Canadian Legislation Would Compel Digital Giants to Compensate News Publishers for the Use of Their Content - The Jewish Voice
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Canadian Legislation Would Compel Digital Giants to Compensate News Publishers for the Use of Their Content

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Canadian Legislation Would Compel Digital Giants to Compensate News Publishers for the Use of Their Content

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It seems like news outlets around the world may be seeing more revenue in their coffers thanks to legislation being introduced in Canada on Tuesday that would compel digital giants to compensate news publishers for the use of their content, according to a CBC report.

The CBC report indicated that the new regulatory regime would require companies like Google and the Meta Platforms-owned Facebook — and other major online platforms that reproduce or facilitate access to news content — to either pay up or go through a binding arbitration process led by an arms-length regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The New York Times reported that many Canadian publishers are experiencing their share of serious financial Challenges and have for quite some time now lobbied the government for such a measure. They have presented cogent arguments about how difficult it is to subsist on advertising revenue due to the fact that advertisers have overwhelmingly migrated to global online giants. Ad revenue generated by  print publications was once the foundation of their business, but that is no longer the case.

According to a government backgrounder distributed to reporters, the CBC reported that the compensation extracted from these digital giants must be used, in large part, to fund the creation of news content to protect the “sustainability of the Canadian news ecosystem.”

Since the popularity of the internet began to emerge in the late 1990s, the news industry has witnessed a steady decline in classified ads and print subscriptions, which have always been a major revenue stream.

The CBC report indicated that according to government figures, more than 450 news outlets in Canada have closed since 2008 and at least one third of Canadian journalism jobs have disappeared over that same time period.

The Times reported that Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage, said at a news conference that “the news sector in Canada is in crisis. This contributes to the heightened public mistrust and the rise of harmful disinformation in our society.” He added that, “Traditionally, advertising has been a major source of revenue for the news business. That’s less and less the case. I would say the reality is grim.”

The pressure to enact such legislation that will prop up the struggling news industry increased after Australia passed a similar measure in 2021 and Europe revised its copyright laws to compensate publishers, according to the Times report. The Canadian legislation would be different that the one passed in Australia in that it would include public reporting requirements and give an independent body, rather than the minister, the power to determine what operations qualify for the subsidies, according to the report.

Canadian government data has indicated that Google and Facebook have a combined 80 per cent share of all online ad revenue in Canada and rake in an eye-popping $9.7 billion a year, as was reported by the CBC.

Google and Facebook use news content on their sites “without really having to pay for it. With this bill, we’re seeking to address that market imbalance,” Rodriguez said, according to the CBC report,

The Times reported that Rodriguez said that he and officials had consulted with major tech companies extensively.

“They were open to regulation,” he said. “Are there things they agree or disagree with in the bill? We will know from future conversations.”

News Media Canada, a publishers’ group, welcomed the bill, according to the Times.

In a statement sent to the Times, Jamie Irving, the group’s chairman said, “Real news reported by real journalists costs real money. This legislation levels the playing field and gives Canada’s news publishers a fair shot and doesn’t require additional taxpayer funds.”

Google and Facebook use news content on their sites “without really having to pay for it. With this bill, we’re seeking to address that market imbalance,” Rodriguez said, as was reported by the CBC.

“News outlets and journalists must receive fair compensation for their work. It shouldn’t be free.”

Christopher Waddell, a professor emeritus of journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa told the Times that he was concerned about language in the new legislation that would allow the federal broadcast regulator to define which news organizations would be able to negotiate with tech companies for funds.

“To what degree when you start down this road are you pushed into the quagmire of government regulation and government control?” he said. “It’s a slippery slope.”

In February of 2021, the AP reported that Facebook, following in Google’s footsteps, says it plans to invest $1 billion to “support the news industry” over the next three years.

The social networking giant, which has been tussling with Australia over a law that would make social platforms pay news organizations, said it has invested $600 million since 2018 in news, according to the AP report.

Google said in October of 2020 that it would pay publishers $1 billion over the next three years.

Facebook said in 2021 that it would lift a ban on news links in Australian after the government agreed to tweak proposed legislation that would help publishers negotiate payments with Facebook and Google. The AP reported that Facebook was criticized for its ban, which also temporarily cut access to government pandemic, public health and emergency services on the social networking site.

Facebook said that the changes allow it to choose which publishers it will support and indicated that it will now start striking such deals in Australia, according to the AP report.

Google had already been signing content licensing deals with Australian media companies, and says that it has arrangements with more than 50 publishers in the country and more than 500 globally.

The 2021 report indicated that Microsoft is working with European publishers to push big tech platforms to pay for news. European Union countries are working on adopting copyright rules that allow news companies and publishers to negotiate payments.

In a related development, in November of 2021 it was reported that Rupert Murdoch, the Australian billionaire businessman and owner of News Corp (which owns the New York Post as well as other media outlets) took issue with “Big Tech” and its censorship policies that are designed to silence dissent and inhibit intellectual discourse. He specifically leveled criticism against Facebook and Google for their heavy-handed policies in quashing expression of conservative views.

In remarks to shareholders Murdoch said, “For many years, our company has been leading the global debate about Big Digital. What we have seen in the past few weeks about the practices at Facebook and Google surely reinforces the need for significant reform. There is no doubt that Facebook employees try to silence conservative voices, and a quick Google News search on most contemporary topics often reveals a similar pattern of selectivity — or, to be blunt, censorship.”

The Post was a victim of censorship last year when Twitter made the decision to shutter the Post’s account and silence the paper because they did not agree with a story the publication ran on the business ventures of Hunter Biden and efforts that the president’s son made to create a financial windfall through his family’s political connections in China.

Robert Thomson, News Corp.’s CEO, said the company opposed “cancel culture designed to silence diverse voices,” according to the Post report. (Additional reporting by Fern Sidman)







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