Canadian local news providers are set to take a revenue hit amid fallout from Ottawa’s Bill C-18, the head of a national media group warns in a letter to advertisers urging dedicated spending to support smaller players.
The passage of Bill C-18, dubbed the Online News Act, was met with swift retaliation from tech giants Meta and Alphabet in June.
The legislation is meant to force big internet and streaming platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to compensate Canadian news outlets for content appearing on their platforms. But both tech giants said they would instead block access to Canadian news content on their platforms in protest of the bill.
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The move will not only result in a loss of potential revenues that Bill C-18 wants to force the platforms to pay to media organizations, but will also curtail traffic to news organizations’ content.
But in an open letter to advertisers and other stakeholders in the Canadian media industry, Shannon Lewis, the president of the Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC), argues that leaders in the sector can make an impact “independent” of both Ottawa’s legislation and big tech’s ambitions.
The letter published Tuesday calls for media and advertising companies to pledge spending 25 per cent of their online digital marketing budgets through local media. Spending one of every four advertising dollars on local media would work out to $380 million in support for local Canadian journalism, according to Lewis, which she said would eclipse revenue estimates tied to Bill C-18.
The call comes amid years of declining advertising for Canadian news as ad dollars migrate to tech giants, Lewis wrote. Roughly 23.1 per cent of advertising dollars in the country went towards Canadian and local media in 2014; five years later that figure had declined to 5.7 per cent, she wrote.
Over the past 15 years, 473 local news outlets have closed, she added, affecting more than 300 communities across Canada.
Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News, also owns local newsrooms and radio stations in communities across the country.
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Lewis argued that a “robust and sustainable” media landscape in Canada is better for advertisers, too, giving them the ability to reach audiences through “trusted sources in brand-safe environments.”
“I am reaching out to you today, urging you to support our shared cause of protecting and strengthening local news in Canada,” she wrote.
“Your leadership and actions are crucial, and together we can make a significant impact.”
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It remains unclear what the lasting outcome will be of the Google and Meta blockades on Canadian news links.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said earlier this week that he is “very disappointed” by Meta’s stance, which he called “irresponsible.”
He said he is more pleased with Google, which has also said it will block news from Canadian publishers, but has remained in discussion with the government about what Big Tech regulation could look like.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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