CMF Sets Out Criteria to Qualify so Onerous, Even a Canadian MrBeast Would Fail to Qualify

The CMF has said that it is earmarking a tiny fraction of its new funding to actually support Canadian creators.

Digital creators – especially digital first creators, have been a major reason why platforms like YouTube and TikTok remains hugely profitable and one of the most visited websites on the planet. Each year, creators on those platforms pull in hundreds of billions of views, garner hundreds of millions in subscriptions, and generate hundreds of millions in economic activity. It’s big business for both the platform and the creators.

It’s one of the reasons why creators felt incredibly insulted when they were called “unprofessional” or “cat videos” among other things throughout the debates of the Online Streaming Act. They were basically cast aside as more or less lower class citizens whose content wasn’t really worth watching all that much compared to the “professional” creators (the opposite is actually true). Yet, for lobbyists and the cultural elite pushing for the Online Streaming Act, that was one of the launching points for why they feel that they should be getting massive financial windfalls. They basically case this debate as platforms and streaming services taking away the money that rightfully belongs to them and that this bill is about correcting this.

Digital first creators rightfully pushed back. They made the point repeatedly that their content is, in fact, beloved by viewers. They further argue that they are professional creators after all and they even get more attention than big cable TV channels at times. To suggest that digital first creators don’t contribute to the media ecosystem is downright insulting and untrue. What’s more, a very valid argument was made that if money is to be extracted from the platforms, then it should be redirected to those creators who actually contribute a lot to the online platforms as opposed to traditional creators who not only don’t contribute to the online ecosystem, but routinely demonize that same ecosystem to boot.

During the senate hearings, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) told senators that they are desperately looking for Canadian creators online to fund. They are actively looking for creators, even going so far as to contacting platforms like YouTube if they know of creators to fund. Like pretty much any other critic of the Online Streaming Act, I had my doubts that they are really desperately scrounging around looking for creators like me. So, I put their comments to the Canadian senate to the test and contacted them directly. To the surprise of absolutely no one paying attention, the CMF promptly ignored my inquiries, refusing to even respond to my e-mail.

Make no mistake, this law is about stealing from the new and emerging creators and giving it to the cultural elite and large organizations that contribute nothing to the online environment. That lack of an exchange in communication pretty much hammered that point home quite effectively.

Recently, we learned of an announcement by the CMF that, once again, pretends to be charitable to digital first creators when, in fact, it clearly is a smoke and mirrors effort. The CMF has said that it is earmarking $500,000 for online creators:

Toronto, October 26, 2023 – The Canada Media Fund (CMF) today announced a new pilot program designed to support the growth of mid-career Canadian digital creators making short-form video content for social media platforms. Part of our Experimental Stream, the Digital Creators Pilot Program (DCPP)’s total budget will be $500,000 for its inaugural edition, which will fund content creation as well as business and marketing activities.

“Great content is found on all platforms. As an organization focused on the future of storytelling in all its forms, we are excited to offer support to digital content creators active on social media,” says CMF President and CEO Valerie Creighton. “This pilot program will provide successful applicants with opportunities to develop creatively, build their skills and further their long-term business objectives so they can create more of the original content their audiences want to see—and acquire new fans along the way. We’re excited to see the impact of this critical pilot program as Canada’s audiovisual industry begins sweeping modernization efforts.”

Eligibility for the pilot program

At the time of submitting an application, creators will need to provide a business plan and demonstrate that they have been active for at least 12 months, with an average of one post per month in that period, on at least one of the eligible platforms: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube.

Applicants will also need to demonstrate that they meet a minimum engagement threshold, which differs according to whether they create content in English or in French.

Funding may be used for identified business and marketing activities such as hiring a marketing consultant, social media manager, legal or accounting services, and more. Recipients will also be required to deliver at least four pieces of new prepared and edited content, which must meet all criteria pertaining to Canadian ownership and be produced in a CMF-supported genre as defined in the program’s guidelines.

It sounds great on the surface, but when you dig deeper, there are much larger guard rails put in place. The linked documentation contains a number of barriers for entry:

An Eligible Applicant to this Program is a for-profit Canadian Corporation (i.e., a taxable Canadian corporation, within the
meaning of Canada’s Income Tax Act) that:
a) Is Canadian-controlled as determined in sections 26 to 28 of the Investment Canada Act.
b) Has its head office in Canada.
c) Its shareholder(s) are at least 18 years of age.
d) Is in good standing with any applicable talent and industry associations and guilds.
e) All individuals that own and control the Applicant company have registered for a PERSONA-ID account(s) and have
provided this account number as part of their Application.

