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A CBC camera follows Minister of Canadian Heritage Pascale St-Onge after she spoke with media in the House of Commons, Dec. 4, 2023.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Ottawa is capping CBC’s share of the funds the news industry will gain under the Online News Act at $7-million, with other broadcasters getting no more than $30-million of the $100-million Google will inject into Canada’s news industry each year.

Almost two-thirds of the Google funds resulting from the Online News Act will now go to written media, including local papers serving francophone and Indigenous communities, government regulations published Friday said.

The legislation, also known as Bill C-18, gained royal assent in June and goes into effect on Tuesday. It is aimed at supporting the news industry by requiring large online tech companies to pay Canadian media outlets for posting their journalism.

The law is designed to stem the closing of newsrooms as advertising continues to migrate to tech platforms.

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said the publication of final government regulations is “a great day for the sustainability of our news.”

“Having a more equitable relationship between tech giants and our news [industry] is an essential part of ensuring the sustainability of our news sector and ensuring that journalism continues to play a role in democracy,” she told reporters Friday.

Ms. St-Onge suggested that tech giant Meta, which is not subject to the legislation after withdrawing news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada, could yet be captured by the act. She told reporters that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), will assess whether Meta, which still has some news on Facebook posted by users, could be subject to regulation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday that conversations are continuing with Meta and the government will press the company to support journalism.

The final regulations to the Online News Act follow months of negotiations between Ms. St-Onge and Google.

Because of its size, CBC-Radio Canada initially appeared poised to receive a third of the money Google will inject into news through the act. The public broadcaster employs about a third of the journalists in the country.

But the final regulations capped what they can receive at “no more than 7 per cent of the compensation.”

To qualify for some of the Google money, news groups will need to show that their content is online and can be found through Google search. This could mean that some small community newspapers and radio stations without websites will not be eligible for funding.

How much money news organizations stand to collect from the deal will also depend on the number of full-time journalists they employ.

On Friday, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters expressed disappointment at its share of the money, saying the regulations did not recognize the significant role that private broadcasters play. It said commercial radio and TV stations are being overlooked for financial support by the government, including through tax credits.

News Media Canada, which represents print media including local papers and The Globe and Mail, said the formula would lead to $63-million being injected into written news in Canada by Google each year.

“On a per journalist basis, Canada’s local community newspapers are going to be getting in the ballpark of what the New York Times negotiated recently,” said Paul Deegan, CEO of News Media Canada.

Google will be able to pay into a “collective,” a type of fund run by news businesses, which will distribute the money, with the system overseen by the CRTC.

Ms. St.-Onge said all independent media, including the ethnic press, would be able to join the collective to seek Google funds.

But Maria Saras-Voutsinas, executive director of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, said the regulations “leave the ethnic media to fend for themselves.”

“Without additional support, this one-size-fits-all approach will result in closures and mass consolidation of the ethnic press,” she said.

The final regulations say that “reasonable” administrative costs can be taken out of the Google money to run the news industry collective. This would reduce the overall amount available to news businesses.

The Conservatives have argued that the CBC, which in the 2021-22 fiscal year received $1.2-billion in government funding, should receive none of the money. Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said earlier this month that CBC-Radio-Canada should receive “a huge zero” so the funds can all go to private media, including outlets in Quebec.

CBC announced earlier this month that it would shed about 10 per cent of its work force and reduce production in an effort to address a budget shortfall of $125-million in the next fiscal year.

CBC-Radio-Canada said in a statement that it is “important that the regulations recognize that the news provided by CBC-Radio-Canada has value and should also receive compensation.”

Conservative Heritage critic Rachael Thomas signalled that the Conservatives would repeal the Online News Act if they form the next government, in addition to cutting public funding for the CBC.

She said they would replace it with a bill “that restores balance for small, local, and independent voices in the media.”

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