Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Canada Media Matters and Bill C-18 Nov. 2021-Aug. 2023
What to know about Bill C-18,
the new law that will affect how you get news in Canada
Local News Research Project
See Comments 24 August:
Mitch Joel – WARNING… LONG RANT!
Sue Gardner: Bill C-18 is Bad for Journalism and Bad for Canada
We need journalism, and if the market isn’t going to provide it, we need to find some way to keep it going. … To intervene to support good journalism makes perfect sense, but to intervene to try to revive a now-long-dead business model does not. It’s not an appropriate role for public policy and it shouldn’t happen.
C-18 misdiagnoses the problem as “news publishers aren’t getting their fair share of ad revenues.” The real problem is more like “we need to find new sustaining business models for the news industry, because the old one is dead and gone.” Or perhaps “if the market won’t support quality journalism, we need to find some other way to do it.”
-Max Bell School of Public Policy (12 October 2022)
Media companies call on Parliament to support policies that favour trusted sources of original news (19 Feb 2020)
Ed Greenspon says Canada should level the playing field for Cdn. content creators who pay tax vs global internet giants like Facebook, Google & Netflix who don’t (15 August 2018)
Exclusive: Meta’s Canada news ban fails to dent Facebook usage
(Reuters) – Meta’s decision to block news links in Canada this month has had almost no impact on Canadians’ usage of Facebook, data from independent tracking firms indicated on Tuesday, as the company faces scorching criticism from the Canadian government over the move.
Daily active users of Facebook and time spent on the app in Canada have stayed roughly unchanged since parent company Meta started blocking news there at the start of August, according to data shared by Similarweb, a digital analytics company that tracks traffic on websites and apps, at Reuters’ request.
What Urgency? CRTC Says It Will Take Years For Bill C-18 Media Bargaining to begin.
The Bill C-18 legislative process was marked by repeated warnings from the government that this was an urgent issue that justified its repeated efforts to cut off debate in order to fast track the bill into law before the summer break. In fact, in a late change, the bill was amended to provide that it would take effect with 180 days of royal assent, rather than the previously envisioned staged approach that would have resulted in a gradual development of regulations and implementation. That change has had enormous implications as the law can now take effect at any time but no later than December 19, 2023, which in turn led Meta to move to comply with the law immediately by blocking news links in Canada.
Notwithstanding the government’s plans, the CRTC apparently has other ideas. Yesterday it released its timeline for the development of the mandatory bargaining framework envisioned by the law. The proposed timeline has taken many by surprise as it suggests that mandatory bargaining may not begin until 2025.
… The CRTC’s plan includes a public consultation this fall that will address the following issues:
How bargaining and arbitration process will work;
A code of conduct parties will follow to support fair negotiations;
The eligibility process for news organizations;
Addressing complaints from eligible news organizations when online platforms act unfairly;
Data the CRTC should collect to fulfill its mandate under the Act.
Once that consultation is complete, it will use the results to establish the code of conduct and bargaining process by the summer of 2024. Certifying “eligible news businesses” and confirming arbitrators could take the process into early 2025, at which time the mandatory bargaining process can begin.
CRTC halts radio work for two years, citing Online Streaming Act implementation
The CRTC, which receives hundreds of radio filings each year, said it ‘foresees significant delays in examining them during the modernization of its regulations’
(National Post) The federal broadcast regulator won’t deal with any new radio applications or complaints for the next two years — a move that took radio broadcasters by surprise.
The CRTC has been tasked with implementing the Online Streaming Act, which requires streamers like Netflix to contribute to the Canadian content system. As Bill C-11, it drew controversy over putting user-generated content under the CRTC’s regulatory authority, though the CRTC has now been instructed to exclude posts from digital creators and everyday Canadians.
UPDATE 22 August
Trudeau joins calls for Meta to reverse news ban amid Canada wildfires
(WaPo) “It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring that local news organizations can get up-to-date information to Canadians,” Trudeau said at a news conference Monday. The ban by Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has rankled Canadian authorities trying to share evacuation information this week across a remote swath of the country where social media is key to disseminating news.
Canadian media trained audiences to use Facebook. With Meta blocking news, what’s next?
Though Canada’s new Online News Act is not yet in effect, Meta started blocking Canadian news on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram earlier this month. Observers are wondering how — and if — the issue can be resolved.
(The Sunday Magazine) The news ban was called “dangerous” this week by wildfire evacuees and “reckless” by the Office of the Heritage Minister while wildfires forced tens of thousands from their homes in B.C and the Northwest Territories. In a social post, Heritage Minsiter Pascale St-Onge called on Meta to reinstate news sharing on Facebook.
News organizations — including CBC/Radio-Canada — have also asked Canada’s Competition Bureau to investigate Meta’s decision to block Canadian news, calling it “anti-competitive.”
Meta’s decision to block Canadian news from its digital platforms wasn’t unexpected, since the company had taken similar action in 2021 in Australia when that country proposed a law to pay media companies for stories appearing on their sites. In that case, Meta and Google struck a deal with the Australian government before the legislation passed, and the company lifted the ban after about a week.
A leading advocate for responsible tech joins McGill
(McGill News) Former product manager at Facebook, Frances Haugen, released thousands of internal Facebook documents that showed the social media giant was aware of harms caused by its products. One article in a Wall Street Journal series revealed that Facebook’s own research found that its Instagram app worsened body image issues for one in three teen girls who faced those concerns.
Haugen has joined McGill’s Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy where she is the new senior-fellow-in-residence and will share her expertise in the field of transparency in social media.
“When countries introduce laws regarding tech accountability, the conversation basically starts from zero”, said Haugen. She and colleagues at the centre see a big opportunity around developing a playbook for society to engage in conversations about what people want their relationship to be with social media companies
As Meta news block takes its toll, local media not unified on a path forward
Canada risks being cautionary tale for rest of the world, digital policy analyst says
(The House) Guest host Tom Parry talks to two local news publishers — Island Press Limited’s Paul MacNeill in PEI and Jeff Elgie of Village Media in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario — and to digital policy expert Sue Gardner about how the ongoing clash between the federal government and Meta will play out.
