5th Anniversary: The Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund

5th Anniversary: The Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund

“The Little Fund that Surprised Everyone” celebrates five years of new media funding.

For a private Fund which started off in 1997 with a limited two and a half year lifespan and a mandate no one could understand, the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund has proven to be the largest single influence on the production of innovative interactive content associated with television programming in Canada.
Five years later, the Bell Fund has supported 214 new media and television productions and invested $20.5 million into the Canadian new media and television industries. It invests nearly $6 million a year into the industry. It has published two training manuals for new media producers. It has organized a series of landmark Roundtable Discussions with new media and television producers and their broadcasters. It has organized an industry workshop about website marketing. It has produced a “Top Tips” list of lessons learned. It has undertaken and shared the results of various research reports. The Bell Fund supported the promotion and launch events for several high profile websites. It has sponsored several training initiatives and encouraged development opportunities through CyberPitch awards. It has designed generic new media documents and a budget template which have become industry standards. And it has made the existence of some of Canada’s leading interactive production companies possible.

The results have been impressive. Canadian new media projects associated with television programs have sold to an estimated 40 broadcasters worldwide. Twenty-three different Canadian broadcasters have benefited from enhanced television with interactive components. Bell Fund projects have won acclamation and dozens of awards around the world, and at home. The Gemini and Prix Gemeaux Awards for Most Innovative and Most Popular Websites have been awarded to Bell Fund projects for the past two years. International standards for new media licensing and revenue models have been pioneered by recipients of Bell Fund support. Traffic numbers are soaring on many of the successful websites.

The History
Five years ago, in order to satisfy CRTC requirements and obtain their own trial broadcast licences, Bell Canada was inspired with a radical idea: establish a private fund specifically for the support of interactive new media content linked to television programs. Twelve million dollars was allocated in 1997 to support this new Fund for two and a half years. An independent Board of Directors representing the television and new media industry and operating at arm’s length from Bell Canada was established to fund projects originating in Ontario and Quebec.
As a result of the Bell Fund’s impact and success, in 1999, Bell ExpressVu ensured the long-term existence of the Bell Fund. It undertook to make annual contributions of 1% of its revenues to the Bell Fund, satisfying CRTC requirements that broadcast distribution undertakings (BDU’s) support the Canadian television industry. Producers across Canada were now eligible to apply to the Bell Fund.
The Mandate

The Bell Fund’s objective is to encourage the development and production of Canadian content for digital media and television, and to stimulate partnerships and learning among members of the new media and television industries.
The focus has been on creating innovative content, using state-of-the-art technology and developing new approaches to financing, business and marketing. The ultimate goal is to enhance the viewer’s television experience by driving audiences back and forth between the new media project and associated television program.
The focus has been on creating innovative content, using state-of-the-art technology and developing new approaches to financing, business and marketing. The ultimate goal is to enhance the viewer’s television experience by driving audiences back and forth between the new media project and associated television program.
The Programs and the statistics
All projects eligible for Bell Fund support must have at least two components: a television component and an accompanying online interactive component, such as a website, iTV or wireless application.
The Bell Fund’s Production Program awards grants to fund 50% of the costs of new media project to a maximum of $250,000, and matches 50% of the Canadian broadcast licence fees up to a maximum of $75,000.
One hundred and four (104) new media projects have received $15,150,525 of funding from the Bell Fund in the past 5 years, and 75 television programs have been awarded grants of $4,794,775. Sixty percent of funding has been allocated to English-language projects, and 40% to French-language projects. Fifteen percent of all projects are bilingual. Successful applications have originated in all regions of the country.
A Development Program was launched in 2001 thanks to a $10 million endowment established as a result of the BCE/CTV benefits. This program supports new media projects in the planning stages, design, research, testing and prototypes. Projects are eligible for up to 75% of their development costs to a maximum of $25,000. Twenty-one projects have been funded to date with grants totaling $483,830.
The Development Program also provides professional development grants to non-profit industry organizations to provide training and educational services that reflect the mandate of the Fund. Fourteen such projects have been sponsored for a total of $105,500 including CyberPitch Awards, New Media Awards and workshops.
Training Activities
In 1999, recognizing that step-by-step guidance was needed by new media producers who were learning how to convince various funders to invest in their projects, the Bell Fund’s first book was published: Create a Winning Proposal: The Handbook for New Media Producers. This became the industry bible for everyone developing new media properties and funding proposals. This was followed in 2001 with the publication of New Media, New Business: The Producer’s Guide, which is a complete “how-to” business resource for producers of new media content.
Responding to needs identified by the industry, the Bell Fund organized a Producers and Broadcasters Roundtable Discussion in 2002. For the first time, both parties shared their concerns and frustrations and learned to understand the constraints and issues which face their partners.
DRIVING TRAFFIC: Website Marketing, Online and Offline Strategies was a workshop organized by the Bell Fund in the fall of 2002 to encourage stronger promotion and marketing of websites to attract higher traffic.
The private Funds in Canada make significant contributions to the health and survival of Canada’s television, film and new media industries. The Bell Fund was visionary in its mandate, but has proven to be a key to the success of our new media interactive content industry. It has helped to develop business tools and strategies to support and encourage the growth of this nascent sector of the communications industry. Much of what has been accomplished by Canadian new media producers and their television and broadcast partners would not have been possible without the financial support, the flexibility, the foresight and the enthusiasm of the Bell Fund.
The Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund is administered by the Independent Production Fund.
For further information:

Andra Sheffer
Executive Director
Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund
Claire Dion
Associate Director
Fonds Bell