Is the Canada Periodical Fund helping TC Media squeeze freelancers?
By Katherine Lapointe
The Canadian Media Guild has sent a letter to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore asking him to review the funding TC Media receives from Heritage Canada’s Periodical Fund in the wake of the new contract it tried to impose on freelancers this year. TC Media has received between $7.5 and $8.5 million from the fund each year for the past three years.
The Canada Periodical Fund was created in 2009 by James Moore to replace the Canadian Magazine Fund and the Publications Assistance Program. The stated purpose of the newer fund is to strengthen the Canadian cultural sector and to provide stability to the tens of thousands of employees in this industry. As Moore said in 2009, the fund exists “to offer Canadian publishers a simple and effective program so that they can continue to provide readers with a broad range of quality Canadian periodicals.”
In practice, the Canada Periodical Fund fails to support the Canadian cultural sector and its workers. While the total amount of funding available to publishers each year has remained the same – about $75.5 million – the new fund is only available to publications with a paid circulation of 5,000 copies or more. This makes it all but impossible for small, independent (often art, literary and scholarly) publications to qualify and the Support for Arts and Literary Magazines (SALM) program was discontinued. This means the fund favours large publications that typically contain a high number of ads and a relatively lower amount of Canadian content, prompting outcry at the time from a coalition of artists, freelancers and readers.
Instead of enriching the cultural sector and helping to stabilize employment, the latest TC Media contract demands that freelancers sign over all rights to their work, while offering no increase in pay rates. Under these terms, TC Media has the right to republish or alter the work without permission (including removing the byline) and without paying the freelancer another cent.
Recently, the Canadian Media Guild has learned that TC Media has told some freelancers that they do not have to sign this new contract and that they are making amendments to the agreement. A new version is expected in early summer.
“As we await the new contract from TC Media, it is an appropriate time for James Moore and Heritage Canada to look at whether the fund is actually serving to help strengthen the country’s cultural sector or whether it is, in fact, helping the big publishers make life even more difficult for cultural creators,” says Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild.
The Guild is encouraging freelancers and readers to contact their MPs and ask for a review of the Periodical Fund. You can find out more here.