CMF to give ‘maximum flexibility’ to 1,500 projects affected by COVID-19

The organization also assured the domestic content sector that its program budget for 2020/21 will be "comparable" to the previous year. (Unlocked)

valerie creighton pictureThe Canada Media Fund (CMF) has assured the domestic content sector that its program budget for 2020/21 will be “comparable” to the previous year, despite the fact that 1,500 of the projects it supported in 2019/20 have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the funding agency did not specify the exact value of the 2020/21 budget, CMF said it will be in the ballpark of last year’s total of $353 million. It will unveil the full program budget later this week.

“Among all the challenges our industry has overcome, none has been as destabilizing as the one we currently face. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to a standstill most sectors of the economy, including ours,” said a letter from president and CEO Valerie Creighton (pictured).

As it works through an array of business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMF said it will work with its partners to ensure “maximum flexibility” as it considers “relief measures, wind down and start-up costs.”

Nurses, Wynonna Earp, Blood and Water, Departure and Lady Dicks are among the CMF-backed projects that have been either suspended or postponed as a result of the pandemic.

“We are in regular communication with the government to look at added flexibility for our programs and funding, as well as what critical relief measures may be necessary. While the situation for our industry is dire, governments are rightly responding to front line priorities such as human resource support, food supply and health care,” Creighton continued.

In addition to the annual budget, the funder will also release its program guidelines for 2020/21 later this week. According to the CMF, the changes to the guidelines are “not extensive,” but they have been tweaked to address feedback received over the past year. And there could be further tweaks to come. “We anticipate that as the COVID-19 situation unfolds, additional flexibility in the guidelines may be required for the broadcast and production sector,” noted the CMF.

As well, the organization said it will provide the 2020/21 Performance Envelopes to the Canadian broadcasters this week for review. Last year, Performance Envelopes accounted for $153.9 million in the English-language programs, and $76.7 million on the French-language side.

The CMF is part of the COVID-19 task force, an industry group formed in order to swiftly gauge the scale of the pandemic on the local production sector. Last week, the group put out a survey to assess the magnitude of the ongoing crisis. The goal is to share the findings with government officials in the coming weeks as the government begins to develop response packages. Among the survey’s primary goals is to ascertain the direct costs of production suspensions, carrying costs, and projected costs to ramp-up production when work begins again.

The task force is comprised of CMF, CMPA, Indigenous Screen Office, Telefilm, Association of Provincial and Territorial Funding Agencies (APTFA), Association québécoise de la production médiatique (AQPM), City of Toronto Film Office, Creative BC, NFB, Ontario Creates and SODEC.