3.1.1 Minimum Engagement Thresholds
Eligible Applicants must demonstrate the following at the time of application:
• Channels or accounts controlled by the Applicant – on at least one of the Eligible Platforms (see section 3.2.3 below)
– have been active for at least the last 12 months, with an average of 1 post per month in that time period; AND
o if the primary language of posting is English, they must be responsible for at least 1 of the following options:
▪ A current single channel or account with at least 75,000 subscribers or followers, OR
▪ Multiple channels or platforms with a combined subscriber base of at least 125,000, OR
▪ At least one video which has achieved a minimum of 500,000 views on a channel which has a
subscriber base of at least 40,000.
o if the primary language of posting is French, they must be responsible for at least 1 of the following options:
▪ A current single channel or account with at least 15,000 subscribers or followers, OR
▪ Multiple channels or platforms with a combined subscriber base of at least 25,000, OR
▪ At least one video which has achieved a minimum of 30,000 views on a channel which has a
subscriber base of at least 10,000.

If that sounds like large numbers for a program aimed at entry level creators, that’s because it is. Currently on YouTube, for instance, you are required to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watched hours in the last year just to get monetized. When you are starting out with minimal resources, that is a very high bar to reach and many creators struggle to reach that level. The CMF barriers to entry are significantly steeper with requiring 75,000 or 125,000 subscribers and half a million views just to qualify for the possibility of getting some pocket change.

The criteria gets much worse in that it basically excludes a vast majority of content people actually produce for platforms:

3.2.3 Ineligible Content Types
Notwithstanding the evolving nature of the space, the following is an inexhaustive list of ineligible types of content that cannot
be created using the funds from this Program:
• Promotional or advertorial, or content intended as advertising or marketing
• Any content that is the result of a brand partnership or sponsorship deal
• Unboxing, production reviews, rating videos
• Duets, remixes or reaction videos
• Live-streaming / Videogame play videos
• Vlogging, talk shows, panel shows, or recorded podcasts
• Competitions or contests
• Compilations, “Listicles” or reposted videos comprised solely of other peoples’ content (e.g. clips from films, tv shows, musicians or other influencers)
• “Streeters” – random and “surprise” encounter interviews conducted live with strangers on the street
• Award shows, galas, fundraising, benefits, tributes
• Religious programs
• News reporting
• How-to, DIY, cooking videos
• Official track Music videos or filmed recordings of live events, performances or exhibitions
• Longer form and serialized content primarily intended for digital streaming platforms that would be eligible through other CMF programs (ie. Digital series, web series, television series etc.)

If you post or stream review content, contests, cooking, religious, music, fundraising, or reviews, among other things, then your content does not count. It’s basically designed to disqualify almost everyone trying to make content on these platforms.

If MrBeast was Canadian, a vast majority of his content wouldn’t qualify. An example of his content is comparing various houses based on assessed value. Arguably, that would be considered product reviews.

Another kind of content that MrBeast posts is contests. For instance, his ages 1-100 contest which blew up quite well on YouTube would fail to qualify on the basis that such content was a contest.

A third kind of content MrBeast produces is feel good, make the world a better place, type video’s. One famous example is the Teamseas project. That would fail to qualify because it is part of a fundraising effort.

In a nutshell, a vast majority of MrBeasts content would be disqualified if he was Canadian.

A large creator that is Canada, however, is Linus Tech Tips. That is a major channel that made a career out of themselves by producing product review video’s. An example is the $500 laptop from AliExpress video. The video runs into a problem because it’s, well, a product review video. Another problem with the video is that it has what is known as a “burned in” sponsor. As you can tell by the qualifications, both are reasons for disqualification. Since almost every single video published on Linus Tech Tips is sponsored, almost every video will not qualify.

Of course, video sponsorships are huge for creators. This is because Google’s Adsense built into YouTube really doesn’t pay anywhere near what it used to. So, as a result, creators trying to make a business out of being a content creator regularly reach out (or get reached out to) by brands and companies for sponsorships to make up the difference. By the time you reach at least 75,000 subscribers, you are probably looking at the possibility of brand sponsorships. In fact, one article talking about third party sponsorships suggests looking at channels that have as low as 1,000 subscribers for budget reasons:

After finding a YouTube channel that matches their niche, the next factor brands look at is the channel’s number of subscribers.

