CCNA has responded to a discussion paper from the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH) on the Publications Assistance Program (PAP), calling for a variety of changes to objectives and criteria.

The discussion paper is a review of the objectives and criteria of the PAP program, preparatory to DCH 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.

The program is not in jeopardy and will continue. CCNA’s PAP Committee (chaired by Bruce Penton, Moosomin (SK) World-Spectator) reviewed and discussed the discussion paper in a series of teleconferences in early August.

The committee wrote a response to DCH Director General Allan Clarke, focusing on the following categories: program objectives, basic eligibility requirements, relative value of subsidy/alternative distribution methods/use of funds, distribution of funding, fixed reference tariffs, advertising content, and targeting.

The following is a summary of the suggestions CCNA made to DCH Director General Allan Clarke in regards to the PAP discussion paper:

Community newspapers should be given separate and distinct objectives and guidelines within PAP.

Those objectives and guidelines should take into account the current business and operating environment of community newspapers.

Given the modest share of the entire PAP that community newspapers represent, there should be no attempt to limit or further restrict participation in the program.

The department should consider imposing maximum subsidy amounts for larger users of the program, redistributing the savings to enable wider participation by a greater number of publications.

Criteria relating to community size and subscription size are no longer useful or relevant. To avoid an ongoing erosion of participation rates by community newspapers in PAP, both the 10,000 population rule and the 10,000 subscriber rule should be eliminated. As long as the program is tied to use of Canada Post, market conditions will naturally mitigate against involvement in the program by large urban and suburban papers.

In addressing the issue of controlled circulation publications, the department should acknowledge the market forces that are driving the shift from paid to non-paid, even in smaller communities. The department should not consider the arguments of the business press sector in isolation.

The 70 per cent advertising rule should relate to the main publication only. Flyers should not be calculated as part of that 70 per cent. The entire publication should be rated at Commercial Publications Mail tariffs with a weight limit set on subsidy amount.

Because the issues involved with PAP are complex and warrant further debate, CCNA has requested a meeting with Clarke and DCH officials to discuss CCNA’s concerns in detail.

The discussion paper and the full CCNA response can be downloaded from CCNA’s web site in PDF format at . A more detailed story on this subject will appear in the September issue of CCNA’s trade newspaper, the Publisher.