CCNA is currently reviewing a discussion paper from the Department of Canadian Heritage on the Publications Assistance Program (PAP).

The discussion paper is a review of the objectives and criteria of the PAP program, preparatory to the department entering into negotiations with Canada Post for the Memorandum of Agreement dealing with the PAP. The old MOA expires on Mar. 31, 2002 and the new MOA would begin at that time and continue on for another three years.

It is important to note that program is not in jeopardy and will continue.

The discussion paper is being shared with various associations, including CCNA. The entire discussion paper can be downloaded from CCNA’s web site in PDF.

CCNA’s PAP Committee (chaired by Bruce Penton, Moosomin (SK) World-Spectator) will review and discuss the discussion paper in a series of teleconferences in early August. The committee will write a response to the paper, asking specific questions as to whether the objectives and criteria for the PAP program are adequate and/or if they should be changed.

At first glance, the discussion paper has several statistical items that are worth noting:

– Total value of the program is approximately $41.8 million;
– 408 ‘small community weekly newspapers’ with a total volume of mailings of 26.8 million pieces receive $4.1 million in subsidies;
– The average subsidy for community newspapers is around .20 cents per item;
– Community newspapers represent about 10 per cent of the program, while periodicals of all kinds represent 80 per cent; and
– Fewer than five per cent of the publications receiving subsidy receive more than 60 per cent of the total funds.

The PAP Committee will examine the allocation of PAP funds, which includes about $2.9 million for TV Guide (English language). TV Guide represents eight per cent of the total program, just two per cent less than the entire community newspaper industry. The Committee will spend special attention on PAP criteria as it pertains to the community newspaper industry, including the 10,000 rule for population, the 10,000 rule for paid subscription, and the 70 per cent advertising rule. Currently, the 70 per cent advertising rule includes inserts, or pre-prints.

“We may be willing to compromise in some areas, such as how much weight is subsidized,” said CCNA Executive Director Serge Lavoie. “Right now, there is no upper limit to the weight and most of our members are mailing under 200 grams.

“Our intention is to try and open up the rules so our members don’t lose out on the future of the program. We also note that the total value of the program was only $41 million this past year while the program funds are in excess of $50 ÔǪ so there is room for growth in the program,” he said.

Lavoie said another issue CCNA is watching intently is that of the business press. The business press is currently looking to enter the PAP program with request circulation publications. Request publications are not paid for, but requested. Lavoie said that If the request publications were admitted to the program, it would add an increased financial strain and CCNA would attempt to make sure that community newspapers do not suffer the brunt of that strain.