CRTC denies Bell Fund’s request to increase 10% cap on digi projects

The funder argues the cap diminishes its financial support of convergent digital media content by almost $13 million annually.

digitalmedia-shutterstock-1The CRTC has denied a request from the Bell Fund to increase the 10% cap currently imposed on Certified Independent Production Funds (CIPFs) for the funding of non-programming digital content. 

In September 2016, the CRTC published its revised policy framework for Certified Independent Production Funds, and stated that “non-programming digital content” (which it defined as story-driven videogames, interactive web content and apps) could only receive 10% of CIPFs annual funding.

Prior to the policy change, however, “non-programming” or interactive content that was associated with a TV program (such as companion apps) was uncapped.

In its application, the Bell Fund argued that the cap will diminish its financial support of such convergent digital media content to $1.4 million annually, from $14 million.

In 2016, prior to the overhaul of the CIPF policy framework, the Bell Fund distributed $21.3M to 176 projects, supporting the production of 143 digital media and related television productions, the development of 15 digital media projects and 18 professional development initiatives. About 55% of that went to non-programming digital programming, according to executive director Nancy Chapelle. She added that the Bell Fund provides approximately 75% of the funding for the digital media projects associated with Canadian TV and that some of those grants are as large as $425,000, which would be difficult for producers to replace.

In its most recent round, the Bell Fund distributed $4.2 million to 18 projects, including Shaftesbury’s Frankie Drake and Blue Ant’s new Aux/A.Side artist profile series Snap-Wrap.

The Bell Fund requested that the commission increase the cap but did not specify a new level.

“While the reduction in funding could be detrimental to the success of these projects, the role of CIPFs, as mentioned above, is to provide support for the creation of programming and not to provide support for the creation of apps, games and interactive content,” read the CRTC decision.

“In the Commission’s view, the Bell Fund and interveners did not provide sufficient evidence that an increase in the 10% cap on funding for non-programming digital content would further the objectives of the [Broadcast] Act.”

The CMPA also supported an increase to the 10% cap on the grounds that digital content aids in the sale and international distribution of broadcast programming content.

While the CRTC denied the increase of a cap on non-programming digital content, the commission did approve the Bell Fund’s request for a transition period to “allow for a gradual phasing out of its current funding programs, and permit it to consult with stakeholders over the development of new funding programs that would align with and support the Commission’s revised CIPF policy framework.”

The Bell Fund now has until July 17, 2018 to adapt its funding programs to that policy framework.