Federal government media move shrouded in secrecy

Meddling in media

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 government did what it generally does when facing controversy and that is to make promises it has no actual intention of fulfilling.

The minister at the time, when asked if the government would be transparent and disclose in detail how decisions were made on who received the 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 the funding and how much they received. It is also a secret what media organizations were rejected for the funding and 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 funding.

Also, this week the Liberals introduced Bill C-18, an act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada. According to the Liberals, the 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 online companies, such as Facebook and Google, will be forced to pay eligible Canadian media organizations for content 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 helps 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 about how eligible media will 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 [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the official Oppositions's finance critic.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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