MacNeill, publisher of Island Press, told guest host Tom Parry that his company’s web traffic has been down by around a quarter since the start of the Meta block.
Elgie said he expects Village Media traffic to decline by around 15 per cent.
[Sue Gardner, a digital policy analyst who used to run CBC’s digital site and the organization that operates Wikipedia,] dubbed C-18 an “epic miscalculation” by the government, saying she was concerned the bill is “not going to help the country. It’s actually going to make things worse for the news industry and for news audiences.”
The government has positioned itself as a global leader on the issue, saying in a statement, “The world is watching Canada.”
But Gardner warned that Canada might find itself as a cautionary tale, rather than a trailblazer.
Canada demands Meta lift news ban to allow wildfire info sharing
(Reuters) – The Canadian government on Friday demanded that Meta (META.O) lift a “reckless” ban on domestic news from its platforms to allow people to share information about wildfires in the west of the country. … Some people fleeing wildfires in the remote northern town of Yellowknife have complained to domestic media that the ban prevented them from sharing important data about the fires.
In response, a Meta spokesperson said by email that the company had activated the “Safety Check” feature on Facebook that allows users to spread the word that they are safe in the wake of a natural disaster or a crisis.
Canadians can use Facebook and Instagram to access content from official government agencies, emergency services and non-governmental organizations, the spokesperson added.
How is Meta’s news ban affecting communications amid Canada wildfires?
Concern over shortage of reliable news after articles blocked on Facebook in response to tech law
(The Guardian) What does this mean for Facebook and Instagram users in Canada?
People in Canada who use Facebook and Instagram are no longer able to view or post links to outlets including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times and CBC.
Canada’s heritage minister, Pascale St-Onge, said: “[Meta] would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organisations.”
The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and others have said the move is dangerous for democracy, damaging for journalism and will fuel the spread of misinformation and fake news.
Meta argues that news content is not a significant source of revenue, and comprises less than 3% of what people see in their Facebook feeds.
Lack of local media, Meta’s news block impact Northwest Territories residents’ access to information
(Globe & Mail) Up to 50 per cent of Canadians use Facebook to find out what’s happening in cities and towns across the country, Dwayne Winseck, professor of communication and media studies at Carleton University, said Thursday in an interview.
Meta’s decision to block news in Canada is irresponsible, especially in times of crisis, he said. “It’s reprehensible.”
An emergency situation such as the fires in the Northwest Territories underscores the importance of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in disseminating news, Prof. Winseck said. “When these pathways to news are brutally shut down, as they have been with Meta, banning the distribution and sharing of news on its services here in Canada, we are right to be very concerned.”
… Local newsrooms in the North and the rest of the country have been deeply damaged by years of declining advertising revenue, which has largely migrated to companies such as Meta and Google.
The danger here, [media industry observer Jeffrey Dvorkin, former director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto] said, is that people will be forced to rely on information that cannot always be verified.
“We’re in a real dilemma,” he said. “And we’re going to see that now, especially with the whole city of Yellowknife being evacuated. Where are people going to get their information? How are they going to find out what’s the best way to get out of there? What is the state of the fires?”
N.W.T. wildfire evacuees say Facebook’s news ban ‘dangerous’ in emergency situation
Meta notes government sources not blocked as northerners duck ban by sharing screenshots of information
(CBC) Evacuees from the devastating blazes threatening Yellowknife say the ongoing fight between Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Canada’s federal government over who should pay for news has made it harder to spread life-saving information about the wildfires in the Northwest Territories.
A ‘neutron bomb’ to the industry: newsrooms begin feeling impact of Meta ban, call for Competition Bureau inquiry and end to C-18 standoff
(Hill Times) The lost engagement with its audience due to Meta’s ban ‘is a blow in ways other than just pure numbers,’ says The Tyee‘s David Beers.
Only fools would rejoice over local media closures
by Toula Drimonis
Métro Média and its 30+ hyperlocal publications — including 17 print newspapers, 11 of which served the Montreal area — suspended publication last week.
(Cult) According to the Local News Research Project, since the pandemic began, 78 news outlets across Canada have permanently closed, including 65 community newspapers. Now we can add 17 more to that number. These publications mattered — not only to staff, management and readers, but also to the thousands of local creators, artists, innovators and newsmakers who relied on their coverage. One can argue that when one outlet closes, others often move in or pick up the slack. But not always. At some point we start dealing with a gaping hole in local news coverage.
It’s admittedly hard to see Montreal’s only English daily paper holding on for dear life these days. It’s alarming to see the Meta ban jeopardizing both local mainstream and independent news coverage. Outlets like Ricochet Media, The Rover and Pivot Québec, provide vital public interest journalism, while local indies covering Montreal culture and its ever-vibrant arts and life scene, like Cult MTL, are equally needed. I’m not saying that mainstream and legacy media aren’t also taking a hit with the Meta ban, but it’s primarily affecting those with the least reach and financial resources to fight back.
Meta blocking news in Canada could impact wildfire evacuations, other emergencies
(Edmonton City News) Meta blocking news in Canada could impact wildfire evacuations, other emergencies
As thousands evacuate from raging wildfires near the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Laura Krause looks into how Meta blocking news for Canadians may impact wildfire evacuations.
For some, communication systems went dark due to fire damage to Northwestel fibre lines as well as some electrical lines. It left many without cell service or internet.
Getting wildfire information in such a situation is a complex job, especially with rapidly changing conditions. The situation involving Gresl’s family and other was one of the first wildfire evacuations in the country since Canadian news sites have been blocked on Facebook and Instagram. … “It hasn’t impacted our communications directly yet, however we have a very active media environment in the north, and I know that’s how people share information and pass information around and now that isn’t accessible on social media,” [Jessica Davey-Quantick, the fire information officer for GNWT (Government Northwest Territories)] said.
