Even if opposition leaders did not support the 2011-2012 budget released by the federal government Tuesday – and set the ball rolling for a likely spring election – there is some good news: the figures announced by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty include hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent toward digital media production and content development in Canada.

The Conservative government will provide $100 million each year to the Canada Media Fund starting April 1, 2011, one year after it first officially opened for business with a mandate to help companies produce quality content available on multiple platforms, not just TV. Now media formats that work on the Internet, wireless devices and other new platforms need to be considered.

This influx of cash is a significantly heftier amount than the budget plan from 2009, when the government said it would give what was then called the Canada New Media Fund $28.6 million over two years and then $14 million a year after that.

“With the help of this commitment, the CMF will continue to drive innovation and to support Canada’s creative talent in contributing to our competitiveness in the global marketplace for content,” Valerie Creighton, president and CEO of the CMF told Broadcaster magazine recently.  “This is most welcome news for the industry as a whole.”
In total, combined with the funding the CMF receives from various Canadian cable and satellite distributors, the CMF could potentially provide over $350 million to the television and digital media industry in 2011-2012, the organization reported.

As well, the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) will receive $80 million in new funding over three years to help smaller companies adopt new information and communications technologies. Compare that with past initiatives in this area, like the 2009 budget’s $750 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and it doesn’t amount to much.

We will have to wait to see if this investment by the government will stimulate innovation in the digital content Canadian media produce. Issues like broadband policies and foreign media ownership still need to be addressed. If there is a federal election, perhaps all parties will offer substantial digital economy strategies. The media can only hope.