You might think that the more subscribers you have, the better, but that’s not always the case. Smaller businesses won’t have the budget to sponsor videos on a channel with more than a million subscribers, but they can easily approach small channels that have a super niche audience. Depending on the budget and marketing strategy of a brand, they approach YouTubers in the following categories:

  • Nano-influencers: 1,000–10,000 subscribers
  • Micro-influencers: 10,000–100,000 subscribers,
  • Mid-tier influencers: 100,000–500,000 subscribers
  • Macro-influencers: 500,000–1 million subscribers
  • Mega-influencers: more than 1 million subscribers

For the CMF, they are trying to engage with creators that are anywhere between the upper end of a micro-influencer and a mid-tier influencer. This is not a channel “just starting out”. We are talking about a channel that has already gained traction, probably looking at expanding their team to produce higher quality content. By the time a channel has reached that 75,000 subscriber threshold, it is not implausible that the channel is already getting that third party sponsorships, skipping the starter money the CMF is hoping to doll out for creators just starting out.

Yes, there are creators out there who would rather not have sponsorship deals, but these rules really are tailored to ensure that almost any successful creator would fail to qualify. If you are thinking that your GoPro or drone footage channel would qualify, yeah, the requirements exclude you to based on what content you should be producing:

3.2.2 Types of Content
Eligible Content to be created using the funds from this Program should align with at least one of the following CMF’s linear content types:
• Drama (scripted and edited content of a fictional nature for entertainment purposes. This can include live action or animated scripted drama, comedy or sketch comedy)
• Documentary (an original work of non-fiction, primarily designed to inform but that may also educate and entertain. It should aim to provide an increased understanding of a theme, topic or person. For clarity it is not intended to include first person “rants”, opinions or stream of consciousness presentations. See ineligible content below including vlogging, reaction videos, and “streeters”)
• Children or Youth (educational or entertainment content intended for consumption by an audience under the age of 17 that meets the minimum age of the intended platform’s user, or monitored user platforms such as YouTube Kids. It should be designed and produced according to the needs and expectations of the target age range – rather than to those of adults or parents – and ideally reflect reality from their point of view)
• Variety or Performing Arts (content that contains one or more on-screen artistic acts or performances such as singing, dancing, acrobatic exhibitions, comedy sketches, drama sketches, magic or stand-up comedy. Performing arts is defined as performances of traditional and popular music, opera, operetta, musicals, ballet and other forms of dance or performance)

So, one way or another, the CMF has requirements to ensure you don’t qualify. I am honestly hard pressed to think of content that is typically found on YouTube that also qualifies under this – let alone seeing a trajectory in which a creator would be likely to take such funding in the first place.

Of course, what money that is dolled out for creators is effectively pocket change. The CMF is earmarking $500,000 for its entire budget of its program. Creators would theoretically fighting each other over a piece of the $500,000 pie.

To put that dollar figure into perspective, the government once posited that the amount of money that would be pulled out of platforms would measure $1 billion. So, in all likelihood, the CMF would be receiving hundreds of millions in funding thanks to the very platforms that helped make online creators household names in the first place. Peter Menzies suggested that they could get as much as $600 million:

It is difficult to imagine the Canada Media Fund – eyeing $600 million in loot – coming up with anything more insulting, smug, regressive and condescending. They’ve set aside $500k for digital creators.

A long running argument about platforms having to give money to “fund” Canadian content creation is that maybe a vast majority of that money should go to the very creators that are responsible for that funding in the first place. Instead, it looks like the most tiny of a fraction of that funding is even going into the hands of creators in the first place. That is assuming you even get a response at all from the CMF (which is something we never got at least).

All of this is crass and asinine. It is clear from all of this that the CMF has no intention of helping the creators it is planning on reaping hundreds of millions of dollars from. The eligibility criteria is designed to exclude as many successful creators as possible. Even when a theoretical creator qualifies, chances are, there is very little business reason to ask for the couple hundred bucks that the CMF might actually doll out in the first place when those creators can pull in even more from sponsorships and producing content that people, you know, actually want to watch in the first place. Are you producing content for an audience or are you producing content to manipulate the system? It isn’t going to be both in this situation. What the CMF did here is insulting.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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