Budget 2018 pledges $172M to CMF over five years

Announced Tuesday afternoon, the federal budget also includes money to modernize Statistics Canada and collect data on foreign OTT services operating in Canada.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government lifted the lid on its third annual budget Tuesday, putting an exact number on the Creative Canada pledge to top up annual funding to the Canada Media Fund (CMF).

In the budget, the government announced that it will provide $172 million over five years to the funder starting in 2018/19. The increased investment will bring the level of funding for the CMF up to that of 2016/17, when the CMF set its program budget at $371.2 million. The government will invest around $15 million in 2018/2019, followed by $29 million in 2019/2020 and $42.5 million for each of the next three years.

“While the actual Government contributions will fluctuate depending on the broadcasting sector revenues, this approach will provide a stable source of funding to develop Canadian content and support good jobs, including for our writers, producers, directors, actors and crews,” said the budget document.

With audiences moving online, cable and satellite subscription revenues have declined in recent years, resulting in falling contributions to the CMF. Last year contributions to the CMF fell by 5.8% to $349.7 million, compared with $371.2 in 2016/17 and $375.2 million in 2015/16.

The top up to the CMF was first revealed by the Ministry of Canadian Heritage in its Creative Canada Policy Framework, released in September, though the document did not specify the amount of the investment.

In a statement issued Wednesday, CMF president and CEO Valerie Creighton called the added investment a “testament to the government’s vision for Canada’s creative industries.”

Meanwhile, the CMPA said the new government funding will “act as a stopgap measure that will ensure the continued production of great Canadian content, while regulatory reviews look at how best to update Canada’s broadcasting system so it will continue to thrive and grow for decades to come.”

The CBC also applauded the government’s funding boost to the CMF. “That’s good news for the independent producers who create Canadian programs, many of which we share with Canadians on our networks,” a spokesperson for the pubcaster told Playback Daily. 

Not everyone was pleased with the budget, of course. After months of petitions and protests calling for a tax on foreign online giants, Quebecor issued a statement that it was disappointed with the government’s “lack of action” on “tax fairness.” The statement comes four months after the Montreal-headquartered compan launched a TV ad campaign criticizing what it called “preferential treatment” of U.S. digital companies over local ones.

Elsewhere, the budget included a $41-million boost to renew and modernize Statistics Canada over a five-year period. Part of that increased investment will see the government agency collecting data on foreign OTT services operating in Canada. “Beyond the modernization of the agency, it has become clear that the Government needs to fill gaps in knowledge for new and emerging crossborder services industries, such as content streaming services, which are becoming increasingly important to the Canadian economy,” read the budget.

The government also announced $50 million over five years to support local journalism. One or more yet-to-be-appointed non-governmental organizations will administer the funding.

The Liberals also said the government will explore news ways over the coming year to encourage private and philanthropic financial support for non-profit news organizations that “could include new ways for Canadian newspapers to innovate and be recognized to receive charitable status for not-for-profit provision of journalism, reflecting the public interest that they serve.”

News Media Canada, which formed in 2016 when the Canadian Newspaper Association and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association merged, said it was “disappointed” the budget did not offer more support.

With files from Media in Canada