Canada Media Matters and Bill C-18 Sept. 2023-

Written by  //  December 4, 2023  //  Canada, Government & Governance, Media  //  No comments

CBC/Radio-Canada to cut 10 per cent of workforce, end some programming as it faces $125M budget shortfall
Public broadcaster says most cuts will take effect over the coming year

EMERGENCY EPISODE: Catherine Tait makes her case for the CBC (podcast and transcript)
The public broadcaster’s CEO in an exclusive layoff-eve interview
Paul Wells Bill C-18, the so-called Online News Act, nears implementation. Google’s promised $100 million contribution is a drop in the bucket of this year’s Canadian media revenue shortfall. Torstar, which has said it’s losing $1 million a week, is hardly alone in finding its projected share of the Google pot unsatisfying.
I’ve argued for years…that increased government payments to news organizations would simply introduce new problems rather than solving old ones. The C-18 debacle is further evidence of that. We covered the emerging mess earlier this season when I interviewed Jeff Elgie, the CEO of Ontario’s scrappy independent Village Media, for this podcast.
This is some of the context for any debate about what government should do in a fast-changing media landscape: the realization that what it’s been doing hasn’t kept a string of layoffs from happening.
The reaction to the agreement from the news sector has been mixed at best with relative silence from many supporters and outright opposition from the likes of Torstar.
Jeff Elgie on What the Bill C-18 Deal with Google Means for the Future of the Canadian News Sector
So what to make the of the deal and what comes next? Jeff Elgie is the CEO of Village Media, one of the largest independent, digital-only news outlets in Canada. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to walk though his participation in the process, reaction to the agreement, and thoughts for the future.

29-30 November
‘No concessions’ St-Onge says in $100M a year news deal with Google
(CTV) The Canadian government has reached a deal with Google over the Online News Act that will see the tech giant pay $100 million annually to publishers, and continue to allow access to Canadian news content on its platform.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge announced the “historic development” regarding the implementation of Bill C-18 on Wednesday, after the tech giant had threatened to block news on its platform when the contentious new rules come into effect next month.
The federal government says this financial support will be indexed to inflation, and rolled out to “a wide range of news businesses across the country, including independent news businesses and those from Indigenous and official-language minority communities.”
Bill C-18, or the Online News Act, lays out a framework that would require digital giants Google and Meta to develop agreements with Canadian news sites to provide them with compensation for hosting their journalistic content on their platforms.
When the bill passed in June, Both Google and Meta had taken the position that rather than compensating media organizations, they’d be blocking Canadian news from their platforms.
Meta made good on this threat this summer, and that company continues to block content from Canadian news platforms on Facebook and Instagram, despite political and public pressure to reverse course.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came out swinging against Meta – right now the only other company that meets the threshold to be eligible under the Online News Act – over its decision to pull news access rather than pay for it.

Salvaging Bill C-18: Government Upends Legislation To Bring Google Onside the Online News Act
Michael Geist
The government has announced that it has reached agreement with Google on deal that will ensure that news links are not blocked on the search engine and that the company pays $100 million to support the news sector in Canada. To be clear, this is good news for all given that the alternative was bad for news outlets, the government, Canadians, and Google. Indeed, over the past few months in discussions with representatives of media outlets, the consistent refrain I heard was that there *had* to be a deal. The harm from Facebook and Instagram blocking news links was taking a significant toll with lost revenues, lost traffic, and lost deals, meaning that something had to be salvaged from Bill C-18.
It turns out the way to salvage the bill was essentially to start over by tossing aside most of the core elements in the bill in favour of a single payment by Google negotiated by the government on behalf of the news sector. What is left is a $100 million payment into what amounts to a fund to be managed by the news sector itself.

Netflix balks at proposed levy on streaming services
Streaming giant tells CRTC it already puts millions into Canadian broadcasting industry
(CBC) The company appeared Thursday at a hearing that is part of the CRTC’s public consultations in response to the Online Streaming Act, which received royal assent in April.
The legislation, formerly known as Bill C-11, is meant to update federal law to require digital platforms to contribute to and promote Canadian content. The watchdog is exploring whether to require streamers to make an initial contribution to help level the playing field for local companies, which are already required to support Canadian content.

20 September
Paul Wells: How Bill C-18 is threatening a local news empire
Jeff Elgie of Village Media is this week’s guest
If there’s a future for local journalism in Canada, it probably looks more like Village Media than like a lot of other models. Digitally native, grounded in basic reporting, using teams of reporters who earn proper salaries and benefits but who incur a lot less overhead than my generation did — it’s already been a rapidly-growing success story for a decade, even as news organizations with pricier business models and older reflexes struggled. Even as it’s been easy to understand why they’ve struggled.
I just think C-18 is a terrible mess, starting with its weird insistence that linking to news stories is somehow the source of the web giants’ hegemony. I mean, I’ve got a lot more problems with this bill and I have since long before it was a bill, but even if I manage to stifle those other objections, I’m stuck with C-18’s bizarre choice of a mechanism.
The results are not only unsurprising, they were predicted: If linking to news stories suddenly costs more money, the platforms won’t link to news stories. Meta (Facebook) has carried through on this threat. Google is keeping it in their back pocket.

