Canada’s news industry lobby group is pressuring the federal government to force Google and Facebook to pay for content from all domestic media platforms, rather than allowing the digital giants to “divide and conquer” by cutting a series of deals with news organizations.
News Media Canada said on Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault have failed to deliver on repeated promises to help the news industry through measures including mandatory collective negotiations between the global tech companies and domestic news organizations. The Toronto-based lobby group said this approach proved its merits in Australia.
On Thursday, Google Canada announced agreements with eight Canadian publishers, including The Globe and Mail, on a licensing agreement that sees the company pay for news content as part of parent Alphabet Inc.’s US$1-billion global commitment to media platforms.
Last month, Facebook Inc. struck a content licensing agreement with 14 Canadian news organizations, including Le Devoir in Quebec and Nova Scotia’s Saltwire Network, which owns 27 properties in Atlantic Canada.
“Until news media in this country can negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook, the two multinationals will continue to divide and conquer, using their power and market dominance to drive terms that are in their favour,” said Jamie Irving, chair of News Media Canada and vice-president of Brunswick News Inc., which owns a stable of more than 20 newspapers in New Brunswick. “Far from contributing to the resolution of the problem, this approach only solidifies their stranglehold.”
Mr. Guilbeault, the federal Heritage Minister, said in an e-mail Thursday that the government remains committed to rolling out a “made-in-Canada formula” on payments for content.
“Google, Facebook and other digital companies have played a major role in making information accessible to everyone. As much as we use them to stay informed and take part in important conversations, we must address the market imbalance between news media organizations and those who benefit from their work,” Mr. Guilbeault said. “To address this imbalance, one-off initiatives, such as those proposed by digital platforms, won’t be enough.”
Canadian government officials have held talks on content licensing with peers in Australia and France, said Mr. Guilbeault. He said: “Only a few countries have yet addressed the issue of fair compensation, while it is precisely its global nature that should call on us to act. International collaboration will thus be essential if we want to maximize the impact of our individual actions.”
In March, former News Media Canada chief executive John Hinds pointed out that Facebook pledged $8-million over the next three years to the Facebook Journalism Project, with the majority of the money going to The Canadian Press, a news agency partly owned by The Globe and Mail. Mr. Hinds said Facebook’s support for Canadian media pales in comparison to the company’s $100-million commitment to Australian new organizations, under a government-mandated framework.
“Facebook’s self-designed ‘fund’ speaks to the need for legislation,” Mr. Hinds said in a press release at the time. He said the announcement “confirms Facebook is trying to avoid paying for content by coming up with an arbitrary fund approach.”
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