It is not a secret that traditional print media organizations have struggled financially as advertisers have increased spending on online advertising.
This has forced some media organizations to adapt to this new dynamic by downsizing and in some cases closing their doors, a situation that no one in a healthy democracy embraces.
In 2019 the Trudeau Liberal Government announced a controversial program by creating a $600 million dollar media subsidy fund.
This program raised concerns, even from some journalists, who questioned how media could be independent and criticize a government that was subsidizing it.
Others questioned how and who would decide what media organizations would or would not receive this bailout funding, and based upon what criteria.
In response to those concerns the Liberal Government did what it generally does when facing controversy and that is to make promises they have no actual intention of fulfilling.
The Minister, at the time, when asked if the Liberal Government would be transparent and disclose in detail how decisions were made on who received this money and why, answered: “Absolutely”.
Flash forward to 2022, and while we do know who is on the five-member panel making these decisions, it remains a secret what media organizations were deemed eligible for this funding and how much they received.
It is also a secret what media organizations were rejected for this funding and the reasons why.
Full credit to the relatively small number of media organizations who have openly disclosed they did not apply for this funding.
The vast majority are silent on if they applied and received this funding.
Also, this week the Liberals have introduced Bill C-18 “An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada”.
According to the Liberals this bill “regulates digital news intermediaries to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability.”
What this really means is that the Liberals are proposing that online companies such as Facebook and Google will be forced to pay eligible Canadian media organizations for content that is shared on their platforms.
As many experts and stakeholders in Ottawa are pointing out, this raises serious concerns.
The purpose of advertising is ultimately to drive customers to a business.
Therefore, many media organizations share links of their content on social media sites hoping to drive traffic to their websites.
The vast majority of these media organizations sell their own online advertising, so the added traffic from platforms such as Facebook and Google help increase the revenue generated.
Now Bill C-18 proposes to financially penalize these same platforms for the fact that users share links that ultimately benefit the media organizations in question.
This process, it is proposed, would be regulated by the CRTC.
This once again raises the concern by what process will “eligible” media be determined or rejected?
Will eligible organizations be disclosed, or will this once again be a “secret”?
My question this week relates to Bill C-18.
Do you agree with the Liberal Government's increasing attempts to regulate “approved” online content?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.