The new media industry in Canada may be looking at a stronger voice in Ottawa and elsewhere if a new coalition of associations and stakeholders can successfully coalesce around funding and other issues. In June at the Vancouver Vidfest, representatives from the biggest regional associations met with the help of Telefilm Canada to discuss their lobbying efforts, and the low profile the industry has in Ottawa. As a result of that meeting, a new national association has been agreed to under the leadership – for now – of New Media BC head Lynda Brown. The group doesn’t yet have a name, a structure or a revenue source, but it does enjoy the commitment of the biggest names in new media in this country. The meeting in Vancouver was attended by New Media BC, Technology PEI, the Alliance numériQC, the Ontario-based New Media Business Alliance (NMBA), Manitoba Film & Sound, the Saskatchewan New Media Developers Association, the Manitoba Interactive Digital Media Association, the Alberta New Media Association and the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA).  The initiative springs from months of groundwork laid by, predominantly, the CFTPA’s new media wing under Decode Entertainment Inc.’s Dan Fill, Breakthrough Film and Television’s Michael McGuigan and Collideascope Digital Entertainment’s Stephen Comeau (CNM, Feb. 6/04). The trio, along with the Alliance and NMBA have been cautiously feeling out other associations’ willingness to form a stronger partnership, something most observers see as critical to the sector’s success as the fate of the major funding mechanisms hangs in the balance. The progress the groups have made is encouraging. Last winter, Fill would only tell Canadian NEW MEDIA that, "(we’re) calling it a coalition. We’re just at this point trying to get buy-in from everyone and, at this point to be honest, I’m not even sure it’s a newsworthy thing yet because we haven’t even come collectively together, yet. We’re planning to, in a few weeks, at least have a conference call with all of the groups together where we can even just decide if it makes sense for them or not. Just from our initial conversations we’re getting some positive feedback." He added: "I have a lot of goodwill and if people are willing to get involved with it, I’ll back it 100%. If it’s just going to be an uphill battle to get everyone involved, and it’s just going to be another CFTPA and all these other boards, I don’t know if we have the energy to steer the whole ship. And, we’re even hearing that from the other groups involved." Now, with the firm backing not just of the CFTPA, the Alliance and NMBA, there’s likely cause for optimism that a more formal organization may get off the ground. Brown, who has been tapped in the interim to lead the group’s efforts, says it will build on the informal efforts to date to create a permanent body: "We didn’t want to get bogged down with structure, but in order to be as effective as we could, we needed to put some sort of wrap and structure around it, and to have a name, and to have some terms of involvement, and some basic guidelines. So, we did decide to form something of a more structured nature. What we’ve been doing for the past couple of months is just having these teleconferences once in a while, which have been really helpful, and obviously kick started the whole process. But we decided that if we were going to be effective in things like increasing funding and gathering cross-Canada, and starting to lobby that we needed to do something a little bit more strategic." While the group is still in its infancy – though cross-country collaboration dates back at least to a pivotal meeting of Ontario producers in the wake of cuts to the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund last summer (CNM, Aug. 28/03), and through a larger national meeting to discuss lobby efforts at the nextMEDIA festival in Charlottetown (CNM, Nov. 7/03) that autumn – government officials are already welcoming news of its formation. Head of the Canadian Culture Online Program Ted Bairstow says he’s hopeful progress can be made: "I think the fact that they’ve got representation from provincial organizations or regional organizations from across the country is really encouraging. And, I applaud their efforts and I hope they are successful in coming to some kind of formal agreement that will allow them to form an association." A single organization that can be contacted for a new media perspective has long been in demand in Ottawa, especially from Canadian Heritage and Telefilm officials. Bairstow says a new association could help policy-makers arrive at more advantageous decisions for the industry. For example, he says, cross-country research would likely be facilitated. "One of the things we talked about when we met in Vancouver was their capacity to try and bring into line different ways people measure the size of the industry, the impact that it’s having, the amount of work that it’s doing, etc., in different parts of the country, so that we’ve got comparable ways of counting things across the country," Bairstow tells CNM. "It allows us to draw a consistent national picture. So, that kind of thing is really helpful. Of course, they’re probably also going to have some kind of a lobbying function and right now there’s no one that speaks to elected decision-makers with a clear, strong national voice around issues related to this industry. Remember, regional associations can go to their regional politicians and say, ‘look, this is important and we think you should be looking at the ways government is supporting it,’ but it would be helpful for them to have a national voice, I think." Brown agrees that communication with Ottawa will be one of the group’s most important functions. "It’s a two-way street. Government can only help us inasmuch as we can effectively and strongly communicate what our needs are. If we’re not organized as a group, if we don’t have the data around the size of our industry and what they need, then they can’t help us as effectively. You know. It goes both ways." Efforts have been made in past to gather the various stakeholders into a single organization, most notably under the Interactive Media Producers Association (IMPAC) banner. Dependent on contract funding, that organization was never able to fully spread its wings to fulfill an effective national lobby role (CNM, Oct. 18/01). At the time of its demise, then-head of the multimedia sector at Canadian Heritage Réné Bouchard bemoaned the lack of funds he had available to help the struggling group. Brian Wood, then with New Media West, and who took over the association in its dying days, had harsh criticism of Heritage at the time. " had meetings and pulled people together, but there always seemed to be other agendas," he told CNM in 2001. "Seventy thousand dollars or $80,000 isn’t very much to try to start a national association. Yes, there were some mistakes made. I’m sure will have some criticisms for the guys in Quebec. But, they didn’t really assign someone to really work with the group. We seem to be all over the map, dealing with this department and that and all of this was project driven and it takes six months to get a project off the ground. By that time, our general manager is living off his credit card. How do you do that? You can’t run an association like that." Things appear to be different at this point, however. Each of the associations involved is apparently well funded, and a single point of contact within Heritage will likely help the situation. Each of the Bell Fund and Telefilm Canada have money available for sectoral development, and Bairstow says his department has money available to fund, at least in part, the studies Ottawa is demanding.