Had a chance to speak to Priya Ramu on CBC Radio 1 - "On the Coast" about the new Canada New Media Fund. It's a renewal of the federal government's committment to quality Canadian Content. Basically, the fund is $29M over two years, which is an increase of about $500k per year. This is a good sign that the feds are supporting New Media. The industry was asking for $30M per year so that we can continue to ensure that Canadian Culture is represented online.
One of the interesting aspects of the interview was (no, not me being nervous!) the fact that new media still needs to be defined. New Media is an umbrella term that nowadays encompasses so much of our daily lives. For example, digital design, animation, digital television, and mobile content. All of these things are part of our lives and in my mind constitute new media!
Here is the transcript of the interview:
Priya Ramu (CBC): Come back next hour, you’re on The Coast. It’s 20 to 5 on CBC Radio One, 690 AM in Vancouver. Canada’s got to play some catch-up in the world of new media. Federal Heritage Minister, Bev Oda made that comment at the opening of the Banff World Television Festival yesterday. As a result, she’s committed $29,000,000 to help. To talk about what this money means to Vancouver’s high tech talent, please welcome Phillip Djwa (Agentic) Djwa. He’s the President of Agentic Communications based here in the City. Hello.
Phillip Djwa (Agentic) Djwa (Agentic): Great, thanks.
Priya Ramu (CBC): So, this whole notion that we are lagging behind when it comes to new media, those were Bev Oda’s words. Do you agree with that?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): I think that Canada has an opportunity right now to really kind of jump ahead in a couple of areas. I mean right now, in mobile and in digital television, I would say that we are lagging behind.
Priya Ramu (CBC): So is that what constitutes “new media” when we say new media now in 2007?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Well, new media is such a large term and it’s probably not something that everybody kind of understands, but in fact has a big impact on our daily lives. For example, new media encompasses everything from digital entertainment, so video games, which are a real big part of my kids lives, and I’m sure for a lot of people, digital film, animation, e-learning. That has a big impact on a lot of people’s lives today.
Priya Ramu (CBC): E-learning? So taking courses and that …
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Yeah, definitely …
Priya Ramu (CBC): … online?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): … I think one of the things about new media, especially in British Columbia is that it has a lot to do with that kind of exciting and amazing content that we will see in a variety of different ways for everything from our cell phones to online, on the internet, and in the future on our large screen digital televisions.
Priya Ramu (CBC): So what are you all about then, at Agentic?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Well our company does a lot of web development. We do a lot of Web 2.0 and a lot of what that really means is that we help people connect to each other and build communities online, so a lot of the work that we do is with not for profit organizations.
Priya Ramu (CBC): Did there seem to be such a push a couple of years ago when it came to creating television for the web, or seeing the web on your, that sort of cross-over, is that still going full force as far as Canadian producers are concerned, or is the audience just simply not there for that technology at this time?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): I think it is, I mean there’s certainly, like we’ve seen the huge bump in how much people are watching things like YouTube. There’s Joost, J O O S T, that’s you know formed in Canada that will hopefully show you, close to kind of high-quality television on your computer, but I think that there’s lots of issues around why there isn’t more Canadian productions on television. I know, for example, that there are some structural issues why sometimes it’s hard for broadcasters to be able to pay for things that are online, but you know, for example, there are some really exciting things that are happening even in Vancouver. There was a television series here that’s formed called, “Sanctuary”, that is just going to be only online, so there’s a lot of really exciting things that are coming through the pipes.
Priya Ramu (CBC): So 29,000,000 [over 2 years] then, is that enough?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Well, I think it was a lot less than what the industry was asking for, which was about 30,000,000 a year, but I think that it’s an important step. I mean really what we need to do is draw a real direct line between having real high quality content and I think partly the fund is really to encourage content that can be visible on a global stage in terms of having our content being accessible and exciting to people all across the world. We need to have a strong, diverse group of producers in Vancouver, and in Toronto and Montreal, and that’s where the fund really kind of plugs right into play, that’s how a lot of that quality Canadian content can be created. Now, that being said, there is an interesting aspect of what constitutes being Canadian. My feeling is that on a certain level what’s popular isn’t always what’s important and I’m hoping that the Fund, as it has in the past, will also continue to support those projects that are more about what it means and to get into that dialogue what it means to be Canadian and try and figure out that aspect, you know online as well as in other areas.
Priya Ramu (CBC): I guess if I can just bring it back to audience then, because I can appreciate that the 29,000,000 can be drawn upon to create content, but if no one’s watching, is that part of the problem? Are we lagging in that regard as well?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Absolutely not. I think it’s the opposite. In fact, I think people, I mean I get, I don’t know about you, but I am finding that more and more people are sending me various kinds of content online that I never would have thought, from my mother to friends and family, and I think that there is, there’s a huge demand and I think part of the problem is that there’s not enough production out there that can actually get Canadians to be watching Canadian things online and so we’re kind of dispersing all of those things into watching other shows and other aspects from around the world. YouTube has kind of like completely opened up everyone where everyone can watch anywhere in the world.
Priya Ramu (CBC): So we’re spending all this time talking about The Sopranos this afternoon.
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Yes.
Priya Ramu (CBC): What happens now to traditional broadcasters then, those who are creating content for your television?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Well I think a lot of them are actually trying to get online as well and there’s been a huge rush to see if they can understand how different aspects of user generated content or video can be added to the kind of broadcast mix, but you know, you’re right in the sense that a lot of the broadcasters are still struggling to find that kind of magic formula. There’s a great conference that’s going on right now in Banff where they’re really asking those kinds of questions. An interesting paper was released there that talks about, is the television industry in trouble because of all of those things?
Priya Ramu (CBC): And what do you think?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): I don’t think so. I think it’s an opportunity. I think that we have to look at it from the point of view of saying, “everyone is going to go online”. The kind of much maligned and I think much anticipated idea of convergence where people would be able to watch all of those things happen, in one space, like on your laptop or on your computer. That’s finally kind of happening and we just need to kind of recognize that and you know, this fund is one of the steps that can try and do that.
Priya Ramu (CBC): Did you watch The Sopranos last night?
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): You know, I haven’t seen the whole thing so series …
Priya Ramu (CBC): Gasp …
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): … so I am like
Priya Ramu (CBC): … I am, I am alone
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): … (inaudible 6.02) I’m so excited by it.
Priya Ramu (CBC): (laughing) Alright. I’ll call you back after you’ve rented it.
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): (inaudible 6.08) Any paper that mentions The Sopranos. In fact when you guys started talking about it on the news, I was like, “no, I don’t want to hear anything” …
Priya Ramu (CBC): Oh no!
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): … I’m so worried that I’ll get the secret out before I see it.
Priya Ramu (CBC): It’s like Page A11 or whatever of The Vancouver Sun, it’s all there for you to read. Anyway, nice to talk to you, Phillip Djwa (Agentic).
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Thanks very much, Priya.
Priya Ramu (CBC): Bye.
Phillip Djwa (Agentic): Bye.
Priya Ramu (CBC): That’s Phillip Djwa (Agentic) Djwa. He is the President of Agentic Communications based here in Vancouver.