Peter Menzies: Undermining institutional independence to own Big Tech
The government’s desperate bid to salvage C-18 is leading to some ‘less than first world’ chicanery.
(The Line) The reasons people like Francois-Phillipe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development are supposed to keep their yaps shut are pretty straightforward. Businesses, citizens, consumers, and investors need to know the processes at law enforcement agencies and regulators — such as the Competition Bureau and the CRTC respectively — are independent of the sordid manipulations of partisanship. They need to be able to trust that the rules are clear, their application is consistent and that they can have faith that the institution involved views matters before it in an objective fashion.
Innovation Minister accused of ‘inappropriate’ support for Competition Bureau complaint
(Globe & Mail) He has been accused of meddling with the independence of the Competition Bureau after he tweeted his support for a complaint by media organizations over Meta’s decision to block news on Facebook and Instagram.
Mr. Champagne’s public intervention was criticized as a misjudgment, given his role appointing and reappointing the competition commissioner, who is independent of government.
Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa’s Canada Research Chair in internet law, said there is “at least an appearance of conflict and that alone is deeply troubling.”
Mitch Joel: Clickbait And Switch – Canada’s Big Tech Showdown
… The government is telling Meta, that what they have done in the past is, essentially, “stealing.”
Meta is kinda saying, “we don’t consider sharing links and generating traffic to another site stealing, but if you do then we will stop doing it,” and now the government is going to force them to keep doing what they’re doing?
Can anyone demand that a thief keep on thieving?
The stakes are high.
Access to the advertising market is under threat.
Social platforms may reduce the visibility of smart and accurate news to Canadians.
This opens everyone up to more misinformation spreading, local news hurting, and audiences becoming less informed.
Oh, and Google might jump on the bandwagon too. …
Why advertisers in Canada are pulling out of Instagram and Facebook
Stingray Group announced on Tuesday that it will ‘immediately suspend’ all advertising on Facebook and Instagram in Canada.
“We cannot tolerate Meta’s recent decision to block news from Canadian news media publishers and their potential implications for Canadian news content,” Eric Boyko, co-founder and chief executive officer of Stingray, told MarketWatch. “As a result, we have decided to pause our advertising on Facebook and Instagram.”
Stingray is just the most recent company in Canada to pull advertising from Meta. It follows the British Columbia government, the Canadian federal government, the Quebec and Ottawa governments, and other governments in Canada that also pulled advertising from Meta. Quebec worker’s union also suspended all advertising, along with Canadian telecoms operator Quebecor and Cogeco, which runs radio stations in Quebec, according to Reuters.
‘Disaster’: warning for democracy as experts condemn Meta over Canada news ban
Retaliatory move against Online News Act is ‘epic miscalculation’ that will promote spread of misinformation, analysts say
(The Guardian) … The company has described the legislation, Bill C-18 – passed on 18 June – as “unworkable” and argued that the only way to comply with the law is to “end news availability for people in Canada”.
… Some Instagram and Facebook users in the country are finding themselves unable to share links to news articles on those platforms, including links to stories from non-Canadian outlets including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Al Jazeera Afrique.
Media experts warn that the move could simply leave a void which will be filled by peddlers of disinformation.
… Michael Geist, law professor at University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law, said Canadian media would be hit hard, especially small and independent outlets which depend on social media to build their readership. “This policy is a disaster,” he said.
Timothy Caulfield, a University of Alberta professor who researches health and science misinformation, said that even before the passage of the new law, social media and online forums were a dominant force in spreading unproven therapies and conspiracy theories about conventional medicine
“There’s a large body of evidence now that tells us that misinformation spread online about health does real harm. The anti-vax nonsense is just one example,” he said.
“If credible content decreases, the problem is just going to intensify.”
Politics and elections may also be affected. Following the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump elected, Meta, then Facebook, announced it would invest in election integrity.
But Ahmed Al-Rawi, the head of the Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University, said limiting news access on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram compromises those investments.
Michael Geist: Backdown or Bailout?- What Comes Next for the Government’s Epic Bill C-18 Miscalculation
Meta’s announcement this week that it has started to block news links in Canada on both Facebook and Instagram due to Bill C-18’s mandated payments for links approach has sparked a flurry of commentary and coverage … Meanwhile, the political response has been discouraging with the government pretending to forget the Conservatives’ actual vote against Bill C-18 in the House of Commons, while the Conservatives insist on calling Bill C-18 a censorship bill when it isn’t. But perhaps the most interesting response is the speculation about what comes next. I don’t think anyone really knows, but this post offers a few possibilities. …
The third and most worrisome course of action would be for the government to bail itself out of the Bill C-18 mess by using public money to compensate for the losses that it triggered. But a bail out for its miscalculation should be a non-starter as it would mark a huge government intervention into the media sector and result in the public directly funding media at an unprecedented level that call into question its very independence. As I’ve been saying for months, there are no winners with Bill C-18. The government – egged on by the media lobby – ignored the risks of mandated payments for links and it should not fall to the public to bail them out. Indeed, if anyone is going to pay for this miscalculation, it should be the government by fixing its mistake, not wishing it away on the public’s dime.
Your latest questions about Bill C-18 and the blocking of Canadian news answered
Users of Facebook and Instagram in Canada soon won’t be able to access news on those platforms, in response to federal legislation. Google has said it would remove news links in Canada, but has had talks with the government in hopes of finding a solution.
(CBC) On Facebook and Instagram, Canadians will no longer be able to share or view news articles and other content posted by publishers and broadcasters, including international outlets.
News links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, are also expected to be affected by the block.
Meta has collaborated with a digital literacy expert on a guide to teach Canadians about other ways they can get news on the internet, such as going directly to publishers’ websites, downloading mobile news apps and subscribing to news alerts.
