Canada’s official national new media industry body is gearing up for its debut this fall - but is finding itself temporarily bogged down by the name game. "We’ve got all of our due diligence done, and...we submitted our name application a couple of weeks ago," says Ian Kelso, head of the New Media Business Alliance, one of the eight organizations that will make up the Canadian Interactive Alliance/Alliance interactive canadienne (CI@IC). "It bounced back because there are a couple of other companies with similar names, so now we’ve got to sure we can get the name pinned down." Red tape notwithstanding, Kelso says he’s confident the group can make a case that its name and purpose will stand out from the three similarly named entities, most of which he believes are defunct. "We’re very much hoping to be able to keep that name, because it’s something we worked a lot on, getting the branding and getting agreement around the table. We think it has a certain cache - the CIA . It’s got a little bit of fun to it." Most of the heavy lifting, such as the structure of the corporation, has been put to bed for some time now. Kelso adds that once the name is approved by Industry Canada, the government ministry can then issue the articles of incorporation that will legitimize the CI@IC as a not-for-profit organization and formalize its name. The new alliance will be composed of Kelso’s NMBA, the Digital Media Association of Alberta, Quebec’s Alliance numériQC, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA), the Innovation and Technology Association of PEI, the Manitoba Interactive Digital Media Association, New Media British Columbia, and the Saskatchewan New Media Developers Association. The CI@IC takes up the reins from an earlier organization, the Coalition of Canadian New Media Associations (CCNMA), which Kelso says was forged in July 2003 when direct-to-home satellite distributor Bell ExpressVu applied for relief from the simultaneous and non-simultaneous program deletion conditions of its licence. The CRTC approved the request, on the condition that ExpressVu contribute to a new fund for small-market independent broadcasters, which would receive 0.4% of ExpressVu’s yearly gross revenue (Broadcasting Decision 2003-257). In that ruling, the CRTC said that the funds that ExpressVu had to pay into the local programming fund could be diverted from what it paid into the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, which until the ruling drew 1% of the DTH operator’s total contribution of gross revenues it spent on its non-Canadian Television Fund commitments. The move resulted in a 40% cut to the Bell fund, dropping its funding from $7.5 million to $4.5 million as a result (CNM, July 24/03). Faced with the prospect of a major source of funding for new media being nearly halved, Kelso says he simply picked up the phone and started dialing others in the industry. "We just started calling each other up, and I connected with the people from the Alliance and the CFTPA and New Media BC," he says. "We said OK, what are we going to do about this? What can we do about it? That really was what kicked off opening up the lines of communication between our groups." The four new media associations started to cement their relationship - and set the groundwork for the CCNMA and, later, the CI@IC - by pleading their case to Canadian Heritage, which administered the other major source of funding for Canada’s new media industry: the Telefilm Canada New Media Fund. "At that point the program had a national advisory board that reported to the minister, so we managed to get on the agenda for one of their board meetings," Kelso says. The point was not to try to get the CRTC’s decision reversed, adds Kelso, but rather to press Heritage to increase the money available through its funding programs. "Part of that strategy was let’s look at the Canada New Media Fund, which has not been reviewed every year but has been sitting at sort of a stagnant rate for the past couple of years now," Kelso says. It was a strategy that eventually yielded fruit: the fund, part of the Canadian Culture Online Program (CCOP), received a one-time $5 million boost in February, taking the pool of available funding from $9 million to $14 million for the 2005-2006 fiscal year (CNM, Feb. 4/05; see story on page 3 for more on the Telefilm fund). Adds Kelso: "It was the first time all of us worked together, and from there we just started calling each other up a little bit more and then we started having some conference calls, and then we started identifying some of the other new media associations in other jurisdictions and inviting them in on the conference calls." After the successful lobbying of the CCNMA’s four core members and the momentum gaining by bringing new members into the fold, "we kept hearing from the feds ‘we want one voice for all Canadian new media and we want that to be an official voice,’" Kelso says. "That’s what started the ball rolling in terms of actually formalizing the relationship and creating some kind of an umbrella organization where we could actually deal with national issues in an official way, instead of just being a coalition." Enter the CI@IC. Kelso says the $5-million concession from Canadian Heritage is a significant win, but more of a tactical victory than a strategic one: "We didn’t lobby for $14 million, we lobbied for, I think, $34 million. Fourteen million was a good first step, but there’s a lot more work to do." He adds that since a number of other projects depend on the fund, the CI@IC doesn’t want to divert existing funding from within the Canadian Culture Online Program, but may instead set its sights on pressuring Cabinet for an order to increase the CCOP’s overall level of funding. "We’re working at making a stronger case in terms of economic impact," Kelso says, adding the group is working on an economic profile to present to policy makers that will provide a snapshot of the Canadian new media landscape today, enumerate the different regional and provincial marketplaces, then profile the industry’s makeup and demographics. This document, he adds, will be key in pressing government for more funding, because it provides a sound business case in a format they can relate to. "Then, over time we can actually start tracking some of those indicators and get some trending," he adds. "Right now we don’t really have a good national understanding of what the size of the industry is." "I don’t think anybody disagrees that the industry needs more funding, but also a more comprehensive strategy," Kelso says. "But the question is: what strategy? That makes all the difference - you don’t want to throw away good money on a bad strategy."