Canwest Global Communications has committed $4m to a new documentary support programme, the Canwest-Hot Docs Funds.

The new programme, which consists of a $3m completion fund and a $1m development fund, will be managed and dispersed through the Toronto-based Hot Docs International Documentary Festival over the next seven years.

The fund is designed to help one-off documentaries through critical stages.

The completion fund will provide financial support of up to $100,000 (to a maximum of 20 per cent of the production budget) for production companies to complete a specific project. Crucially, the fund is open to producers who have received a broadcast license from any Canadian broadcaster, not just a Canwest affiliate.

The development fund is a loan program designed to get specific projects 'developed, researched, written and or packaged and ready for market', according to a release.

The film will provide no-interest loans ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 in the early development stage, 'when projects are at the highest risk and may have not yet secured a market partner.

'Hot Docs is delighted to be able to expand our support of Canadian documentary makers in this very tangible and significant way,' said Hot Docs executive director Chris McDonald in a statement.

He commended Canwest for establishing the funds, while Canwest's senior vice president of drama and factual content Christine Shipton said that Hot Docs was sure to implement the funds in expert fashion.

Oft-rebuked by cultural nationalists for a perceived lack of support of Canadian content, Canwest is engaging in something of a charm offensive.

Said Shipton, 'Canwest strongly believes in documentaries as a great way of telling Canadian stories and we are thrilled to announce with Hot Docs these two initiatives that will assist production companies with their documentary projects.'

Guidelines will be available June 1, 2008 and application deadlines set for July 15 and October 15.

Hot Docs 2008 runs from April 17-27, 2008.