It’s taken a while, and the loss of a third of journalism jobs and 451 news outlets since 2008, along with the migration of billions of advertising dollars to tech platforms, but finally the government has taken a big step to halt the bleeding. This week Bill C-18 (the Online News Act) was introduced into Parliament in order to force the digital giants to pay for the news they currently steal.
They will be required to negotiate deals with newspapers, magazines and broadcasters that produce original news on websites to pay for the news they link to. News organizations will be allowed to team up and bargain collectively. The news groups will have to qualify as Canadian journalism organizations under the Income Tax Act or operate in Canada employing at least two journalists. A portion of the compensation will be applied to the production of local, regional and national news.
The Act will have bite. The tech platforms will have six months to make a deal or be forced into mediation and if that fails, accept binding arbitration. Those that don’t comply could face penalties of up to $15-million a day.
For too long the platforms have in effect been nothing less than parasites, exploiting the work done by journalists and editors of news organizations and then siphoning off the advertising revenues.
Needless to say, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, stalwart supporters of the CBC, are delighted. They have fought for years to make the platforms pay (see the poster on the right) and rightly claim “a major victory for our movement.” As a long-time supporter, I will accept a tiny fraction of the credit. In any case, I thank the Friends for doggedly pursing the good fight. They will undoubtedly push for improvements to the Bill and monitor its application, and I will continue to be a proud supporter.