Consolidation of Ontario funding for multimedia funding welcome move Government officials and industry leaders are praising the Ontario government's plan to merge responsibility for several cultural industries under one new roof. Announced as part of its May 2 budget, the province is renaming the Ontario Film Development Corp (OFDC) to the Ontario Media Development Corp, and giving it jurisdiction over several media files, including the Ontario Book Publishers and Ontario Sound Recording Tax Credits. More than a name change, private-sector players say the long-awaited move will create a one-stop shopping destination for government programs across the multimedia spectrum. Industry leaders and new OFDC president Adam Ostry have chafed for years at the fragmented structure in place for media programs at both the federal and provincial levels. Besides cutting red tape, the move will also have the intangible benefit of improving communications between the various media sectors by concentrating new media, film, publishing and recording expertise within a single agency. "The public policy objective in (the government's) decision to do that is to make sure that the OFDC can hasten convergence between industries," Ostry told CNM. "If you have, under one roof, all the tools available for economic development in the cultural industry, if you've got the capacity to build synergies, to offer one-stop-shopping to all these industries, to hasten strategic partnership building between industries, it's quite a large decision. It's an extremely important decision that has long-term ramifications for the development of the industry." For many both within and outside of government, the initiative is long-overdue. First raised as a possibility in 1994 by the Ontario Industry Task Force on the Cultural Industries, the idea has sat on the drawing board for six years. Ostry, who took over responsibility for the OFDC just over a year ago, says the political will now exists, due in no small part to his own initiative. "The previous governments didn't do anything about it. But, when I won the competition for this job a year ago, it was one of the things that I asked - whether there would be an appetite to do this. It was a personal objective of mine," explains Ostry. "While they made no promises, they said that if I could build a business case, they'd listen. So, it's extremely gratifying for me that they did listen and they acted on it." The OFDC's expanded mandate mirrors the convergence happening across all communications industries, whether print, digital, broadcasting or recording. Aurel Langois, president of Interactive Media Arts & Technologies (IMAT), says having a restructured funding agency is particularly good news for new media producers. "We look to the OFDC to continue to support developers of content - regardless of the medium," he told CNM. He welcomes the change from typical government policy that tries to "compartmentalize" industries under separate roofs - a trend that would hinder industry as it continues to converge. Langois hopes the new OMDC, as a government think-tank of bureaucrats who understand content, will be more open to new media projects. Besides a name change, the cash-flush Tory government also injected $30 million in funding into OFDC coffers, restoring core operational funding that was cut three years ago. In the interim, the organization has been surviving on reserves accumulated through previous years' film and television investments. Those reserves were expected to run out on March 31, and Ostry says the agency was "in danger of closing (its) doors." With the additional cash, spread over five years, the organization can now pay its staff and administration costs. Ostry says he received a little more than he asked for - money he wants to earmark for business skills enhancement programs and other mentorship activities.