Litmags threatened by new funding guidelines
February 20, 2009 6:34 PM By Stuart Woods
The Harper Tories have promised to maintain existing funding levels for the country’s magazine industry ($75.5-million annually), but guidelines announced this week for the new Canada Periodical Fund could put Canada’s small-run literary magazines in jeopardy.
The new Canadian Heritage-run program merges two other federal funding bodies the Canada Magazine Fund and the Publications Assistance Program in an effort to streamline operations and tie support of the periodical sector to “the reading choices of Canadians.” This new system won’t become a reality until at least 2010, but when it does, funds will be allocated using a formula based on paid circulation, and magazines with less than 5,000 annual subscribers will be shut out altogether.
The new formula would be a huge blow to the small number of literary publishers that depend on Heritage to survive, including respected journals such as The Literary Review of Canada, The Malahat Review, and Matrix, which have typically received annual subsidies ranging from about $15,000 to $20,000. As it currently stands, the minimum circulation requirement would exclude “pretty much every literary and arts magazine in the country,” says editor Andris Taskans, whose Winnipeg quarterly Prairie Fire relies on Heritage money for a significant portion of its operating budget and about half of its postage costs.
Taskans says the new guidelines are a deliberate “slap in the face to small magazines,” and that he would like to see the special status of literary magazines restored. Says Matrix editor-in-chief Jon Paul Fiorentino, whose magazine has published early works by authors like Heather O’Neill and Pasha Malla, "There’s value to what we do beyond the number of readers we get per issue.”
According to the Canadian Heritage release, the department is still finalizing the guidelines, so there’s still room to have them revised, if not removed completely. “People have to be realistic that there will be some form of minimum,”says Mark Jamison, CEO of the trade group Magazines Canada, “so the question is, how do we manage a specific challenge for a very specialized sector?”
Jamison believes there's reasonable hope that Heritage will ease its restriction on small magazines if the literary community succeeds in bringing its message to Ottawa.