Banff cancels annual festival as Covid-19 claims latest TV event

The Banff World Media Festival has been cancelled, joining a long list of TV markets and events to have been hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The annual festival had been scheduled to take place between 14-17 June in Banff, Canada, but officials said that after “heeding public direction given by the World Health Organization, the Canadian government and the Alberta government,” the event had been cancelled.

“We are working closely with all of our sponsors, partners, vendors and speakers who continue to be incredibly supportive,” Banff organisers said. “All currently registered delegates will have the option to transfer their 2020 registration to next year, or receive a full refund.”

Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media and chair of the Banff board of directors, said: “Cancelling the festival after 41 years of success was not a decision that we took lightly, but it was the right thing to do for festival delegates, speakers, and staff.

“I commend the Banff team and our board for making this tough but necessary call, and I’m confident that the festival will come back better than ever in 2021. Please stay safe everyone.”

Jenn Kuzmyk, executive director at Banff, added: “Although we had kept hope up in recent weeks, it became clear that it would be impossible to hold the festival with no certainty regarding what the safety situation might be by June in addition to restrictions on large gatherings and travel bans in place at most media companies.

“We are not able to gather in person this year, but our team is already working on new ways to connect, inform, inspire and serve our industry. We look forward to working with all of you in the coming months to do just that.”

Banff joins a long list of TV events to be scratched from the calendar, with its cancellation coming a week after fellow Canadian event Hot Docs – due to run 30 April-10 May in Toronto – was axed. Elsewhere, US studios Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, ViacomCBS and Warner Bros ditched LA Screenings, while MIPTV in Cannes, the 2020 edition of Series Mania in Lille, Austin-based SXSW, Cabsat in Dubai, and kids event Cartoons on the Bay are among a slew of other events that will not go ahead.

Industry launches have also been affected, with Disney calling off its European event for Disney+ and Quibi scrapping plans for its April 5 launch party in California. The streamer is due to go live on 6 April.

Banff officials added that the 2020 Rockie Awards International Program Competition will continue to take place, as will the Banff Spark Accelerator For Women in the Business of Media and the third edition of the Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices Initiative.

Organisers added that scripted drama short-form series producers and creators are being encouraged to apply for the IPF Producer Bursaries, which remains open until Thursday, 9 April.

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