BANFF - The immediate future of Telefilm Canada's Canada New Media Fund was reaffirmed yesterday with an infusion of $29 million in federal funding for the program over the next two years.Canadian Heritage minister Bev Oda stressed the need for quality Canadian content in all genres across all platforms in making the announcement Sunday at the close of the nextMEDIA conference in Banff.The amount is half a million more per year than the amount given out in 2005-06, but falls just short of the $30 million per year the industry has been lobbying for. The fund was granted $9 million annually in 2001-02 for five years, an amount upped to $14 million for 2005-06 in a one-year extension.Telefilm Canada executive director Wayne Clarkson said there would be no significant changes to the fund, except the removal of deadlines and the addition of a little more flexibility.Founded in 2001, the Canada New Media Fund is subject to a five-year review under Treasury Board rules. However, the one-year extension last year allowed that timeline to stretch a bit. Anticipating the review - and subsequent approval to renew the fund - Telefilm staff began gathering feedback on the fund's work to date earlier this year.Mare Burgess, the fund's head of research and planning and senior policy advisor, told CNM in April that the review would offer an opportunity to make more substantial changes to the fund than had previously been afforded by less sweeping yearly interim reviews.Burgess pointed to the Great Canadian Video Game Competition as an example of the push to make the fund more flexible and responsive. Launched in November last year, the program promised to reward one game developer with as much as $800,000 in financing. The winning firm will be announced at New Media BC's annual Vidfest event in September.In an earlier interview, Bitcasters CEO Nathon Gunn said that while initiatives such as the Great Canadian Video Game Competition were a step in the right direction, gaming should be seen as a platform for other content themes in its own right."The one remaining thing that people don't seem to grasp at the Heritage level...is the cultural significance of games," he said. "It's heartbreaking - we're really in a position...to create Hollywood in Canada vis-à-vis games. This is the thing that everybody interacts with now, this is the way that people get their messages."However, the release of HistoriCanada last month - a collaboration between Bitcasters, Telefilm, New York-based game publisher 2K, developer Firaxis Games and the National Historical Society - is a step toward bridging the gap between games and cultural content.Modelled on the Civilization III gameplay engine, HistoriCanada allows players to re-enact the histories of Canada's founding peoples in a turn-based strategy game. Gunn and his partners hope to distribute 100,000 free copies of the game to kids aged 12 to 18 across Canada.Application guidelines for the renewed Canada New Media Fund will be out in June, and applications will be accepted as early as the fall, said Telefilm Canada officials. The money will be paid out on-demand after that date, but the officials said they expect the fund to be over-extended. "Our collective energies must be to ensure that Canadian content is always part of the equation. We must increase the use of the Web to bring audiences to our Canadian programming, we must explore new ways to develop and build new Canadian content programs that can establish themselves in a media mix," Oda told conference delegates.Oda said her government had three objectives: maintaining quality Canadian content, maintaining a strong, sustainable production industry, and maintaining a viable Canadian broadcasting industry.She noted that the broadcasting system was in a period of transition, with more choices and new platforms, new markets, new audiences and new business models. But she added that "compelling content" was the sole driver in a world of limitless choices. Technological advances do not chance our goal of quality Canadian choices in programming. For that reason, she concluded, "I'm happy to announce the government has renewed the Canadian New Media Fund."