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Canadian queer magazines take funding hit

New rules make it tougher for queer mags to receive federal funds

NEW RULES. Queer magazines have to sell at least 5,000 copies per year to be eligible for federal funding, under new guidelines announced this month.

New rules for how publications are funded in Canada could result in thousands of fewer dollars for queer magazines.

Last week, Canadian Heritage released the details of the aid-to-publishers budget, which is part of the new Canada Periodical Fund. The new fund replaces two vital sources of funding for Canadian publications — the Canada Magazine Fund and the Publications Assistance Program.

Under the new rules, publications must sell at least 5,000 copies per year to be eligible for assistance.

In the past, queer magazines were exempt from minimum subscription requirements, but under the Canada Periodical Fund, only Aboriginal, ethno-cultural and official language minority publications were given a lower minimum requirement of 2,500 paid copies.

A spokesperson for Canadian Heritage said in an email exchange that Aboriginal, ethno-cultural and official language minority titles are exempt because “these communities are small, often diffuse, and… it is very difficult to build a business model to serve them.”

“On the other hand, GLBT titles serve a large group across Canada, and have demonstrated that they can reach large groups of readers,” said the spokesperson.

The 5,000 threshold could have an impact on whether smaller magazines, including queer publications, receive funding.

Brett Taylor, publishing editor of Canadian queer mag Outlooks, says his magazine should be able to meet the new criteria. But when the magazine applied for funding last year, it had fewer than 5,000 paid copies and wouldn’t have qualified. It’s only been within the last six months that Outlooks surpassed the 5,000 threshold and even then, just barely.

“I find it very ironic, because the magazines that need the support are the ones that don’t have the revenue, other than advertising,” says Taylor. “So, to set criteria that says you have to have 5,000 copies paid for cuts out a ton of [publications].”

Toronto’s Fab magazine is among them.

In 2008/09, Fab (which is published by Xtra’s parent company, Pink Triangle Press) received just over $28,000 for editorial content from the Canada Magazine Fund.

Fab magazine won’t come close to meeting the 5,000 threshold, but it could be ineligible for yet another reason — Fab magazine is free.

Publications applying for funding this year must show they sold at least 50 per cent of the copies they produced in 2009/10. Aboriginal, official language minority, ethno-cultural and GLBT publications are exempt from this requirement, but under the new rules free publications don’t qualify for assistance.

According to editorial director Matt Mills, far less than five per cent of Fab’s copies are paid for.

“I’m not at all surprised if this turns out to be the case that Fab is completely ineligible and it appears that way,” says Mills. “It’s something that we anticipated and something that we fought against. But ultimately the choice to do this to the smaller publications — the publications that are really the heart and soul of innovation in the magazine business — for [the government] to make this choice is very, very disappointing.”

Although Fab will continue to publish even if it doesn’t qualify for assistance, the loss of funding will have a significant impact on the magazine, says Mills, adding that Fab has benefited from the Canada Magazine Fund for almost the entire length of its run.

Mills says it’s a particularly bad time for publications to lose funding, because advertising revenues everywhere are down.

“There will be an effect — there’s no doubt about that,” says Mills. “But we’ll adjust some way.”

Queer mags aren’t the only ones taking a hit. Under the new guidelines, a magazine can only receive a maximum of $1.5-million per year. That will deal a blow to larger magazines like Chatelaine and Maclean’s, reports the Globe and Mail. Those two magazines each received over $2.5 million in funding last year.

The only exemptions to the $1.5-million cap are farming magazines such as The Western Producer and Cattlemen.

Smaller Canadian arts and literary magazines that previously received funding will also take a hit if they don’t meet the 5,000 minimum threshold.

Meanwhile, Taylor of Outlooks is already beginning the application process, and he says he’s concerned about the new deadline.

“All of a sudden your window to submit is way shorter,” says Taylor, noting that previously the deadline to apply was July 31. This year, the deadline is Feb 19 — less than a month away and only 31 days after the new rules were announced.

To speed up the process, Canadian Heritage has created a list of current publications that will be given a special form with which to apply. But the list only includes publications that are current recipients and that have been deemed eligible under the new guidelines, based on information that Canadian Heritage already has.

Neither Outlooks nor Fab Magazine made it on to the list.

Mills says he’s not surprised by the new regulations of the Canada Periodical Fund and referred to them as the Harper government’s “continued war on arts.”

“It’s terribly, terribly, terribly sad,” says Mills. “There are going to be a whole lot of publishers who are no longer eligible for the kind of support that they needed to keep going and, although Fab is not among them, there will certainly be publications that disappear because of lack of access to this money.”

Contact James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage:
MooreJ@parl.gc.ca

More contact info including phone numbers and addresses at parl.gc.ca