Canadian producers upbeat about Canada Media Fund

Canada's federal government finally lifted the curtain on its new Canada Media Fund. Among the key developments for Canadian independent doc producers: a CDN$3.5 million fund for English POV docs and a cap on in-house and affiliate doc production.
March 29, 2010

Three sides of the Canadian television industry that don’t often see eye to eye were united in agreement as Canada’s federal government finally lifted the curtain on the Canada Media Fund. Unions, cable companies and the feds praised the new $350 million multi-platform fund, shown off on Friday at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre.

‘Our focus is clear: to promote the production of quality Canadian content and to make it available on multiple platforms,’ Canadian heritage minister James Moore told the assembled producers and industry leaders. The fund goes into effect April 1.

The bulk of the money – $323 million – will be directed through CMF’s ‘convergent stream’ which supports TV shows and related digital content (videogames, podcasts, etc.) with the emphasis on genres including drama, documentary and performing arts programs. Most of the money will be dispersed to broadcasters through the Performance Envelope Program, similar to the former BPE (Broadcaster Performance Envelope) system. The remainder of the cash will go toward the ‘experimental stream’ which is meant to spur research and development of interactive content and software applications.

The Documentary Organization of Canada was among the associations expressing optimism about the new fund, which amalgamates the former Canadian Television Fund with the Canada New Media Fund. ‘When it was first announced that [the Canadian Television Fund] would morph into the CMF, documentary filmmakers were very concerned that we’d be shut out,’ said DOC chair, John Christou via a statement. ‘But the CMF staff & board have worked hard to address our concerns, and we’re pleased that a new POV Selective Fund has been incorporated into CMF.’

The English POV Program will support POV documentaries to the tune of $3.5 million. A broadcast license is not required in order to qualify.

Prior to this announcement, DOC was also concerned about the Performance Envelope program, fearing in-house productions would be favored. As it stands, in-house and affiliate documentary production will be capped at 7.5%, which stems DOC’s fears that independent producers would be harmed by a large volume of in-house productions.

‘It’s a good day for Canadian content,’ said Canadian Film & Television Production Association (CFTPA) president and CEO Norm Bolen, adding, ‘We were a conflicted group of people when we started, but in the end we have something that’s going to work.’ The CFTPA was one of the organizations that were involved in cross-country discussions last year on how the new fund would take shape.

The CMF is funded by the Canadian federal government and cable and satellite distributors, including Shaw, Rogers Cable, Bell and Cogeco. Complaints from Shaw and Videotron about CTF prompted the overhaul in part.

The CMF will be announcing an outreach program next week, whereby staff will meet with producers across the country to facilitate the application process.

With files from Lindsay Gibb

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