A coup for community weeklies

The Canadian Community Newspapers Association scored its second major victory in as many months with the federal governmentÔÇÖs announcement of a new funding program that ensures long-term support for community newspapers.

Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore announced on Feb. 17 that the department would be launching the Canada Periodical Fund in 2010-2011.

The new fund will replace the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund and will be worth $75.5 millionÔÇöthe combined worth of the two programs it is replacing.

The announcement comes just over a year after Canadian Heritage initiated a review of both programs and entered into consultations with industry groups, including the CCNA.

What does this mean for community newspapers?

The Canada Periodical Fund is a partial victory for the community newspaper industry.

The new program will be administered by Canadian Heritage, removing its exclusive tie to Canada Post and opening up the opportunity for publishers to use alternative delivery methods. At the same time, publishers will be given greater flexibility to use the subsidy as they see fit.

The new fund will also allocate $2 million for collective initiatives undertaken by industry associations including the CCNA. In addition, another $1.5 million will be set aside for business innovations.

Ability to use alternative delivery methods and access to funding for industry projects were two key focus areas for the CCNA.

The balance will be distributed as a reader subsidy. Paid-circulation community newspapers and magazines as well as request-circulation magazines may apply for the subsidy. CCNA had asked for funding for total market coverage newspapers in small markets.

So what happens now?

Since the new program does not take effect until 2010-2011, the existing Publications Assistance Program and Canada Magazine Fund will remain in place during the 2009-2010 transition period.

Canadian Heritage is now working to finalize eligibility criteria and other details for the new program, and in the months leading up to its launch, will release an applicantÔÇÖs guide and contact stakeholders to ensure they are informed of the new program details and application process.

On Jan. 27, the federal government tabled its 2009-2010 budget and announced that it would contribute $30 million over two years to the Publications Assistance Program. This ensured the stability of funding for community newspapers and replaced the $15-million annual contribution that Canada Post had previously announced it would be withdrawing from the program.

CCNA had long argued that the issue of the $15 million was an internal accounting issue between the government and the crown corporation.

Also included in the budget were the new Canada New Media Fund to encourage production of Canadian cultural content online and a $225-million investment over three years to extend broadband coverage to underserved communities, allowing newspapers to connect with larger audiences online.

For more information, view the Publications Assistance Program news archive on the CCNA website at www.communitynews.ca/pap/ or contact CEO John Hinds at jhinds@ccna.ca or Tina Ongkeko at