Why the Telefilm debate is a red herring

The country’s leading filmmakers released a letter to Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arguing that a merger of Telefilm Canada with the Canada Media Fund would be a big mistake

As Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly prepares the culture file for its digital future, some observers wonder if a splashy new Crown corporation will be her legacy.

Speculation that the Liberals are planning a super-agency that would bring together film, television, new media and publishing under one roof roared into life last week when the country’s leading filmmakers released a letter to Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arguing that a merger of Telefilm Canada with the Canada Media Fund would be a big mistake. Perhaps alarmed bureaucrats at Telefilm are already warning their clients in the film industry to get lobbying if they want to keep their dedicated funding agency. At any rate, rumours are flying in the Canadian movie business that Telefilm is toast.

The filmmakers, a well-funded A-list that included David Cronenberg, Xavier Dolan, Atom Egoyan, Paul Gross, Guy Maddin, Deepa Mehta, Sarah Polley and Denis Villeneuve, argued that Telefilm and the CMF are a bad fit. They praised Telefilm as efficiently administered and culturally motivated, a well-run federal agency that uses tax dollars to advance a strong artistic agenda. The CMF, on the other hand, is a public-private hybrid: It uses a mix of tax dollars and levies raised on cable and satellite revenues to fund both television and new media; its board of directors comes from the broadcasting industry and the decisions are more commercially minded. Maybe not chalk and cheese, but certainly not two peas in a pod.

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