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Newspaper boxes are seen in Montreal in this file photo. A coalition representing the majority of Quebec’s newspaper publishers is calling for provincial government funding to help meet the challenges of declining ad revenue and the digital upheaval.

Andre Pichette/The Globe and Mail

A coalition representing the majority of Quebec's newspaper publishers is calling for provincial-government funding to help meet the challenges of declining ad revenue and the digital upheaval.

The group – Coalition pour la pérennité de la presse d'information au Québec – wants the government to grant "cultural exception" to the province's print news industry, spokesman Brian Myles said.

"Today we are being forced to invest in development of digital platforms, while at the same time managing a profound transformation in our industry," Mr. Myles, director of Le Devoir, said.

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"We should have access to programs similar to those benefiting the film and TV industries, to protect the thousands of quality jobs that we provide for people here at home."

Part of the decline in revenues is due to the flight of advertising money toward social media platforms that are controlled by "a handful of U.S. giants," the coalition said in a news release Wednesday.

"Digital ad revenues amount to $878-million in Quebec, but those benefits largely elude publishers here."

The coalition wants a five-year "temporary financial assistance program" for the newspaper industry, which would include a program and/or refundable tax credit covering 40 per cent of the production costs of news and information content; a program and/or refundable tax credit on half of the cost of digital investments; abolition of sales taxes; and a "significant" increase in government newspaper ads.

The coalition says newspapers represent the "last bulwark" against the isolation of many communities in the regions.

The province's dailies and weeklies are also "vital to preserving a diversity of media voices, enriching debate and accompanying communities of readers in their daily lives," Mr. Myles said.

Members of the coalition are Le Devoir, Groupe Capitales Médias, Hebdos Québec and TC Transcontinental, for a total of 146 newspapers serving almost six-million Quebeckers.

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The major publishers, notably La Presse and Quebecor Inc., are not a part of the group.

By way of example, the coalition says several countries, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, France, Great Britain and the United States, already have print media assistance programs that add up to about $2-billion annually.

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