Yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that the Canadian Television Fund and the Canadian New Media Fund are being almalgamated into the Canada Media Fund. Any news concerning changes to the CTF sends shivers down the spines of commissioning editors, as well as independent producers, throughout Canada. In the case of CBC Independent Documentaries, it relys on independent producers to access the CTF before it commits with a broadcast license – the CTF’s contribution boosts the overall budget of a doc which means, ususally, a better quality product. And CBC Documentaries wants viewers to watch a good product – so that they will come back for more.
Here is a quick breakdown of the announcement and the new CMF as quoted from a cbc.ca article. As you will notice, documentaries are not mentioned:
Four principles guided the government’s decision to create the new fund, Moore said.
- Get governance and accountability right, including having a smaller, more independent board to manage the new fund.
- Reward success and require innovation, favouring projects developed in high definition, those likely to have the most success with audiences and those planned for distribution to a minimum of two platforms, including television.
- Focus the investment on what Canadians want, including an emphasis on drama, comedy and children’s programming on television, as well as on internet and mobile devices.
- Level the playing field, encouraging competition among all players, including by removing the guaranteed funding envelope for CBC/Radio-Canada and provincial educational broadcasters.
What’s particularly alarming to the independent documentary community is that 5 out of 7 of the new controlling board of the CMF will be nominated by the cable companies that in effect will be only accountable for themselves – will they care about documentary programming that historically pulls in little profit for them? The Documentary Organization of Canada has published their opinion on the matter and it’s a rather dark view of things to come.
But the world of broadcating has been changing for some time and now even the Minister of Heritage is sitting up and taking notice. At CBC Docs, it is work as usual today, but who knows how the dust will settle and if the changes will translate into a reduction of original programming – or if it will translate in a request for programming that will take a different form than what came before it.
Of course, the whole point of the changing of the fund is that it is meant to match the changing world of media content and consumption. CBC Documentaries has recently expected to perform cross-platform. It now offers much of its programming on demand through the CBC Documentaries portal. And just a few weeks ago, I took over building the social media networks for CBC Documentaries through Twitter and Facebook in order to communicate more frequently and effectively with our audience. A little late maybe, but way better than never.
Documentaries are changing in form and presentation and now CBC Docs has to sit up and take notice – if Minister Moore can, so can CBC Docs. Maybe we should start by watching CPAC’s coverage of the CRTC’s hearings on new media that are happening right now.
And as I write this, thinking about the changing world of broadcasting, I am listening to songs on YouTube, that place where you can “broadcast yourself,” and my mind is being expanded by musian Kutiman who has created new music from video posts of other muscians. And after clicking through each song, I end up on his About Thru-You film, a little documentary about this project and my favourite documentary of the day – also a testament to the changing world of the consumption and creation of video and television.