language private broadcaster license fees dropped from a high of $117 million in 2008/09 to $74 million in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 – a decrease of 37% overall

French-language private broadcaster license fees have also fallen since 2008, dropping 28% to $13 million in 2010/11.

DOC says that the figures come “in spite of audience demand and in spite of finding new means of financing.” Although digital is a growth area, the report states that “television remains – at least for the time being – the main market for Canadian documentaries and its primary funding trigger.

“But the consolidation that has taken place in the Canadian broadcast sector in recent years has meant the collapse of the orderly marketplace, with fewer separate windows generating licence fees and reduced revenue opportunities for documentary producers.”

DOC’s executive director Lisa Fitzgibbons said: “Documentary makers are a creative and resilient lot, but these market conditions are testing even the most resourceful content creators.

“The confluence of various factors is contributing to a perfect storm: the digital disruption combined with outdated policies and a lack of imagination to properly showcase the kinds of documentaries on our television screens that Canadian audiences are having to seek elsewhere means that documentary production is at risk of becoming a cottage industry.”

DOC chair Pepita Ferrari added: “It’s obvious that the funding model is broken for documentary production in this country. We invite all industry stakeholders to join us in seeking innovative and inventive ways to respond to these changing times.”

The data for the report was collected by Nordicity Group and the analysis was provided by Suebee Media Consulting. An electronic version of the full report is available at

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