Pat Ferns, president and CEO of the Banff Television Festival, has spied another niche that he feels might benefit from its own event – arts programming. Ferns has something of a soft spot for arts as he was a one-time producer of shows in the genre, but that isn’t his only reason for proposing an arts congress. ‘I think there’s an appetite for this,’ he says. ‘I think with the changing structures of funding for arts programming there’s a lot that everyone can learn from the experience of others. With public broadcasters generally not having the budgets they used to and other specialities coming on screen, it’s important that we explore how everyone can work together to make good things happen.’
Establishing an arts congress would also allow the Banff TV Foundation to pursue its mandate, and take some of the pressure off of the Banff Television Festival. Ferns explains: ‘We don’t want to grow the television festival much larger, because we think it will become something quite different if we do. So, part of the challenge is then figuring out where do you divert people to where you’ll still be able to provide them with the same kind of innovation, excellence and opportunity that’s associated with the festival. The first opportunity we had to step in was the World Congress of Science Producers, and that got us thinking about other niches that are not as well served.’
Ferns says planning for the arts congress is still in early days, though there was some progress at MIPTV. In Cannes, Ferns says he had the chance to sit down with various parties, including U.S. Independents and IMZ (International Music Centre, a Vienna-based association of cultural and music program producers from around the world).
Based on discussions with IMZ, Ferns says the arts congress may alternate between Europe and North America, though the first event – tentatively scheduled for 2003 – will most likely take place in Ottawa, Canada, or Washington D.C.