A federal government discussion to merge Telefilm Canada with The Canadian Media Fund has come under fire from high-profile Canadian artists.
A letter signed by a who’s who of the film and television world — including Denys Arcand, Xavier Dolan, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Paul Gross, Sarah Polley, Deepa Mehta, Don McKellar and Robert Lantos — urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly against combining the two funding agencies.
“It has come to our attention that there is a proposal in discussion to merge Telefilm with the Canadian Media Fund and other crown corporations to form some sort of ‘super agency,’” reads the letter signed by 51 Canadian filmmakers and obtained by the Star, adding that such a merger “would deal a devastating blow to Canadian cinema.”
The broadcaster-driven Canadian Media Fund (CMF) delivers about $350 million in funding for television and digital content. Telefilm Canada is more film-focused, delivering under $100 million in annual funding.
The federal government, meanwhile, is looking at a sweeping overhaul of cultural policy that could include the merging of the two agencies. Some broadcasters such as Rogers have said that the two agencies should be merged, along with the Department of Heritage’s Canadian Periodical Fund, into one large entity dubbed the Canadian Content Investment Agency.
It’s not without precedent. The Canadian Media Fund was created out of the 2010 merger of the Canadian Television Fund and the Canadian New Media Fund.
Proponents of a Telefilm and CMF merger have said that forming one large agency could save as much as $50 million in administrative and other costs.
But filmmakers say further mergers will result in a less substantive Canadian film market. They argue that the needs of broadcasters, who are protected by Canadian content quotas, would put filmmakers at a disadvantage.
“There are no such quotas in support of theatrical feature films. Nor can Canadian filmmakers rely on the support of mainstream broadcasters who — with the occasional exception of the CBC — do not invest in theatrical films and have little interest in programming them.
“Instead, Canadian films fend for themselves in the open market, a fiercely competitive environment, dominated by the multinational conglomerates which own the six Hollywood studios. In this ongoing struggle, Telefilm Canada has consistently been our single most important ally,” the filmmakers say in the letter.
They contend that Telefilm remains cost effective and has spawned a Canadian culture industry that has won and been nominated for Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Cesars.
“We are deeply concerned that if feature film investments are subsumed within a larger agency with a competing and unsympathetic mandate, its independence and efficacy will quickly erode.”
A spokesperson from Minister Joly’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
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