Facebook and Instagram have officially started blocking news in Canada
Meta followed through on its threat
Meta permanently ending news availability on its platforms in Canada
Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said the government will continue to ‘stand its ground’ despite Meta’s intention to begin ending news availability on its platforms in Canada
(CBC) Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has been signalling the move was coming after the government passed its Online News Act, Bill C-18, in June.
The law requires big tech giants like Google and Meta to pay media outlets for news content they share or otherwise repurpose on their platforms.
“In order to provide clarity to the millions of Canadians and businesses who use our platforms, we are announcing today that we have begun the process of ending news availability permanently in Canada,” Rachel Curran, Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, said in a statement.
The company had previously been blocking news content for some Canadians in preparation for C-18 becoming law. That is now being extended Canada-wide.
Canadians will no longer be able to view or post news content on Facebook or Instagram. News outlets, including international ones, will start having their content blocked on those platforms.
New Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge says she will stand ground against Facebook, Google on Bill C-18
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said they believed the minister, former head of Quebec’s Fédération nationale des communications et de la culture, would not be cowed by the tech giants’ financial muscle and threats to block news.
“When it comes to C-18, the bullying tactics by the foreign tech giants have left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths,” said executive director Marla Boltman. “Given the wealth of cultural experience that Minister St-Onge brings to the table, particularly in the news sector, it’s hard to imagine the minister will have much of an appetite for these antics.”
Meta is expected to block Canadians’ ability to post and share news on Facebook and Instagram within the next week. Google is in the midst of negotiations with the government and has said it too will block access to news unless a “viable” way forward is found through regulations.
The Gutenberg Parenthesis by Jeff Jarvis review – how print shaped culture
From the Gutenberg press to the digital age, an illuminating account of the way technology influences the stories we tell
(The Guardian) The Gutenberg Parenthesis is a term coined by Danish scholar Lars Ole Sauerberg, who proposed that the history of literary culture as we had hitherto known it – the 500-plus years from the invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in the mid-15th century until around the turn of the millennium – would come to be regarded as a mere blip. Digital technology would transform our cultural institutions by undermining their core foundation: the intellectual property and moral authority bound up in individual authorship. The future of knowledge production would be collective and collaborative – entailing, in essence, a return to the oral tradition of the world before print.
In The Gutenberg Parenthesis, US journalist Jeff Jarvis considers this thesis and its possible implications. He is anxious that we should retain what was good and useful about analog-era gatekeeping structures, which played an important role in “recommending quality, certifying fact, supporting creativity. What must we create to replace these functions?”
Michael Geist: Same as It Ever Was-Cabinet Overhaul Signals Government Doubling Down on Digital Policy Mess
It should not come as a surprise, but those hoping that the government’s much-anticipated cabinet overhaul might signal a potential course-correction on its digital policy mess will be sorely disappointed. If anything, yesterday’s changes at Canadian Heritage and Justice suggest an acceleration of plans that will include continuing to head toward the Bill C-18 cliff of blocked news links as well as introducing controversial online harms legislation and perhaps even copyright reform. Pascale St-Onge, the new Heritage Minister, was a lobbyist in the culture sector before her election to the House of Commons and is likely to welcome the big tech battle, while removing David Lametti as Justice Minister and replacing him with Arif Virani means online harms loses an important voice for freedom of expression in favour of someone who has expressed impatience with delays in new regulations.
Few Canadians Are Paying Attention to Online News Act
More than two-in-five consumers of online news would try a different search engine if Bill C-18 restricts access to platforms.
Fewer than half of Canadians are monitoring the discussions related to Bill C-18, a new Research Co. poll has found.
The government’s retreat from C-18 is too late, and may prove too little, anyway
By Peter Menzies:
It took the Liberals a weekend to go from comparing this fight to World War II to asking for terms of our surrender.
(The Line) By Monday morning, it became clear the PM’s reference to the Second World War was less about D-Day than Dieppe — a disaster. Rodriquez’s staff published proposed regulations designed to meet Google’s demands and it was clear the government had not only blinked, it was opening negotiations on the terms of its surrender.
…despite Rodriguez’s tail now being firmly between his legs, it remains possible that even if he is able to satisfy Google’s demands, there could be less Big Tech money for Canadian news organizations next year than there is today.
Meta appears content just to get out of carrying news. Its platforms aren’t in the news distribution business, they’re in the content business, and Mosseri’s point was clear: they’ve got lots of other kinds of content they can offer that are cheaper and way less hassle than news. That means that while Bell, Postmedia, CBC and the Star might get a little extra Google loot, there will be no 11th hour pardon via Bill C-18 regs for companies facing extinction if and when Facebook and Instagram tweak their algorithms to shut out news. Without Meta, those companies, along with all the startups, innovators and entrepreneurs, will lose millions in existing direct support, and access to millions of readers — readers they did not need to pay to reach.
Monday’s retreat may have lowered the body count, but as it stands the Online News Act is still likely to kill more journalism jobs than it will save. Let’s see which historical comparison the PM reaches for next.
Michael Geist: Caving on Bill C-18: Government Outlines Planned Regulations that Signal Willingness to Cast Aside Core Principles of the Online News Act
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has insisted for months that Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is a market-based approach that would leave it to the Internet platforms and Canadian media outlets to negotiate deals based on the principle of mandated payments for links. Faced with the prospect of Meta and Google’s recent announcements that they would block news links in order to comply with the legislation, it would appear that the government has caved on the bill as it searches for a face-saving compromise. Rodriguez and Prime Minister Trudeau had tough talk last week, but behind the scenes they were seemingly ready to cast aside the core principles that they claimed were essential to the legislation.
Earlier today, Canadian Heritage released a “next steps” document that outlines the planned forthcoming regulations. Those new regulations will effectively rework the legislation by shifting from mandated payments for links with uncapped liability to a threshold contribution customized for each company established by government regulation. Moreover, the contributions will incorporate existing deals and other contributions such as marketing dollars. The specific language from the government states…
Cuts, concentration and C18: What will it take to save Canada’s news industry?
