From Greg Quill at the Toronto Star:
The (CTF) fund, which is the source of taxpayer subsidies to the Canadian television production industry, will be combined with the Canada New Media Fund, which subsidizes digital media development starting April 1, 2010.
The government will invest $134.7 million annually in the new program, called the Canada Media Fund, Heritage Minister James Moore said at a press conference today on the Toronto set of the CTV police drama series, Flashpoint. "We are levelling the playing field at a time when the industry is undergoing structural change," Moore said. "The eligibility for funding for broadcaster-affiliated production will be expanded, and broadcaster in-house production will be allowed ... including provincial educational broadcasters and CBC/Radio-Canada."
The emphasis of the new broadcast policy will be on drama, comedy, and children's programming, and will favour productions developed for distribution platforms other than prime-time television – the Internet and mobile telecommunications devices, said Moore, who admitted he watches "more television programs on my iPod than on regular TV."
The new fund will also support documentaries and variety and performing arts programming that can demonstrate that the market alone would not support their creation.
"The realigned fund will favour projects produced in high definition and those that have achieved and demonstrated the most potential to achieve success, in terms of audience and return on investment," Moore said.
What should be clarified is that the guaranteed envelopes for provincial educational broadcasters and CBC/Radio Canada have been removed to 'level the playing field' (although CBC, along with all other broadcasters, will be allowed to compete for in-house production cash that it was previously excluded from.)
SUMMARY OF REFORMS (POLICY PRINCIPLES)
In order to make this initiative work, reforms will be needed, based on four key principles:
- get governance and accountability right;
- reward success and require innovation;
- focus the investment on what Canadians want; and
- level the playing field.
Get governance and accountability right
A smaller fully independent board made up of nominees of the funders will be created. Broadcasters, producers, and creators will be consulted through a mechanism to be established by the board. A contribution agreement between the Government of Canada and the Canada Media Fund will set the terms and conditions for the Fund.
Reward success and require innovation
The realigned fund will favour projects produced in high definition and those that have achieved and demonstrated the most potential to achieve success, in terms of audience and return on investment. Applicants will be required to make their projects available across a minimum of two distribution platforms, including television. This initiative will also foster the development of cutting-edge applications and content to drive innovation back into the mainstream forms of content. Since building audience demand means investing in development, versioning, marketing, and promotion, the Fund will ensure that these activities occur.
Focus the investment on what Canadians want
The Canada Media Fund will put particular emphasis on drama, comedy, and children's programming. It will also support documentaries and variety and performing arts programming if a project can pass a test demonstrating that the market alone would not support its creation. Because Canadians also want programming on other distribution platforms, it will ensure that this programming is available not only on TV on prime time, but also on the Internet and mobile devices. By focusing on programming Canadians want, the Fund will ensure the best use of the creative sector by ensuring a strong Canadian presence through the predominant use of Canadian creative talent, including writers, directors, and performers. As Canadians want to interact and learn from each other, the Fund will also support Aboriginal and minority French-language productions, and respect the specificity of the French-language market. It will also support programs in third languages where demand and funding are present.
Level the playing field
The eligibility for funding for broadcaster-affiliated production will be expanded, and broadcaster in-house production will be allowed. This will be phased in gradually and over time to find the right mix. All broadcasters will be put on a level playing field, including provincial educational broadcasters and CBC/Radio-Canada, whose guaranteed envelope will be removed. Support will continue to be provided to productions from all regions of Canada.
You can read Moore's complete speech HERE at the Canada Heritage website.
Some other takes, like from cbc.ca
Moore referenced several reasons for the funding model change. They included a 2005 report from Auditor General Sheila Fraser that raised concerns about conflicts of interest within the CTF leadership, including the fact that some board members became funding recipients.
He also mentioned the CTF crisis, with cable companies calling for it to be dismantled. Shaw and Vidéotron, which withdrew their financial support of the CTF in December 2006, charged that too much of the financing was being allocated to public or educational broadcasters, and funded unpopular programming.
The creative community argued, however, that while the CTF's management structure needed review, the entity itself was necessary in order to protect the Canadian TV industry in the face of the overwhelming amount of programming from the U.S.
Shaw and Vidéotron resumed payment after former heritage minister Bev Oda ordered a CRTC taskforce to review the CTF. In June 2008, the federal broadcast regulator recommended splitting the CTF into two streams — one for private-sector broadcasters, the other for public-sector broadcasters.
In a related note, the CRTC is currently in the midst of hearings in Gatineau, Que., over new media regulation and funding.
So far, the creative community has largely called for the CRTC to step in to regulate the new media industry and enact a levy on internet service providers, with the funds to go towards supporting Canadian productions created for new media platforms such as the internet and mobile phones.
The ISPs, which began their appearances before the regulator on Monday, object to both regulation and a levy.
Established in 1996 to invest in creating English, French and aboriginal-language Canadian programming, the CTF finances a significant portion of the country's domestically produced TV shows. In 1998, the Canadian New Media Fund, a corresponding entity to support new media, was created.
Cable firms are required to submit about five per cent of their gross revenues to specifically fund the creation of Canadian programming, an agreement they made in return for permission to increase their cable rates in 1993. The fund subsequently set up in 1996 to distribute that money became the CTF.
It's important to note, as this article does, that funding for the CTF is the result of an agreement made by the cable firms in return for permission to raise their cable rates, and NOT simply (as reported in the Star article at the top of post) "...the source of taxpayer subsidies to the Canadian television production industry..."
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...with more to come apparently. At the conference, Moore also stated:
"The government needs to "get out of the old structures" in order to upgrade and modernize funding policies."
"Keep your eyes open for more."
If you're looking for analysis, keep on looking...I'm still digesting, though you know CBC's guaranteed envelope removal, access allowed to broadcasters for their own in-house production, and a board made up primarily of reps from the big cable companies will have a lot of people stomping their feet --- not to mention whether the merging of New Media and Television funds even makes sense? Does it streamline and smooth it all out? Or just muddy the waters all over again. For what its worth, I'm a big fan of the 'pick one' philosophy...and always will take one entity to deal with over two funds or two streams.
But I will say everyone I spoke to in the production community and provincial film agency circles this morning were all saying: "This is bad...bad....bad..."