Canada’s Online News Act must be transparent, fair and include news innovators | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Canada’s Online News Act must be transparent, fair and include news innovators

Without amendments, Bill C-18 risks disproportionately benefitting large news organizations and shutting out digital startups and independent media.

When the Liberal government announced its intention to support Canada’s news industry, the reasons given were to sustain local journalism, support innovation in news, and ensure diversity in the news industry. Bill C-18, the Online News Act currently before Parliament, guarantees none of these things.

Four key changes are needed if Canada is to have the vibrant journalism citizens need for a healthy democracy.

We are a coalition of independent Canadian news publishers, pushing for amendments to C-18 to ensure the bill lives up to its promise to strengthen Canadian journalism. We represent over 100 outlets serving communities coast to coast to coast and employing over one thousand journalists. Taken together, our readers and listeners number in the many millions. Many of us have risked personal capital, fundraised from our communities, and built newsrooms from scratch to reach underserved audiences, many at the local level.

Collectively, we represent Canada’s most innovative digital news media, local news outlets, both French and English language media, and BIPOC-led news media — we are the innovative news organizations that are rebuilding the local news ecosystem. The Online News Act represents an opportunity to accelerate this innovation and progress.

We have come together to ask for basic fairness in Bill C-18.

The centrepiece of Bill C-18 is a funding model aimed at mandating large web platforms like Facebook and Google to compensate Canadian news organizations for posting content on their platforms. Unfortunately, as it is currently structured, Bill C-18 does not specifically direct funding towards supporting the critical work of journalists. The bill also lacks robust transparency mechanisms and, most importantly, it risks leaving out small, medium size and independent publishers.

Even before it was tabled, Bill C-18 has resulted in winners and losers in the news industry. There have been a series of secret, backroom deals between Big Tech and the largest newspapers in Canada, along with a handful of small- to medium-sized publishers. An unintended but likely consequence of Bill C-18 as currently structured may be to cement these inequities and this secrecy, which threatens the public’s already-frayed trust in journalism.

To be clear, we support the goal of creating a sustainable news industry. It is not too late for the current legislation to address the needs of the Canadian news media ecosystem. We want it to be amended to ensure the following:

  • A transparent, fair funding formula

    A universal funding formula should be applied consistently to all qualifying news organizations. This funding formula should be disclosed, and the public must know which news organizations are receiving money from tech companies.

  • Support for journalists

    Compensation from tech platforms should be based on a percentage of editorial expenditures or the number of journalists that work for an organization, inclusive of freelancers.

  • Inclusion

    Bill C-18 may exclude dozens of important news innovators by demanding employee thresholds that news startups often don’t reach until their 3rd or 4th year of operation.

  • No loopholes

    Bill C-18 currently includes vague and poorly-defined criteria allowing for “Exemption Orders” that could let Big Tech off the hook, benefitting a few large news organizations and shutting out hundreds of legitimate small to medium size newsrooms.

While we recognize the reality of the wider news crisis, our organizations represent rays of hope, and are proving that there is a future for a dynamic, inclusive news ecosystem in Canada.

Bill C-18 is modeled after Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code. It must not repeat the mistakes of that legislation. In Australia, an estimated 90 per cent of negotiated revenues flowed to the three largest media companies.

We encourage the government to revisit and improve Bill C-18.

As small, medium size, and independent news publishers, this new legislation is too big, and too important, to fumble. Bill C-18 will have a massive impact on the future of journalism and news in Canada.

Let's make sure we get it right.

UNDERSIGNED

Arsenal Media

Canadaland

Constellation Media Society

Discourse Community Publishing

Indiegraf

Metro Media

Narcity Media

Neomedia

Overstory Media Group

Politics Today

Village Media

Alberta Today

BarrieToday

BayToday

BC Today

BradfordToday

Burnaby Beacon

Calgary Citizen

CambridgeToday

Capital Daily

CollingwoodToday

ElliotLakeToday

EloraFergusToday

Enbeauce.com

francoischarron.com

Fraser Valley Current

GuelphToday

Harbinger Media

IndigiNews

InnisfilToday

insideWaterloo

Journal Metro

La Converse

Mabeauce.com

Macotenord.com

Magaspesie.ca

Metro Ahuntsic-Cartierville

Metro Beauport

Metro Charlesbourg

Metro Cote des Neiges & NDG

Metro Hochelaga Maisonneuve

Metro IDS-Verdun

Metro L'Actuel

Metro L'Appel

Metro L'Autre Voix

Metro Lachine & Dorval

Metro Lasalle

Metro Le Jacques Cartier

Metro Le Plateau Mont-Royal

Metro Mercier & Anjou

Metro Montreal-Nord

Metro Ouest-de-L'ile

Metro Outremont & Mont-Royal

Metro Pointe-aux-Trembles et Montreal-est

Metro Quebec

Metro Riviere-des-Prairies

Metro Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie

Metro Saint-Laurent

Metro Saint-Leonard

Metro Sud-Ouest

Metro Ville Marie

Metro Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension

MidlandToday

Monjoliette.com

Monlatuque.com

Monmatane.com

Montemiscouata.com

Monthetford.com

Monvicto.com

MTL Blog

MuslimLink.ca

Narcity

Neomedia Chambly

Neomedia Joliette

Neomedia Laval

Neomedia Rimouski

Neomedia Rive-Nord

Neomedia Saguenay

Neomedia Sorel-Tracy

Neomedia Trois-Rivières

Neomedia Vallée du Richelieu

Neomedia Valleyfield

Neomedia Vaudreuil

New West Anchor

NewmarketToday

Northern Ontario Business

Oak Bay Local

OakvilleNews.org

OrilliaMatters

Parliament Today

PressProgress

Queen’s Park Today

rabble.ca

SooToday

StratfordToday

Sun Peaks Independent News

Taproot Edmonton

The Breach

The Coast

The Discourse Cowichan

The Discourse Nanaimo

The Flatlander

The Green Line

The Hoser

The Line

The Local

The Resolve

The Ridge

The Rover

The Sprawl

The Tyee

The Westshore

The Wren

Tri-Cities Dispatch

Vancouver Tech Journal

Vocal Fry Studios

Want to add your outlet to this letter? Fill out this form to express your interest.

About The Author

Christine Oreskovich

Christine is the Publisher of The Coast. She was one of the founding members of the newspaper in 1993 and has spent her whole career publishing for a Halifax readership. Christine is responsible for the business strategy, community engagement and overall publication sustainability.

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a donation. Thank you for your support!

Comments (1)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Get more Halifax

The Coast Daily email newsletter is your extra dose of the city Monday through Friday. Sign up and go deep on Halifax.


Recent Comments