4 September
Opinion: The government’s online news bill can’t overcome its own flawed assumptions
The new law manages to be an even worse outcome than direct government intervention
Rudyard Griffiths and Sean Speer
(The Hub) … If the government believes that there’s a role for the state to intervene in support of Canadian journalism, then it should do it. Canadians can debate the government’s decision and ultimately render their judgment as part of a future election. This is how democratic policymaking is supposed to work.
There’s something odd about outsourcing responsibility for the government’s policy decisions to two private companies based on the dubious argument that they “owe” the Canadian news media for having come to dominate the digital advertising market.
If one was to follow the government’s logic here consistently, we can envision countless instances where new start-ups that outcompete legacy players and industries could be forced to compensate those who they’ve overtaken.
… The Act uses the government’s legislative and regulatory powers to essentially turn Google and Meta into instruments of public policy. Any financial agreements that they reach with publishers under the Act are hardly market arrangements since they have to conform to the government’s prescriptions and ultimately secure approval from the CRTC. Such payments should therefore be viewed as an indirect government subsidy. The only major difference with a direct subsidy is that the former depends on the legislative pen rather than the public purse.

3 September
Mitch Joel: The Canadian Government laid down the law. Google and Meta must soon pay traditional and legacy media publishers for news links or repurposed news content (while, at the same time, Big Tech does not share in/get any of the advertising or subscription revenues that is generated from this referral traffic).
Meta already decided to not allow Canadians to share news links or allow news companies to post their Facebook Pages. On Friday of this week, draft regulations by the government were released. Shortly after, Google announced that they will no longer index news websites and offer these results to Canadians once the bill goes into effect.
What a mess.
Jeff Jarvis: Here’s my brief bit about it on the CBC:…/nn-jarvis-invu-010923…
Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast – Episode #895.
When it comes to the digital economy, the law and the media, everyone should be following Dr. Michael Geist. Now, more than ever, his voice may be the only “truth” we are seeing in the media as Canada deals with the massive fallout that is Bill C-18 (Canada’s Online News Act). My primer on this ridiculous law is here: Big Tech, Big Media, Big Trouble And Big Lies. With that, the issues (and opportunity) bleed well beyond the borders of Canada and should strike fear into anyone interested in our global digital economy. For a long while, Michael has been reshaping the landscape of Internet and E-commerce Law from his academic pulpit at the University of Ottawa. With credentials that read like an academic’s dream — degrees from Osgoode Hall, Cambridge, and Columbia — he’s not just dissecting law… he’s writing it, in real-time, for a digital age. You’ve likely stumbled upon his incisive columns, where he distills complex technology law issues into digestible wisdom. But wait, there’s more. Michael is the maestro behind a slew of copyright books that are nothing short of revolutionary. Titles like, The Copyright Pentalogy, and, In the Public Interest, are shaking the foundations of Canadian copyright law, carving out a new roadmap for the digital era. He’s not just penning books… he’s also editing monthly technology law publications and running a blog that’s become a go-to resource on Internet and intellectual property issues. Michael’s reach isn’t confined to academia or print… he’s a boardroom staple too. Whether it’s Ingenium, Internet Archive Canada, or the Electronic Frontier Foundation, his advisory skills are in high demand. He’s even steering the digital strategy for Waterfront Toronto, leading it into uncharted technological waters. His influence is such that he was named among the 50 most impactful people on intellectual property globally and among the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada, multiple years running. Why does Michael matter? Because in a world wrestling with the ethics and laws of a digital frontier, he’s the sage we didn’t know we needed, but can’t afford to ignore. We dig deep into the media landscape, the mis-step of the government, why Meta proactively decided to no longer allow users to post links out to news websites, and why everyone (no matter where you live) should be paying attention to what Meta, Google and others technology companies are doing. Enjoy the conversation…

Dispatch from the Front Line:
This week, the CRTC released the draft regulations that will govern how the Online News Act is to be used. We’ve talked about the minutia at some length already, but you may recall that this law essentially forces Meta and Google into negotiations with media outlets to compensate the latter for sharing its links; those deals would then be approved by the CRTC.
The bill itself was a dog’s breakfast. In addition to being vague and probably unworkable, it created potential uncapped liabilities for the companies themselves. This was one of the primary concerns for big tech. No matter how large their profits, no company is going to sign up for a regulatory regime that forces it to write a blank cheque to its competitors. Especially when that regulatory environment sets a precedent for other markets.
From Facebook/Meta’s perspective, the legislation was always non-viable, and so they simply decided to stop providing news links on their platforms, thus ensuring the company would not come under the scope of the law.
Google’s situation, on the other hand, has always been trickier. If the go-to everything search engine has to pull news links from its search results, that presents a significant problem to its core mandate. Further, Google does have a dominant position in the Canadian market. As with telecoms and other oligopolies, it isn’t totally unreasonable to expect the company to pay for this dominance in the form of some kind of tax that can then compensate news companies destabilized by digital disintermediation.
The problem is that the legislation was so poorly conceived that it would create an environment that was financially unsustainable, even for Google, if it were to be replicated globally.

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