Banff Television Foundation to take ownership of International New Media FestivalOwnership of the International New Media Festival has changed hands in a deal announced today at the annual conference of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA). The new media festival, beset in recent years by low attendance numbers, should receive a valuable boost under the new ownership of the Banff Television Foundation and with committed title sponsorship from TechPEI over the next five years. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the accord marks the end of the involvement by the festival’s longtime promoters, the Atlantic Digital Media Festival (ADMF). The ADMF has struggled recently to put on the event as original backers Economic Cape Breton Corp. pulled out from the 2002 festival. TechPEI rode in as a white knight to save the conference, though it was moved from its traditional Baddeck NS venue to Prince Edward Island’s Brudenell River Resort (CNM, Aug. 21/02; Sept. 6/02). TechPEI’s initial involvement was for a single-year, $100,000-funding commitment with a right of first refusal for the next five years. Scot MacDonald, TechPEI’s director of new business investment and point man on the project, wouldn’t comment for this story on what prompted the agency to continue its involvement. In comments to Canadian NEW MEDIA at last year’s festival, however, it was clear MacDonald was pleased with how the event had unfolded, and that the agency would seriously consider a multi-year commitment. Pat Ferns, president and CEO of the Banff Television Foundation, which runs the internationally recognized Banff Television Festival, tells CNM he hopes the festival can be expanded in scope to include more than its previous niche focus. "It is going to be broader and it’s not going to be just about the convergence of television and new media," he says. "It’s going to be looking at all aspects of the leading edge of 21st century communication. It’s going to be much more firmly international and we’re going to work with the best practitioners in this country to make sure it’s a great event." He says the Banff Television Festival has been successful with a small number of spin-off events such as those held for science and history producers. "There will be more announcements in the future. We think that what we’ve done with history and what we’ve done with science has really worked for us. These have been strong events serving a targeted community. We see that there are other genres or areas in the industry where we can provide that same service and new media was an opportunity that we wanted to seize and our partners in P.E.I. certainly seemed to agree with us." The Banff Television Foundation will completely own the new media festival, becoming its organizer, manager and producer. It will continue to be held in P.E.I., with this year’s event scheduled for some time in October. Ferns says the foundation is looking at potential directors, both within and outside of the organization. He says the sale was hammered out quickly, with final agreements falling into place late last week and even early this week. Ferns says both wireless and games will likely play a more central role in the event’s program. "The games sector is probably bigger than all of television and what we thought of as new media just on its own," he explains. "We’ve got to get those players there. What’s going on in wireless in Canada – well, North America – is well behind what’s going on in Europe and it’s a whole new platform we have to explore. I think there’s a lot of interest in the potential of this area. It’s not going to go away and we’ve got to make this festival a place that is on the leading edge." An advisory board will be formed by the Banff Television Foundation to provide editorial direction. The two festivals have had a cross-promotion agreement since an initial partnership deal was struck and announced at the CFTPA’s 2001 conference (CNM, Feb. 21/01). Earlier this year, the Banff Television Festival and the International New Media Festival were parties to a new formal agreement linking the two, the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, the Banff Centre’s New Media Institute and the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival to hold the popular Cyber-Pitch competition (CNM Update, Jan. 15/03).