Heritage officials ponder PAP overhaul

The Publications Assistance Program is set for a major redesign and officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage, the federal ministry in charge of the postal subsidy program, have begun an extensive consultation with stakeholder groups that will extend into the summer and fall.

Several ministry officials, including William Fizzet, Director General of Publishing Policy, will be attending the CCNA conference in Halifax to discuss the pending changes with community newspaper publishers.

At present, some 400 community newspapers receive about $4 million annually from the $46 million program. The remainder is received by magazines and periodicals ranging from Macleans and TV Guide to literary and scholarly journals. A recent analysis of the program showed that over 63% of funds were distributed to just five percent of titles. The redesigned program sets out to level out this imbalance by targeting funds to smaller publications with lower circulation and revenues.

According to program officials, new eligibility criteria for community newspapers may move away from defining community size and may increase the overall threshold for weekly circulation. The new criteria may also embrace free as well as paid circulation, at least in smaller markets, an approach long advocated by CCNA during its frequent consultations with the department.

While numerous details have yet to be worked out, department officials make it clear that there is a willingness to change the criteria to better reflect the unique business models of the community newspaper sector. At the same time, they must address various concerns raised by the magazine and periodicals sector as well as the business and trade journals industry.

While in Halifax the officials will meet with the CCNA's committee for PAP issues chaired by Fred Heidman, Parry Sound, Ont. There will also be at least one round table session open to all interested members. CCNA is also working up additional statistical information about members that will help both the association and the department arrive at criteria that serve the greatest number of members while staying within the financial limitations of the program.

The department has set a timetable that would see a new program in place by April, 2003. For further information, contact Serge Lavoie at CCNA ( slavoie@ccna.ca ).