Jeanette Ageson, Chair
Press Forward Media Association
October 13, 2023
The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
15 Eddy Street, 12th Floor
We write to you today from Press Forward, an association of Canada’s leading digital news innovators to offer our perspectives on the current state of play between news publishers, tech platforms, and the government in relation to the Online News Act.
We recently submitted our feedback to the draft regulations published in the Canada Gazette, but we also find it necessary to add some additional context to our feedback that takes into account what Google seems to be asking to remain involved in this process.
In short, we urge the government to work to keep platforms at the table and to prevent any further blocking of Canadian news on social and search platforms, while still working to make the deal-making process as fair and equitable as it can be for independent media.
Anything that happens now with the Online News Act regulations has to be considered in the context of platforms potentially permanently blocking news on their platforms. Our news organizations have already been feeling the effects of Meta blocking our sites on their Facebook and Instagram platforms. As newer outlets that use social media platforms to build our audiences, this has been especially challenging for us. We need to be doing what we can to prevent any further blocking of our news on these platforms.
The best outcome of this legislation would be for a funding mechanism that supports journalism fairly across news organizations in Canada, meaning that newer digital outlets are compensated at a commensurate rate as legacy publications are.
To that end, we’ve consistently argued that a fund model, with a transparent and fair funding formula, would be preferable to a framework that enables secretive and potentially lopsided deals. However, that is not where we are, and the Online News Act is now law.
In our feedback submission on the draft regulations, we raised some concerns about non-monetary contributions, fairness, and suggested that editorial expenditures other than employee salaries be included in calculations of fair payment. That said, these tweaks to ensure fairness only make sense if both of the platforms don’t choose to permanently block news and opt out of the Online News Act completely.
To that end, we encourage the federal government to seriously consider reasonable requests made from the platforms that would deal with their concerns in the regulations. For example, Google has asked for a clear upper limit on the compensation they are meant to provide all eligible news organizations. While this may not be in keeping with the spirit of the bargaining framework set out in the Online News Act, it’s possible that without a guaranteed limit to their liability, Google will choose to block news which would be disastrous for publications.
With the threat of our content being blocked on dominant search platforms, the existence of our young but thriving news organizations hangs in the balance.
Chair, Press Forward Media Association
Publisher, The Tyee
Press Forward works to ensure people in Canada have strong independent and community-focused journalism. We unify, elevate and advocate for media organizations in Canada to strengthen innovation, inclusivity and diversity in media across the country.
Looking for quality, local independent journalism in your inbox? Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive news highlights from our members across Canada, updates on the media landscape and more.
Members have access to exclusive membership events and programming where you can connect with news organizations across Canada and discuss topics like funding, community journalism and the state of the industry.