My mail this morning consisted of one, slim envelope, a letter from the Minister of Canadian Heritage thanking me for my correspondence regarding the new Canada Periodical Fund. A quick recap for anyone not familiar with this issue: On February 17, 2009, Minister James Moore announced that this new program would be replacing the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund, programs through which The New Quarterly (and many small arts and lit mags like ours) have been receiving support toward the astronomical costs of mailing and marketing our publication through Canada Post. At first, I thought this was great news: as someone who has filled out applications to both entities, both of which are fairly exacting and one of which typically takes me several weeks to complete, I welcomed the idea of a single, supposedly streamlined application and award process. However, the catch was that magazines that sell fewer than 5000 copies per year will be ineligible for this new program. Pretty much all of the arts and literary magazines you know and love fall into this category including, of course, The New Quarterly.
A Coalition to Keep Federal Support of Literary, Arts, and Scholarly Magazines, led by John Barton of The Malahat Review, immediately formed on Facebook after this announcement; as of this moment, there are 4135 members and it’s not too late to join. Members of this Coalition wrote to their MPs, ran ads in their magazines, developed both print and online petitions, sent out press releases and, in a few cases, were interviewed by the media. However, the letter I — and probably many of my lit mag compatriots — received today states in no uncertain terms that the eligibility guidelines for the CPF will remain unchanged:
The CPF will support a broad range of periodicals, but it will no longer offer support to titles that sell fewer than 5000 copies total per year, or specialized support for arts and literary magazines, including those that sell fewer than 5000 copies a year. A recent evaluation of our existing programs found that specialized funding for arts and literary magazines currently offered by the Department was duplicating the funding offered by the Canada Council…I trust that this information is useful.
I take exception to all of these remarks, except the last: the information is indeed useful. I’m more than a little offended by the idea that the ultimate value of a literary magazine is measured in sales figures; a ‘broad range’ of glossy consumer titles, from MacLean’s to Canadian Living, is just not broad enough for me, or for any of the 4135 members of the Coalition, I wager. The Canada Council does indeed support arts and literary publications; however, what the Council provides TNQ is operating support. All of the annual Council grant funding (for which we compete every year — it’s not a ‘given’) we receive goes directly to paying our contributors and printing our magazine. The funding we had been receiving from the programs the CPF is replacing was directed to subsidizing mailing costs (by the Publications Assistance Program) and to one-time business development projects like promotional direct mail campaigns (by the Canada Magazine Fund).
Though I remain convinced of my position that magazines like TNQ deserve support from Canadian Heritage toward these costs by virtue of what we do to support Canadian artists and literary culture (not by virtue of how many copies we sell), at this point, what’s running through my mind is “if we can’t beat ‘em, we might as well join ‘em.”
Please help your favorite literary magazine, be it TNQ or one of our fellow arts and literary publications, to reach the 5000 mark and thereby get some of its funding back. Subscribe today or buy a copy at your favorite local bookstore (that is, before it disappears as well!). Every copy counts and trust me, we—and the talented Canadian writers and artists we represent—truly appreciate your support.