Big Tech and Big Government to subsidize salaries of MSM journalists in Canada
12/12/2023 // Richard Brown // Views

Big Tech and Big Government will be subsidizing the salaries of mainstream media (MSM) journalists in Canada under a new agreement.

LifeSiteNews expounded on the $100 million agreement involving search engine giant Google and the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The outlet also cited the augmented subsidies from Ottawa as outlined in the Fall Economic Statement. These two, LifeSiteNews said, are poised to significantly subsidize the salaries of MSM journalists.

Rudyard Griffiths, journalist and executive director of Canadian news site The Hub, said journalists earning up to $85,000 annually can potentially have up to 50 percent of their wages subsidized under both initiatives. These subsidies, projected to cost taxpayers $129 million over the next five years, come on the heels of changes to the Income Tax Act in 2019. The latter law provides rebates of 25 percent for each news employee in cabinet-approved media outlets earning up to $55,000 annually.

The subsidies for legacy media outlets have nearly doubled in recent weeks, with Trudeau announcing increased payouts for these outlets ahead of the 2025 election. Recognizing the insufficiency of these payouts to sustain legacy media outlets, the Department of Canadian Heritage subsequently doubled the rebates to a maximum of $29,750 annually – equivalent to 35 percent of a journalist's salary.

However, concerns are mounting about the long-term implications of substantial government support covering a significant portion of newsroom costs for private media organizations. This financial injection raises questions about media independence and its impact on public trust, especially in the context of declining trust in both the government and large media organizations.

Google's deal with Ottawa boosts subsidies for journalists

Meanwhile, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said the Google agreement is part of the Online News Act – formerly called Bill C-18. The act, which is set to take effect on Dec. 19, ensures an annual payment of $100 million from Google to Canadian news media in exchange for continued sharing of links to Canadian news outlet pages.

The Online News Act further adds to the financial support for legacy media, with Google committing $100 million to publish links to their content on the search engine and YouTube. Under the act, digital platforms with 20 million unique monthly users and annual revenues of $1 billion or more must compensate MSM journalists. The Mountain View, California-based Google and Mark Zuckerberg's Meta are the only two platforms that qualify under this criteria. (Related: Canada passes controversial bill regulating online streaming and compelling local content.)

However, Meta excluded itself from the rule by discontinuing the sharing of links to Canadian news articles. In contrast, Google engaged directly with the Trudeau government, bypassing individual negotiations with news outlets.

The distribution of funds will involve collaboration with "a single collective" to distribute the funds transparently based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists employed by interested eligible news businesses. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will be in charge of the process, CBC added. Eligible news organizations include non-profit and for-profit outlets covering local, regional, and national news content, with specific coverage requirements emphasizing diversity.

The legislation encourages voluntary collaborations between digital platforms and media outlets, with mandatory participation in mediation if voluntary agreements are not reached. If mediation fails, an arbitration process will decide between proposals from the platform and affected news services.

The details of fund management and distribution remain undisclosed, with final regulations expected to be published by the government before the law's effective date. As government and corporate support increasingly underpin newsroom finances, questions arise about the potential consequences for media objectivity, independence and the erosion of public trust in news and information produced by MSM outlets.

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