Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time is ticking away for solution to small literary and cultural mag funding

Last week at MagNet and the Magawards, there was considerable corridor talk about if and whether the federal Department of Heritage was softening its stance on eligibility rules for the soon-to-be-launched Canada Periodical Fund, which is replacing lonstanding supports such as the Publications Assistance Program (postal subsidy) and the Canada Magazine Fund.

Early drafts said that publications with less than 5,000 annual paid circulation would be ineligible. That would take in many, if not most, of the literary and cultural titles that are published. The double whammy for them is that the new rules would be based on this year's circ, meaning they have virtually no time to adjust and push up their numbers, even if they were able.

Several months after the draft rules were unveiled, there doesn't seem to be much substantive movement by the government or any indication that the floor would be lowered (which would be the most obvious and easiest to implement) or for a separate fund to be established out of the total $75 million available (something that has been lobbied for).

What does seem to be getting some attention is the idea that perhaps $1 million might be transferred to the Canada Council, allowing it to deal with the small magazines, most of whom are already their clients. (I have no idea what CC thinks of this idea.) Such a solution would address one of the central objections of Heritage that it is complicated and inefficient to administer relatively small amounts to a relatively large number of literary and cultural titles.

A MagNet session heard from Scott Shortliffe that Heritage hopes to roll out the final program details in "early fall". Between now and then, the pressure from Magazines Canada and from the ad hoc grouping of literary and cultural magazines will have to be relentless in order that small literary and cultural titles not be stranded and in the process lose significant chunks of their funding ($15,000 or $20,000 in many cases).

It's hard to believe that the Heritage staff want to see such a stranding happen, because it will undo much of the great good that has been done through the CMF and its small magazines component in recent years. Such a setback might not only vaporize some titles, but impoverish the whole sector.

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Anonymous serah-marie said...

I really hope that hey do not choose to just filter money for small pubs through Canada Council, as that would really limit the topics those magazines can cover and still be funded. To me, this just means a greater divide between the classic camps of "commercial" and "arts" magazines. There is no encouragement to explore traditionally "commercial" topics from a totally different perspective, forcing pubs to pander to advertisers instead of creating a new voice.

4:58 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

A good point, though the whole idea is so speculative now it's not possible to know how, or if, a separate fund under CC management would work and what eligibility would be.

What we do know is that Heritage is so far uninterested in continuing the Support for Arts and Literary Magazines (SALM) component of the Canada Magazine Fund.

6:02 pm  

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