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National Film Board of Canada

Mandate

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a federal cultural agency within the portfolio of the Canadian Heritage Department. Initially known as the National Film Commission, it was created by an act of Parliament in 1939. Its mandate, as set forth in the National Film Act, 1950, is “to produce and distribute and to promote the production and distribution of films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations.”

The NFB's mandate has been revised several times over the years to take into account the changing audiovisual environment and financial and social situation.

The 2002-2006 strategic plan set forth the NFB's original mandate with the following mission statement: “The NFB's mandate is to produce and distribute distinctive, culturally diverse, challenging and relevant audiovisual works that provide Canada and the world with a unique Canadian perspective.

This interpretation of the mandate reflects the new vision of the NFB's role: “The NFB is recognized as being indispensable to all Canadians as the world-renowned public producer and distributor of audiovisual works that are socially relevant and innovative.”
For more information on the NFB's mandate from its inception in 1939 to its projections for the future, search under:

1939: Creation of a National Film Commission
In May 1939, the federal government proposed the creation of a National Film Commission (soon to be known as the National Film Board), to complement the activities of the Government Motion Picture Bureau. The enabling legislation stipulated that the NFB was to "make and distribute films designed to help Canadians in all parts of Canada to understand the ways of living and the problems of Canadians in other parts."
The legislation also provided that the NFB, with its headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, would co-ordinate the film activities of all federal departments.

1950: The National Film Act
As a result of a report commissioned by the federal government and written by independent producer Gordon Sheppard on government cultural policies and activities, the NFB began regionalizing its English production activities. Producers were appointed in Vancouver and Toronto and, soon thereafter, in the Prairies and the Maritimes.
The goal of this initiative was to recruit young filmmakers and encourage local production, particularly by spreading sponsorships more widely throughout the regions. The report also recommended that more films be made by the private sector.
Finally, the NFB closed some film depots in a number of Canadian communities, to begin the distribution of its own films in 21 Canadian cities. This marked the beginning of the decline of what were known as film councils.

1965: Regionalization of the NFB activities
In May 1939, the federal government proposed the creation of a National Film Commission (soon to be known as the National Film Board), to complement the activities of the Government Motion Picture Bureau. The enabling legislation stipulated that the NFB was to "make and distribute films designed to help Canadians in all parts of Canada to understand the ways of living and the problems of Canadians in other parts."
The legislation also provided that the NFB, with its headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, would co-ordinate the film activities of all federal departments.

1973: Greater assistance for private-sector filmmakers
This year saw the introduction of the regionalization program in Quebec, Aide artisanale au cinéma et à la formation. The program, today known as Aide au cinéma indépendant -- Canada, or ACIC, in French, was introduced on the English side seven years later as the Program to Assist Filmmakers in the Private Sector, or PAFPS. It is intended to help independent filmmakers by providing them with different services related to production.

1978: Contracting-out of sponsored films to the private sector
Secretary of State John Roberts, appearing before the Standing Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts, announced that the government intended to contract out more than 50% of its government-sponsored films to the private sector. The NFB created a review committee for sponsored films.
Three years later, in response to long-standing pressure from private industry and Ottawa's desire to strengthen that sector's economic viability, the NFB announced that most sponsored films for government departments, accounting for about 25% of its activities, would be made by the private sector. The NFB would act as executive producer, a role that represented a major shift in its mandate.

1980: Changes made by the Board of Trustees to the original mandate
The NFB Board of Trustees ratified changes to the NFB mandate, with five new objectives:
to serve the public interest;
to facilitate access to NFB films;
to be part of the international film scene, especially in the Third World;
to be a leader in film technology, research and development and professional training; and
to play an instrumental role in Ottawa's national film policy.

1980: Creation of the Applebaum-Hébert Committee
The federal government established the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee, better known as the Applebaum-Hébert Committee, in part to study the NFB's role. Two years later, the Committee recommended in its report that the NFB be transformed into a research and training centre and give up producing and distributing films.
The NFB rejected this recommendation but accepted the cultural thrust of the report.

1984: The National Film and Video Policy
Minister of Communications Francis Fox released his National Film and Video Policy, which added two new dimensions to the NFB's original mandate. In addition to "making and distributing films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations," the NFB was now to become "a world centre of excellence in production of films and videos" and "a national training and research centre in the art and technique of film and video."

What is a "world centre of excellence"?

Since its creation in 1939, the NFB had always enjoyed an enviable international reputation for the high quality of its products, in particular its documentary and animation films. While the NFB had maintained a "Canadian" viewpoint, it had often surpassed its mandate of "interpreting Canada to Canadians and to other nations."
The federal government, in its National Film and Video Policy, wished to change the NFB's mandate to give it the opportunity to focus on its skills as a producer working on the cutting edge of the artistically possible, and as a commentator on major issues affecting Canada and the world and thereby to complement private-sector production.

And what is a "national training and research centre"?

The federal government, in line with the recommendations of the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee, also urged the NFB to devote more of its resources and energy to research, asking it in part to:

1995: Re-evaluation of the NFB's mandate by the Mandate Review Committee
When the federal government brought down its budget in February, it informed the National Film Board, along with Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, that their mandates would be redefined during the course of the year.
In May 1995, a special committee made up of Pierre Juneau, Peter Herrndorf and Catherine Murray was formed to study the mandate of each institution and to report back in September. The committee's report, entitled "Making Your Voices Heard: Canadian Broadcasting and Film for the 21st Century", was tabled on January 31, 1996. While supporting the National Film Board's role as a public producer, the report suggests, among other things, that the NFB's activities be rationalized in order to focus on production, that this production be renewed and that television be emphasized as a distribution channel.

1996: NFB Board approves the Action Plan for the NFB in the Year 2000
The Board of Trustees of the National Film Board of Canada, at a meeting held in March 1996, approved the comprehensive plan to restructure the organization. The restructuration reflects budgetary reductions, technological changes and the Mandate Review Committee's Report.

The press release issued at this occasion outlines the major measures approved by the Board and the Action Plan - A New Charter for a New Century, provides the details.

2002: NFB Board approves the 2002 - 2006 Strategic plan