Further to my recent post on proposed changes to magazine funding by Canada’s federal government, in addition to possibly withdrawing funds for magazines with paid annual circulation of under 5,000 (i.e. most Canadian literary journals), here’s what the proposed new Canada Periodical Fund plans to do:
1. Tie support to the reading choices of Canadians;
2. Build on previous programs to maintain support for the industry and thus help maintain jobs in an industry affected by the current economic slowdown;
3. Reallocate funding to small and mid-sized titles to support a diversity of Canadian magazines and newspapers throughout the country;
4. Provide greater flexibility so that publishers can manage funds strategically, including the flexibility to enrich their Web content; and
5. Contribute to the Government’s commitment to reduce paper burden for business.
Here’s what’s right and wrong with these objectives:
1. The minister of Canadian Heritage theoretically represents at the Cabinet table, the interests of those who work in and live with/for the Arts. Points one and two have little to do with this mandate. In fact to some extent they contradict it. Support, one would think, is what should be given to worthy publications that, just like works of art themselves, don’t necessarily cater to the masses; are not viable in the marketplace. Tying support to readership is simply another way of rewarding popularity; of rewarding magazines that would exist without government funding because the market supports them. Their audience attracts advertising dollars. They don’t require support.
On the other hand, because of their limited circulation, and their readership not necessarily possessing desirable consumption patterns, literary magazines don’t generate much ad revenue. Marketability should not be a prerequiste for funding. Quite the contrary. Government is supposed to step in where and when the marketplace fails to provide products and services that enrich society. Advertisers clearly doesn’t value literary magazines, or at leasts their limited readerships; they value big, high spending target audiences (readers of Chatelaine, Maclean’s, Canadian Living). How inappropriate then that some of Canada’s most prominent, successful corporations should receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in public support they don’t need, when struggling literary journals, those most in need, those most important to the development of Canadian literary culture, receive a pittance, or nothing.
2. Admirable though this may be, make-work and economic development programs surely belong in other departments, Industry Canada and SHRDC for instance. Funding, at least from Heritage, should have everything to do with the creation and preservation of the arts and culture…and little to do with job creation.
3. If the government is indeed serious about a ‘diversity’ of voices then this could turn out to be very positive for literary magazines; could even result in an increase in funding for the sector.
4. Again, as with , this may be seen by the ‘suits’ in Canada’s magazine publishing industry as positive, but does it really help those who are responsible for creating literature and literary criticism? I think not. Far better to put in place rules which require that a large percentage of the funding go directly to the procurement of content. i.e. to the creators/writers themselves.
5. Could bode well for this proposal that government fund literary bloggers and online literary ‘entities‘ directly, instead of stapling all of their funding to the printed word.