Within 100 days of forming the government, the Liberals announced they would introduce legislation to ensure that digital platforms like Facebook and Google pay a share of their revenues to Canadian news publishers.
The Liberals, in their election platform released Wednesday, say the model will be based on Australia’s, which earlier this year sparked a fierce backlash from Google and Facebook.
Facebook has threatened to pull its social media platform out of Australia entirely in response to the proposal, arguing that it is unfair not to consider the large audience Facebook provides to news media.
After tense negotiations, Australia enshrined its new law, and trade deals between digital platforms and media companies have been underway since then.
The Liberal plan would allow Canada’s media companies to come together and bargain collectively with digital platforms, something that country’s advocates have long called for. The industry has been collapsing financially for years as significant ad revenue has left the TV and newspaper space to large digital companies who in turn profit while being popular platforms for journalism.
Paul Deegan, president of News Media Canada, which lobbies on behalf of publishers in Canada including Torstar, praised the Liberal plan and said he was happy that the three main parties – the NDP, Conservatives and Liberals – all appeared favor the Australian model. .
“There is really an urgent need for this legislation,” Deegan said. “The fastest way to get this law passed is to put it into a budget implementation bill.
“All the major parties in the country are pointing to the Australian model as a way to address what is essentially a market failure when you sort of have the enormous power of Google and Facebook over publishers.”
Collective bargaining would likely involve members of News Media Canada, but would be open to other publishers who would be allowed to enter based on the federal government’s guidelines on qualified media, he added. Money from the platforms would go to publishers based on the number of journalists they employ, Deegan said.
In Australia, although deals between media companies and digital platforms are private, he has heard that they account for around 30% of journalists’ salaries there.
Already in Canada, some media companies, such as Canada’s National Observer and the Narwhal, have made deals with Facebook, which this year announced it had reached deals with 14 publishers in Canada to participate in an information initiative it has launched. launched.
Google also announced in June that it had entered into agreements with eight publishers in Canada, allowing them to participate in the company’s licensing program. These included The Globe and Mail, Black Press Media, SaltWire, and the Winnipeg Free Press.
“Our point of view, overall, is that the publishers will get a better deal if we can bargain collectively, then backed with baseball-style teeth, final offer arbitration,” Deegan said.
In early August, the federal government was weighing its options on how to ensure media companies get paid.
An Ottawa discussion paper described two models the government was considering, one based on the Australian model and one that some smaller independent media companies were competing for: an independent media fund to which digital platforms would contribute.
According to the electoral platform, it seems that the first option is the one desired within the Liberal Party.
The Conservative Party’s plan is similar, promising to bring in a royalty system in Canada so that news media companies are compensated for their journalism that ends up on digital platforms. The party said it would be a Canadian approach based on the Australian and French systems, with the latter country amending its copyright law to force tech companies to pay for information.
The Conservatives would have an arbitration process and create “an intellectual property right for excerpts from articles shared on a social media platform,” according to the party’s election platform.
For Daniel Bernhard, executive director of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting advocacy group, the near consensus between all the parties that could form a government – even a minority – means “the excuse for inaction has disappeared”.
In the past year or so, the Liberal government has promised media compensation legislation “imminent and weeks away,” he said.
“We are now in September and we haven’t seen anything,” Bernhard added. “It is up to whoever forms the next government to deal with it. “