Canada investing more in new media, games

Ottawa unveils Canada Media Fund

TORONTO -- The Canadian government is backing away from investment in primetime TV and directing more taxpayers dollars into content for the Internet, video games, mobile phones and other new platforms or devices.

As Ottawa unveiled its new Canada Media Fund with about CAN$360 million ($349.5 million) in projected industry and public subsidies for 2010-11, experimental and "convergent" programming emerged as new priorities for indie producers and broadcasters looking to tap the taxpayer's shoulder for production subsidies.

"The (Canada Media) Fund will provide direct support for industry, spur job creation, and most importantly, provide Canadians with the content they want to watch on the platform on which they want to watch it," Heritage minister James Moore said at a news conference in Toronto.

The CMF's new digital orientation has implications for U.S. producers as they tap Canadian taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks while partnering with Canuck producers and broadcasters on international TV series and miniseries.

The CMF, which also receives financing from cable operators, will now back mostly broadcaster-triggered programming that reaches Canadian and international consumers across multiple platforms, not just TV.

Domestic broadcasters will also be compelled to spend half of their CMF allocations on the interactive digital component of a TV show.

Structurally, the CMF will direct subsidies to content creators via an experimental stream for non-linear, interactive digital content, and a second convergent stream to support combined TV and digital media content, with a focus on drama, documentary and kids programming.

Producers tapping the experimental stream will need to show their digital software reflects "a connection to the Canadian cultural sector," a vague rule likely to hamper content creators eyeing the world market for product sales.

The launch of the CMF on April 1 follows Ottawa combining the former Canadian Television Fund, the largest source of subsidies for indie producers making primetime TV shows, and the Canada New Media Fund.
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