During the 2021 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pledged to “introduce legislation, within 100 days, that would require digital platforms that generate revenue from the publication of information content to share a portion of their income with Canadian media. This legislation would be based on the Australian model and would level the playing field between global platforms and Canadian media. “
That pledge, along with similar pledges from other federal parties, was good news for an industry that has seen more than 80 percent of ad revenue diverted to web giants. And the COVID-19 pandemic only compounds this market failure.
Under the law, Canadian news publishers would be allowed to bargain collectively with the web giants, namely Google and Meta (i.e. Facebook), in order to be fairly compensated for using their news. content protected by copyright. If negotiations do not lead to a deal, baseball-style final offer arbitration would determine a settlement.
Google and Meta have both spoken out against Australian legislation. Earlier this year, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand said: “That would leave us with no choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia. Facebook added, “People and news organizations in Australia are no longer allowed to post news links and share or view Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing of news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. “
These tactics were not appreciated by the Australians. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We will not be intimidated by the Big Techs who seek to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Facebook’s actions to get rid of Australia today, cutting off essential information on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing.
Well done to the Australians for sticking to their principles. Since the legislation was passed in this country, many publishers, including smaller publishers, have made significant deals with Google and Facebook.
With the prospect of Canada following Australia’s lead, Google and Meta reached out to a number of Canada’s top news publishers. According to the British company Newspaper, “There is evidence to suggest that the threat of this legislation is already bearing fruit for Canadian publishers … Google, perhaps in anticipation of the Ottawa crackdown, has already started offering more generous payments for signing up to [Google] News showcase.
Although these agreements are a necessary boost for the biggest players in the industry, they are short-term in nature and the renewal will surely not happen under the same conditions if Parliament does not pass a law soon. As for the small publishers who serve local communities across the country, their phones don’t ring.
Google and Meta are key parts of the news ecosystem, and they have an important role to play in the future. It is in their best interest to have rich and reliable content that our journalists produce. But they simply cannot stand it because of their dominant position in the market; they have to pay for it.
The Liberal Party’s platform made only a few 100-day legislative promises: mandatory minimum sentencing reforms; 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers; reform the Broadcasting Act; strengthening of official languages; fight online damage, level the playing field between news publishers and big tech; and eliminate talk therapy.
Canada’s news publishers face an existential threat, and we expect the Liberal government to keep its election promise and bring in Australian-style legislation by February 3.eParliament and an equally acrimonious 2021 federal election campaign, we call on parliamentarians from all parties to pass this urgently needed law by June. Publishers, big and small, want the right to come together so that we can strike a level playing field to level the playing field with the web giants.
Publishers in the Americas and around the world pay special attention to Canada. They see Canada as a forward-looking democracy and they are counting on us to show the world how a high-quality, fiercely independent and commercially viable news publishing industry can thrive with an open and vibrant web.
Jamie Irving is President of News Media Canada and Vice-President of Brunswick News, which owns The Telegraph-Journal, Times & Transcript and The Daily Gleaner in New Brunswick as well as several weekly newspapers in the province. Paul Deegan is President and CEO of News Media Canada.
The times of the hill