2/7/17, "Liberals Won't Bail Out Canada's News Industry, Sources Say," Huffington Post Canada, Althia Raj, Ottawa
"The Trudeau government won’t be bailing out Canada’s struggling news industry, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.
upcoming federal budget will include no cash to set up a civic
journalism fund — as was recently recommended by the Public Policy Forum
in a report commissioned by Heritage Canada, several sources confirmed.
The report, titled “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age,” suggests
the establishment of a “Future of Journalism and Democracy Fund,”
funded through a tax increase on non-Canadian digital publishers and a
one-time $100-million federal injection.
The fund would help news
organizations transition to digital formats, support civic-function
journalism projects through an arm's length structure and help small
news organizations obtain legal advice.
It would dedicate $8
million to $10 million towards a free local news service — hiring 60 to
80 reporters to cover courts, provincial legislatures and city halls
where Canada’s major newswire, The Canadian Press, has no current
reporters. The fund would also devote $8 million to $10 million annually
to support journalism by indigenous news organizations.
“There is no way we’re doing it,” a senior Liberal told HuffPost.
Joly focused on ‘independence of journalists’
an interview, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly was less definitive but
stressed all future plans the Liberals announce will ensure “journalism
independence is paramount.”
“We will be bringing forward in 2017 an entire new model on how to support Canadian content,” she told HuffPost.
this point, we are studying all scenarios but for us, the most
important thing is that we keep the independence of journalists and
government has nothing to do in politicizing the media that’s for sure,”
There should be a “sound distance” between journalists and government, she said.
already plays a role in the information sector through funding the CBC,
through funding weeklies and periodicals, and through certain forms of
tax credits, she noted.
The Public Policy Forum’s suggestion for a civic journalism fund
actually creates a more independent structure than the
government-appointed CBC board of directors — an organization Joly
wholeheartedly affirmed is “independent.”
Some in the industry are also concerned by the Public Policy Forum’s recommendation.
government already has a “news bureaucracy” with the CBC, whose large
online footprint is “distorting the market” for local newspapers, said
Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox, the chair of Newspapers Canada.
Cox likes the tax changes suggested in the report and believes it could
go some way in levelling the playing field with advertisers who are now
spending more money on Facebook and Google ads, he said a super fund
for civic journalism would finance journalists to compete directly
against his newspaper.
"That’s what drives me crazy. There are a lot of local media who are
still putting in the good fight and could use some help and could
succeed in transitioning and coming up with new business models,” Cox
The Public Policy Forum’s reports comes on the
heels of many in the industry pleading with the Liberal government to
step in and help.
Last May, for example, Paul Godfrey, CEO of
Postmedia, the largest newspaper chain in the country, told the Commons’
Heritage committee that “everything you read or have seen or have
clicked on for telling the doom and gloom in the news media industry
does not provide the picture. In fact, it is actually quite
Godfrey urged MPs to recommend the Government of Canada increase its
advertising in his newspapers. He urged, like the Public Policy Forum
had, that Canadian advertisers spending on Canadian platforms be given
more advantageous tax treatment. And he urged daily newspapers be
allowed to tap a federal fund that already provides financial aid to
print circulation magazines.
John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corporation, publisher of 110
newspapers including the Toronto Star, said readership isn’t the issue,
it’s just the business model has failed. With millions lost to online
classified advertising, The Toronto Star laid off hundreds of
journalists, going from 475 ten years ago to 170 today, he said.
“There is a crisis of declining good journalism across Canada,” Honderich told the committee in September.
The Public Policy Report notes that since 2010, 225 weekly and 27 daily
newspapers have either closed or merged across the country. The Heritage committee’s year-long study of the state of media will
likely be released in March. Joly said she’s looking forward to its
findings and plans to review it, along with the Public Policy Forum’s
recommendations, and the submissions from the government’s consultations
on supporting Canadian content — news and entertainment — in a digital
Dr. Hedy Fry, the chair of the Commons committee, noted her group is
taking a much broader approach. Yes, a number of witnesses pleaded for
more government intervention but that wasn’t the overwhelming theme
behind most of the presentations, she said.
“The biggest thing
that people seem to be concerned about… is the future of journalism; the
ability to know what is ‘news’ and how ‘news’ should be reliable and
accountable,” Fry said, suggesting perhaps there should be some criteria
“I mean how do we know that what we read is so?” she said.
MP Kevin Waugh, a former television broadcaster, feels there is a role
for the government to play but said he is torn as to what it should be.
“There are pros and cons for both,” he said. “When I see The National
Post buying out Sun Media and then getting into trouble over their
head, well that is not caused entirely by a lack of readership that was
caused by a lack of management…
“Is it my job as a parliamentarian to bail them out of that bad business decision?”
the other hand, Waugh notes, government may have a role to play to
ensure the health of our democracy and an informed citizenry.
know everyone is suffering out there. I see it on the ground,” Waugh
said. But no one wants government dictating terms to the media, he
“When you get government intervention, how far does the intervention go before you cross the democracy line?”"