The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay (audio)
Amid an escalating fight between Ottawa and tech giants over the Online News Act, employee layoffs, and a shrinking media landscape… what will it take to save our news industry – and where does it all leave Canadians? David Common parses through the issues shaping our media world with former broadcaster Kevin Newman, Vass Bednar, the executive director of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy Program, and former Wikimedia Foundation executive director and CBC journalist Sue Gardner.
Aaron Wherry: The fight over C-18 isn’t about journalism — it’s about power
Facebook and Google may be taking a tough stance with the Canadian government because they fear the power of precedent — if Canada succeeds, other (bigger, more cost-intensive) countries might follow suit. But the vocal public support the Trudeau government is getting from American and British politicians might suggest other legislators realize what a challenge they’re up against. The Online News Act may or may not play a useful role in fostering a healthier media ecosystem in Canada. But the legislation is ultimately the result of how deeply embedded private companies like Google and Facebook have become in democratic life.
It wasn’t so long ago that the major social media platforms were celebrated — or at least respected — for the communication and innovation they facilitated. Their creators were treated like oracles. Few, if any, major political or media figures failed to embrace the social-media era. Google’s parent company nearly built its own neighbourhood in Toronto.
The United States presidential election in 2016 imposed a reality check on the actual potential of these platforms. What followed was a push to deal with a series of related problems: misinformation, disinformation, “online harms,” foreign interference and the financial difficulties of the traditional news industry.
La réponse à Meta est distincte au Québec, tant en politique qu’en affaires
Cette semaine, les gouvernements fédéral et québécois ont annoncé le retrait de leurs publicités des plateformes de Meta, société mère de Facebook et Instagram, pour protester contre la décision de celle-ci de bloquer les liens vers les nouvelles canadiennes
Les partis fédéraux et provinciaux divergent
Du côté des partis politiques, toutefois, la situation est fort différente. Au Québec, tous les partis ont cessé leur publicité sur les plateformes de Meta. Le bureau du premier ministre François Legault a confirmé vendredi à La Presse Canadienne que la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), de même que tous les députés de la CAQ, ont mis un terme à leurs achats publicitaires sur Facebook. …
Le Parti libéral du Canada (PLC) n’a pas suivi la politique du gouvernement qu’il dirige. Le PLC et le Nouveau Parti démocratique (NPD) ont tous deux confirmé, dans des courriels à La Presse Canadienne, qu’ils maintiennent leurs publicités sur cette plateforme.
Who pays the price for the news media’s essential political role?
By Don Pittis
In a media industry run for profit, the rules of economics tell us the unwavering duty of any private company, whether it be Google, Meta or Postmedia, is not to the public interest of providing Canadians with news, but to maximize the income of those who own it.
(CBC) On the face of it, the issue is money. In what has been seen in Canada as a profit-driven industry, the purpose of the act, in concept at least, is to somehow return ad revenue tech companies swiped from Canadian news businesses. But to many who study the purpose and function of news in Canada, that focus is too narrow.
Some say the role of media as a watchdog is so important that it’s the responsibility of governments to find the money in taxes and then spend the resulting cash to boost the private sector media industry.
… While money may seem to be at the heart of the current news media storm, the real issue may be something else.
In an interview this week, former Calgary Herald publisher Peter Menzies, who also spent a decade on the CRTC, said that in the chase for big tech cash, governments are failing to focus on that more important thing: The crucial political and economic role of providing Canadians with news.
Making sense of Justin Trudeau’s showdown with Google and Facebook
(The Message) In its most basic terms,C-18 requires Google and Meta to compensate publishers for the use of their content on their platforms. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that news organizations could receive up to a combined $329.2 million. …
The crux of the Bill is that the rise of the so-called duopoly means that a large swathe of the population now gets its information via search and social, often bypassing news media sites completely. There’s some disagreement about what this actually means.
The tech giants, for instance, contend that they send vital traffic to publishers, with Meta claiming earlier this year that Facebook Feed sent Canadian publishers more than 1.9 billion clicks in the 12 months to April 2022. “This amounts to free marketing we estimate is worth more than $230 million,” it said. Publishers, meanwhile, argue that many readers often never advance beyond the headline or preview text on the Facebook post or Google search.
Publishers argue that the knock-on effect is that Google and Meta are starving them of revenue necessary to keep journalists employed and newsrooms open, leading to continued degradation of the press that is fundamental to preserving democracy. It’s no secret that the tech giants are awash in misinformation and disinformation, and it will only proliferate in the absence of professional journalism.
How’s Bill C-18 being regarded?
In an essay last week, Chris Pedigo, senior vice-president, government affairs, for Digital Content Next, a trade association representing more than 60 media companies including Bloomberg, The New York Times and the Washington Post, called Bill C-18 a “reasonable and necessary reform,” and said that blocking news content is the latest example of how the tech giants “use their dominance to try to intimidate sovereign governments and news publishers.”
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, columnist Brian Merchant said that jurisdictions like Canada and California “must absolutely not give in to the tech giants’ tantrum” for the sake of “beleaguered” news industries. …
Elsewhere, 18 organizations including News Media Canada, News Media Media, the Danish Media Association and the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association issued a strong rebuke of Google and Facebook in a joint statement on Wednesday.
“While governments around the world are recognizing the immense importance of protecting high-quality journalism for future generations—trustworthy and reliable content that keeps our communities and lawmakers informed, accountable, engaged, and entertained—Google and Meta are fighting tooth and nail against efforts to ensure news publishers get paid for the content they invest considerable time and resources in to produce,” it reads in part.
But the Online News Act also has its detractors beyond the duopoly. Noted media and legal expert Michael Geist, for example, has called it a “massive own-goal” for the government, one that will have “lasting and enormously damaging consequences” for Canadians.
And writing on her website The Line, former Postmedia journalist Jen Gerson called it “a hot mess created by a clearly well-intentioned government that appears to have been bamboozled by a group of media industry lobbyists helmed by organizations like Postmedia and Torstar,” which have failed to adequately pivot towards a digital media environment.
