The Trudeau government tabled its bill on Tuesday that proposes to fund Canada’s news media out of the revenues of the Web’s biggest players. It gives the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the role of deciding whether Google and Facebook are funding enough news production in the country.

“We need a news ecosystem that is vibrant, healthy. And as you know, the industry is in crisis, and that’s contributing to heightened public distrust and harmful misinformation. […]. Web giants will have to be accountable, contribute to an ecosystem [qui] strengthens our democracy,” said the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, at a press conference on Tuesday.

The minister presented the two most important web giants, Google and Facebook, as entities benefiting from the sharing of Canadian media content “without having to really pay for it”. His Bill C-18, introduced in Parliament on Tuesday, “seeks to remedy this market imbalance” by forcing the hand of negotiations between media and platforms.

The text gives the CRTC the role of “regulator” of this new law. The organization, which currently manages radio and television in the country — which is also given the role of regulating the broadcast of online programs in another bill — will have the task of judging the value of the agreements between news organizations and the platforms that share their content.

If the total of their agreements is deemed insufficient, according to six criteria, these major platforms will be subject to a mandatory arbitration process, namely an independent committee that will decide on the amounts to be paid to the media. Only the “dominant” companies in the search engine and social media market are targeted, “most likely Google Search and Facebook”, which together collect 80% of online advertising revenue. No other type of platform is covered by the law.

As reported The duty, the federal government has decided to draw heavily on the Australian model to force the giants of the Web to share their revenues with the media, but by including criteria favoring the financing of smaller press organisations. The minister thus wishes to draw between 150 and 200 million dollars per year from the platforms to finance Canadian journalism.

Agreements to Avoid Arbitration

Both Facebook and Google have already concluded agreements, amounts kept confidential, with 18 and 11 media respectively, including The duty. The CRTC will therefore have to study them in the next six to twelve months to determine whether these platforms can already be exempted from arbitration. These agreements could be revised, and new ones could be concluded with a greater number of media, which have the right to collective bargaining.

The regulator will have to base itself on a series of criteria to judge the overall value of the agreements: that fair compensation is offered to news organizations; that the compensation be used to support the production of local, regional and national news; that the media retain their independence and freedom of expression; that platforms contribute to “the viability of the Canadian news ecosystem”, as well as the viability of local and independent media; and finally that the agreements cover a range of media that reflect languages, racialized groups or Aboriginal people, for example.

The CRTC must develop a “code of conduct” to which the parties must subscribe in order to negotiate. In the event of repeated violations of the law, the body can impose a fine of up to $15 million.

Any written and digital media already recognized as a qualified Canadian journalism organization (QCJO) is eligible to receive funding under this law. There are also news media on radio and television, private or public, and even foreign media that employ two or more journalists to produce news in Canada.

Neither the opposition parties nor the main platforms targeted wished to criticize the Liberal bill on the day of its unveiling. The Google Canada subsidiary has indicated that it is “eager[e] to work with the government to strengthen the news industry,” while a spokeswoman for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, wrote in an email about “working with political stakeholders.”

The Conservative Party of Canada has made it known that it supports the idea of ​​fair media compensation through the Google and Facebook platforms. Bloc Québécois MP Christine Normandin called the bill “a step in the right direction,” and hinted that her party will try to incorporate a license fee fund to finance smaller media outlets. In a statement, the New Democratic Party (NDP) argues that it was thanks to its pressure that the government decided to act.

With Annabelle Caillou

To see in video

Leave a Reply