Ottawa announces new media funding program
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, March 9, 2009 10:08PM EDT
Heritage Minister James Moore announced Monday that the government is changing the way it funds Canadian television and will increase its support for content for online, mobile and other new media platforms.
Moore made the announcement on the set of CTV's "Flashpoint" and said the Canadian Television Fund and Canada New Media fund would be combined and reformed as the Canada Media Fund, set for an April 2010 launch.
The minister said the fund would dole out more than $300 million over two years towards the creation of Canadian content among different platforms.
The move comes at a time when the Canadian television media is in dire straits, with a massive drop in advertising revenue hurting both private and public broadcasters.
"Obviously, there is a great deal of concern, particularly with the private broadcasters," Moore told CTV's Power Play on Monday.
CanWest is facing a March 11 deadline on the borrowing conditions of some of its nearly $4-billion debt. CTVglobemedia announced last week that it was cutting 118 jobs at its A Channel stations and the week before that, announced it would not be renewing its broadcasting licence at two television stations.
"When you see ad revenue drop over 50 per cent, it's obviously a concern for those networks," Moore said. "The most important thing government can do is modernize the tools we use to fund the creation of Canadian content and make it available on more platforms."
Both CTV and CanWest-owned Global TV went to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Committee (CRTC) last year to say that the conventional TV model is broken and the solution is to use the cable television revenue model.
The companies want cable and satellite providers to pay to air network television, which they do not do now.
Moore said he wasn't sure that the "fee for carriage" would single-handily save the Canadian television industry. He said that decision was up to CRTC, not the government.
"The role of government in all of this is to make sure the regulatory regimes that are in place suit the transformation that is happening and the investments we make suit the technology changes that are happening," he said.
The government's change will remove funding for CBC/Radio-Canada but it will allow the public broadcaster to compete for in-house production cash it used to be excluded from.
The CBC says it has a $60-million budget shortfall and has asked Ottawa for help. But Moore says the public broadcaster won't be receiving any more money than the $1.1 billion already allotted.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix has asked the government for help or says it will face potential cuts to staff and programming.
Moore said he had confidence that the CBC "could deliver the services Canadians expect from the CBC" from its current budget and ruled out any additional money from Ottawa.
Funding decisions for the new Canada media fund will be handled by a smaller, seven-member board of two government employees and five people from the largest funders.
Brian Anthony of the Directors Guild of Canada told the Canadian Press he was wary of making multiple platforms a requirement for funding. He asked if the move would hurt those working in new media, forcing them to work with the conventional media.
"Does this oblige them therefore to marry up with what we're calling `legacy media'? I don't know," Anthony said. "Does it, in other words, limit the ability of people working in the new media to continue to do so?"
The Canadian actors union, ACTRA, also had concerns, saying the new board puts too much power in the hands of "big cable."
With files from The Canadian Press