In other words, lots of people have opinions on this piece of legislation.
Global Reaction to Google and Meta Threat to Take Down News in Canada
In Canada, the law – the Online News Act – is new, but Google and Meta’s tactics are old. We call on both companies to act like socially responsible corporate citizens, stand down and accept that the world is changing, and recognize that the law has been passed through the democratic process and the platforms can no longer prosper by abusing their dominance in the market at the cost of everyone else. -News/Media Alliance
Ottawa freezes advertising on Facebook, Instagram over Bill C-18 standoff
(Globe & Mail) The federal government is suspending all advertising on Meta platforms – including Facebook and Instagram – over the company’s plans to block Canadian news on its platforms in response to Ottawa’s Online News Act.
The decision was announced shortly after Quebec said it was ceasing advertising with Meta for the same reason.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced the decision Wednesday at a news conference in Ottawa with NDP heritage critic Peter Julian and Bloc Québécois heritage critic Martin Champoux.
Bill C-18: Google and Meta spark crucial test for Canadian journalism
By Alfred Hermida, Professor, School of Journalism, Writing, and Media, University of British Columbia;
Mary Lynn Young, Professor, School of Journalism, Writing and Media, University of British Columbia
(The Conversation) Three events have recently marked a powerful inflection point in Canadian journalism.
First, Google and Meta announced they will no longer share Canadian news links on their platforms in response to the new Online News Act (Bill C-18), designed to make them pay for their use of Canadian journalism. Their actions are receiving global media attention as other countries navigate platform monopolies of digital advertising dollars and the large financial losses for national commercial journalism ecosystems.
Second, two of the country’s largest English-language commercial newspaper companies, Nordstar Capital and Postmedia Network, announced they are exploring a possible merger.
And third, Bell Media, which owns CTV, Canada’s largest commercial broadcaster with 35 local stations in French and English, announced it would like to reduce its local news commitments as currently required under CRTC regulations.
29 June – 1 July
Google’s plan to block news links could put lives in danger as wildfires rage, minister warns
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez warned Friday that Google’s plan to remove links to Canadian news stories from search results in this country could put people’s lives in danger, by not giving them access to information such as about wildfires raging here.
But Google said it would not block SOS safety alerts or information about forest fires or floods, or other crisis situations, if it exits from news. It told The Globe and Mail that weeks ago it began briefing federal, provincial and local public-safety officials to reassure them that it would continue to provide information during a crisis.
Google to cut off access to Canadian news as Facebook cancels deals with publishers
Google warned Thursday it will remove links to Canadian news stories from search results in this country after failing to receive the assurances it wanted from Ottawa about the Online News Act.
The move marks a dramatic escalation of the tech giant’s response to the act, also known as Bill C-18, after a failed last-ditch attempt to strike a deal with the federal government this week.
“Bill C-18 has become law and remains unworkable,” said Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, in a blog post Thursday explaining the company’s decision. “We’re disappointed it has come to this.” …
Facebook has now written to news publishers it has financial deals with, including The Globe, telling them it is cancelling those agreements at the end of July because of the Online News Act. The move includes the ending of news fellowships sponsored by Facebook with The Canadian Press, the national news service that supplies stories to papers and broadcasters across the country.
Canada is going to war with Google, and it might not win
Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, and Google say they will block local news from their platforms in Canada after the country became the latest jurisdiction to pass a law aimed at forcing tech giants to pay news providers for content. What happens now?
(BBC) As president of La Presse, a leading French-language publication in Quebec, Pierre-Elliott Levasseur says he tried for years to negotiate payment agreements with tech giants, which he believed were sucking up data and ad dollars on the strength of news articles his 220-odd staff were supplying.
“For years and years they’ve flat-out refused,” he told the BBC.
He had hoped a new law, known as the Online News Act, would change that – and lead to an influx of funds that could be invested in the business.
The law – which is aimed at Google and Meta – requires tech firms to negotiate payment agreements with news outlets. If the two sides cannot reach a deal, the country’s broadcast regulator can force them into arbitration.
An independent parliamentary budget watchdog has estimated that measure could generate more than C$300m (£180m; $226m) in total annually – or funding for roughly 30% of a typical newsroom’s operations.
But instead of a windfall, La Presse – and every other Canadian news organisation – is now facing a potential blackout, as the tech giants pledge to block links to news articles on their platforms rather than comply. …
The law – which is aimed at Google and Meta – requires tech firms to negotiate payment agreements with news outlets. If the two sides cannot reach a deal, the country’s broadcast regulator can force them into arbitration.
An independent parliamentary budget watchdog has estimated that measure could generate more than C$300m (£180m; $226m) in total annually – or funding for roughly 30% of a typical newsroom’s operations.
But instead of a windfall, La Presse – and every other Canadian news organisation – is now facing a potential blackout, as the tech giants pledge to block links to news articles on their platforms rather than comply.
Meta delivers blows to Trudeau’s news law
(GZERO media) On June 22, the day Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s government passed a law forcing revenue-sharing on tech giants, Meta announced it was getting ready to block Canada’s news outlets from Facebook and Instagram.
This was merely the latest bad news for a media industry in crisis.
A week earlier, Bell Media announced it was cutting 1,300 jobs in radio and TV newsrooms across Canada. Bell runs CTV, which has the top-rated national news broadcast, but it says it is losing $40 million a year on broadcasting. It closed its bureaus in London and Los Angeles, got rid of many of its best-known journalists, and has applied to the regulator, seeking to cut local news broadcasts.
These cuts look familiar to colleagues in print newsrooms. Postmedia News, Canada’s biggest newspaper chain, laid off 11% of staff at its papers in January, further slashing newsroom budgets that long ago looked cut to the bone. The company is taking extraordinary efforts to cut costs, closing its newsrooms in Vancouver, asking suppliers to reduce prices, and even shutting down the opinion section of its Montreal paper over the summer to save money.
