Government invests in ‘Republic of Doyle’

Cuts Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council annual grant cut

Published on April 25, 2012
The cast of “Republic of Doyle.” The prime-time show is getting a fourth season, the CBC has announced. — Submitted photo

The province’s investment in “Republic of Doyle” isn’t as simple as handing over a $3-million cheque to Allan Hawco and wishing him luck — it’s an equity investment, and any film or television production in Newfoundland and Labrador is entitled to the same type of funding.

In Tuesday’s budget, the province announced it is investing $3 million in Season 4 of the CBC TV show, calling it the largest original television or film project ever produced in this province.

“We are making this investment because ‘Republic of Doyle’ is sustaining 110 full-time jobs, returning 2.9 times our provincial investment in terms of GDP growth, and marketing our province to an international audience,” Finance Minister Tom Marshall said in bringing down the budget.

In fact, government merely singled “Republic of Doyle” out from the film and TV projects it funds through the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corp.

It’s an equity investment based on other funding sources, into a program that triggers about

$22 million in production activity each season.

“In Canada, there’s a lot of funding for film and television, and what triggers funding for a television project is a broadcast licence, so it all starts with CBC,” explained Chris Bonnell, executive director of the film development corporation. “Once CBC says yes and orders up the next season, that then triggers the Canada Media Fund equity and the broadcast licence top-up fee, and then it’ll trigger the equity investment from the province.”

The remaining 25 to 27 per cent of “Republic of Doyle’s” funding comes from outside Newfoundland and Labrador — new money to this province that’s not specifically earmarked for here, but is available to eligible film and TV projects across the country.

“Republic of Doyle,” like other productions, has at least a half a dozen different funding sources.

“As time goes on and the show goes into the fourth and fifth seasons and it gets syndicated, any production revenue that comes back gets paid back into the province,” Bonnell said. “It’s a huge production in terms of employment and economic generation.”

“Republic of Doyle” was about the only arts project that saw an increase in funding in the budget. The Rooms, and the film development corporation both saw cuts, while funding for the province’s arts and culture centres stayed relatively the same. There was no increase in funding announced for any other arts organization.

The Newfoundland and Lab-rador Arts Council (NLAC), a significant source of funding for established and emerging artists in this province, saw its annual grant cut by more than $33,000, or 1.5 per cent. Although it’s a blow, it’s better than the rumoured prediction of a $65,000 cut, said Reg Winsor, executive director of the council. The decrease in funding won’t have an impact on the grant programs administered by the NLAC, he said.

“With a $65,000 cut, we would have had to make cuts to some of the grant funding programs, but at least with this 1.5 per cent, we won’t have to do that and we will be looking to find those savings within our own operation budgets,” he said.

In the 2008 budget, the provincial government committed to doubling the NLAC’s $1.86-million grant over the following three years. On Tuesday, it decreased it from $2.14 million to $2.11 million. The most recent project grant program saw a record high of 223 applicants, Winsor said, and the arts council has made no bones about wanting to see its budget doubled again over the next three years. “That’s based on our analysis of where we need to be,” he said. “I think there is a level of understanding (of this) in government, but I think it’s part of our responsibility and part of the responsibility of the Association of Cultural Industries and even the community itself is to constantly make the departments and individual MHAs aware.”

  Gerry Rogers, NDP MHA for St. John’s Centre, an established filmmaker prior to entering politics last fall, said she’s pleased with the increase in funding for “Republic of Doyle,” but concerned about the cut to the NLAC.

“We know that all (the council’s) programs are over-prescribed by more than 100 per cent, so that means they can’t even fulfil their mandate … now that there’s a decrease,” she said.

“We’re so proud of our arts, and also the different groups and organizations around the province that present and develop attractions for tourists.

“We’ve got all these millions of dollars that are great in the tourist advertising, but people want cultural events to go and it’s often on the backs of community groups.”

Twitter: @tara_bradbury