Government introduces a bill to ensure fair compensation for news media and the sustainability of local news

Government introduces a bill to ensure fair compensation for news media and the sustainability of local news

Today, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, introduced Bill C-18, the Online News Act, which would establish a new legislative and regulatory framework to ensure fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and for independent local news businesses, including rural and remote news organizations, by ensuring that news media and journalists receive fair compensation for their work.

More than 450 news outlets have closed since 2008. More than 60 of those closures have occurred in the last two years alone. Digital platforms and social media are now the gateways where people find, read and share news. Because of this, advertising revenues have shifted away from local news and journalists to these gatekeepers, who profit from the sharing and distribution of Canadian news content. In 2020, online advertising revenues in Canada reached $9.7 billion, with two companies taking in more than 80 percent of those revenues. It’s time to address this market imbalance.

Bill C-18 would require tech giants to make fair commercial deals with outlets for the news and information that is shared on their platforms. The deals would need to provide fair compensation, respect journalistic independence and invest in a diversity of Canadian news outlets, including independent local businesses, among other criteria. The bill allows media outlets, big and small, to bargain collectively. This is fundamentally fairer for Canadian news media, which will be able to negotiate on more equal terms with the tech giants. If deals are made between digital platforms and news media within certain timelines that meet specific criteria, digital platforms can seek an exemption from a requirement to enter into a negotiation process that could lead to final offer arbitration.

The Online News Act builds on similar legislation in Australia, by adding greater public accountability and transparency to the process. Bill C-18 supports a free, independent press and contributes to the sustainability of the digital news marketplace and the production of local, regional and national news content. In an era of rising disinformation and increasing public mistrust, this new legislation will ensure Canadians have access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels.

Quotes
“A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy. It’s how we stay informed and engaged on what’s happening in our communities and across the country. Right now, the health and future of the news industry—especially local news—are at risk. We want to make sure that the news media and journalists are fairly compensated for their work. Now more than ever, Canadians need reliable and credible information, especially in a time of greater mistrust and disinformation.”

—The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Quick facts
Bill C-18 was informed by consultations held in spring 2021. Canadian Heritage met with a variety of Canadian news industry professionals, including the news media and academics.

Collectively, television, radio, newspapers and magazines have lost $4.9 billion over the past 12 years. At least one third of Canadian journalism jobs have disappeared since 2010. From 2008 to August 2021, almost 450 news outlets have closed, with nearly 63 of those closures happening since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

News outlets have seen a sharp decline in advertising revenue which, historically, has been a key source of revenue. Meanwhile, Canadians are increasingly accessing news via digital platforms, where 80 percent of all online advertising revenues are concentrated among a small number of platforms.

Digital platforms benefit from sharing news content on their platforms, both directly (advertising near news) and indirectly (user engagement, data refinement, subsequent targeted advertising). Similarly, news outlets benefit from digital platforms sharing their content.