This week, news broke that the Toronto Star and Postmedia may merge days after Postmedia’s executive chair left the company – signs that the chain is not on a sustainable track.
Trudeau’s revenue-sharing law was intended to be the government’s answer to the collapse of journalistic models, but instead it looks as though it may make things worse.
Google and Meta begin campaign to undermine C-18
Tech giants Google and Meta have each announced plans to push back on efforts to be bound by a collective negotiating framework that would see news organizations compensated for journalistic works shared on their platforms.
Google announced on Thursday afternoon plans to begin blocking news in Canada on its search engine, its news aggregator, and its Discover app. The tech giant will also axe its Google News Showcase program.
Canada’s journalism industry is bleeding out
(National Observer) In Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, one of the characters is asked how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually, then suddenly.” The same could be said of Canadian media right now, which has pretty clearly entered the “suddenly” phase of its long decline. It was just last week’s newsletter, after all, where I suggested that after Bell Media’s massive cuts to its radio and television operations, the “next domino to fall, it seems clear, is Postmedia.”
Toronto Star owner Nordstar, Postmedia discuss merger citing ‘existential threat’ in industry
Postmedia, which owns publications including National Post, The Vancouver Sun and The Calgary Herald, said the proposal would see The Toronto Star maintain editorial independence through the incorporation of a new company that would manage its editorial operations.
Toronto Star owner in talks to merge with Postmedia
(The Star) NordStar, Postmedia would have 50% voting stake in a new company that would control most of the combined assets of both. Toronto Star would be spun into second company controlled by NordStar.
‘One of the finest journalists of his generation’: Longtime reporter, columnist, editor Geoffrey Stevens dies after offering last advice to a prime minister
After hitting send on his final column, Geoffrey Stevens, 83, died suddenly on Sunday afternoon in Cambridge.
Stevens’ final work — an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — was an homage to a time when he would regularly offer wisdom to Justin’s father, Pierre.
It appeared in print the day after he died.
Timely advice for Justin Trudeau
Here are my suggestions:
First, find people who have the ability to “see around corners,” and surround yourself with them. In other words, with people who have the power of anticipation, the knack of spotting issues before they turn dangerous, so that they can be disarmed before they sneak up and bash you over the head. Foreign interference is an obvious example.
Second, build some rigour into your communications at the top level by finding and blowing up blockages that prevent important (in the case of Bernardo) or secret (as with foreign interference) information from reaching your desk. It is absurd that messages get stalled for months while bureaucrats and political staffers chew over what to do about them. The public gets the impression that your B and B team couldn’t run a stable in a one-horse town.
Third, take the advice of former PM Joe Clark in this space last week. Tone down the partisanship in Parliament. Stop using question period to score cheap political points — on both sides of the House. Use it as it was intended, to provide information about government actions to parliamentarians and, in the process, to the public, and to enable everyone to see the different positions that parties advance on the issues of the day..
The Online News Act may seem questionable, but how else can we protect the independence of news?
Gus Carlson, U.S.-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.
(Globe & Mail) …with the rise of Big Tech as the new pipeline for news, and the decline of many conventional news platforms, traditional media have increasingly been seen as seeking refuge with the very governments and institutions they are charged with scrutinizing.
What to know about Bill C-18, the new law that will affect how you get news in Canada
(Globe & Mail) The federal government’s online news act Bill C-18 became law on June 22. The law will require tech companies like Google and Meta to compensate Canadian news organizations for the content that appears on their platforms. The Liberals argued that Bill C-18 would help the Canadian news industry, which has seen massive drops in advertising revenue over the past decade.
The bill has been sharply criticized by the tech giants. In response to the passing of the bill, Meta announced on June 22 that it would be pulling all news content from Facebook and Instagram in Canada. Google had also previously warned it could restrict searches for news if Bill C-18 becomes law without changes.
Here is what you need to know about Bill C-18, whom it will affect and how tech companies are reacting.
Deeply flawed Online News Bill C-18 passes without key fixes
(OpenMedia) “Unfortunately, Bill C-18 is as flawed today as it was a year ago,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “A sustainable base for quality journalism is critical for Canadians, which is what makes this poorly conceived legislation so incredibly disappointing. Bill C-18 won’t fix our news industry. Instead, by giving online platforms an easy out — the option to simply stop allowing news sharing — it could actually drive down news revenue further.”
“Instead of providing support to independent news outlets, Bill C-18 will see boosted funding for legacy national media outlets, while small local outlets will be left to bleed out,” continued Hatfield. “Instead of re-opening the local news outlets that Canadians have lost, the great majority of funding is earmarked for large national chains, with no requirement to spend it on public interest reporting. And C-18 encourages them to spend that money poorly.
… Since May 2022, OpenMedia community members have sent over 13,000 messages to MPs, Senators, and the Department of Canadian Heritage calling for greater transparency and protections to support quality news in Canada. The CRTC will likely begin public consultations on the implementation of Bill C-18 in the coming months.
Canadians will no longer have access to news content on Facebook and Instagram, Meta says
Bill C-18, the Online News Act, received royal assent after passing House and Senate
(CBC) The social media giant Meta has confirmed that it will end access to news on its social media sites for all Canadian users before Bill C-18, the Online News Act, comes into force.
The tech company made the announcement on Thursday, the same day the bill received royal assent. The law will force tech giants like Meta and Google to pay news outlets for posting their journalism on their platforms.
Meta said it will begin to block news for Canadian users over the next few months and that the change will not be immediate.
“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18 … content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada,” Meta said in a media statement.
Montreal Gazette Faces a New String of Departures
(The Rover) More staff shortages at the Montreal Gazette will force the newspaper to suspend its opinion section for the summer … Longterm, Postmedia is over a quarter billion dollars in the hole, forced to pay $23 million a year in interest fees alone while its board of directors take their cues from American owners — a New-Jersey based hedge fund called Chatham Asset Management. And while the company lays off workers and asks its remaining staff to do more with less, Postmedia’s board has awarded itself millions. … Under [CEO Andrew] MacLeod’s leadership, an offer in February [from] Montreal businessman Mitch Garber to buy the Gazette was ignored.
Businessman Mitch Garber pitches local ownership for Montreal Gazette
Having a group of local owners could help galvanize community support, Garber says.
Can Local Journalism Be Saved?
Although there is no single “fix” for the decline of local journalism, experiments in different countries suggest ways to revitalize this crucial institution. All prioritize the production of public-interest news by whatever means available over seeking to salvage outdated commercial approaches.
(Project Syndicate) For most of the twentieth century, the news business relied on advertising revenue. But that model started collapsing in the late 1990s as the internet became ubiquitous. Local journalism was hit especially hard, not only because ads migrated to free online classified boards (like Craigslist), but also because local papers lacked the resources to build an attractive web presence that could support a successful subscription model. The consequences have been dramatic. By some estimates, one-third of the newspapers that existed in the US in 2005 will be gone by 2025. Some 70 million US citizens already live in “news deserts,” or will soon.
Postmedia is in a crash dive – Ottawa should let it decline
Marc Edge is the author of seven books, including this year’s The Postmedia Effect, and is the media columnist for Canadian Dimension.
Postmedia’s best hope now is for Google and Facebook to subsidize it under Bill C-18, the Online News Act, for which it and its peers have been lobbying. But even if that legislation passes, Postmedia will remain under water if Google and Facebook stop carrying links to Canadian news stories, as they have threatened to do.
Ottawa will then have to choose between bailing Postmedia out again or letting it founder further.
A new national news media policy could save Canadian journalism
Menzies and von Finckenstein affirm that a national news media policy is the best way to maintain the public trust and ensure that a free and independent media flourishes.
(Macdonald Laurier Institute) The creation and rise of high-speed Internet has been nothing short of revolutionary. It has put all the vastness of human knowledge at our fingertips and birthed entirely new industries. Where some industries have adapted to new ways of delivering their goods and services, others have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Canada’s newspaper business joins the latter group.
In this new MLI paper, And now, the news: A national news media policy for Canada, Senior Fellow Peter Menzies and Konrad von Finckenstein propose the basis of a Canadian National News Media Policy which would ensure fair commercial treatment for Canada’s news producers, allow for a free and independent media to flourish, and for public trust to be maintained.
Menzies and von Finckenstein highlight six areas in which public policy-makers can assist in the development of legislation to support a sustainable news industry:
- Reform the CBC’s role as a commercial competitor;
- Encourage news subscriptions through tax benefits;
- Support the digital transition of news media;
- Reform current tax benefits and funds in support of journalism;
- Re-evaluate the role of the CRTC,
- And, create a Canadian Journalists Fund.
Jen Gerson: Burn C-18 or fix it
This is a very-bad-no-good piece of legislation intended to cement a permanent advantage for legacy media outlets.
(The Line) The bill is a hot mess created by a clearly well-intentioned government that appears to have been bamboozled by a group of media industry lobbyists helmed by organizations like Postmedia and Torstar — companies that despite extraordinary history and resources have largely failed to sustainably transition to a digital media environment. These large outlets are now using the last of their dying power and influence to champion legislation that will force big technology companies like Facebook and Google to compensate them for linking to their content.
Meta’s position on Canada’s Online News Act
Meta’s President, Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, had been due to speak later today at a hearing of Canada’s Heritage Committee entitled ‘The Response of Companies in the Information Technology Sector to Bill C-18’. This was an opportunity to present and discuss Meta’s position in relation to Canada’s draft Online News Act (C-18), as Meta representatives did at a Senate committee last week. … we have notified the committee that he will no longer be appearing. Meta representatives in Canada will attend the hearing.
Given the widespread interest in the Online News Act, not just in Canada but around the world as other legislatures grapple with the same issues, we are publishing the opening statement Nick Clegg had hoped to make.
“Fear and loathing” at the Montreal Gazette
A staffer reflects on the deep cuts to Montreal’s only English daily newspaper
(Canadaland) After more than a decade of deep cuts to staff at the Montreal Gazette, many felt the incisions simply couldn’t go any deeper. But in January, the Postmedia chain (which owns the Gazette as well as the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, and Calgary Herald, among many other newspapers) announced cuts across the board.
Already down to just 40 newsroom staff at the Gazette, employees were not told who would be getting laid off and who would stay. A backlash ensued that included a “reverse the cuts” petition, followed by some businessmen suggesting the paper should be bought out from Postmedia so as to preserve its local news coverage.
CTV’s Michael Melling replaced months after Lisa LaFlamme departure
(Daily Hive) Melling took a leave from Bell Media after LaFlamme was let go in August.
At that time, an internal memo to staff about Melling’s decision to take a leave stated that it reflected “our shared desire to support the newsroom and do what’s best to help the team move past the current circumstances.”
Bell Media says a third-party review of the CTV National newsroom was conducted. The goal of the review was to identify concerns and issues, including areas that it could improve.
“We are committed to the action plan shared with employees that seeks to address the issues raised, and look forward to working together on creating a better, more inclusive and positive work environment.We can confirm Michael Melling has been reassigned to VP Shared Services, and will not be returning to any of CTV’s News operations. Richard Gray, interim VP, News, is taking on the role on a permanent basis.”
Thanks for the Bitcoin! How Does It Work?
A quirky Toronto broadsheet, beloved by Justin Trudeau and Margaret Atwood, gets tech support from an Ethereum founder.
(The New Yorker) The West End Phoenix, a four-year-old community newspaper in Toronto, bills itself as “slow print for fast times”—a reaction against global forces that have been decimating local journalism, if not an analog way of life altogether. The Phoenix, which publishes periodically, is a broadsheet, defiantly large and ill-suited to manipulating on the subway. Its design is heavy on art photography, and feature articles range from “Pet of the Month” to examinations of the demonizing of Black communities by traditional crime reporting.