The promise of a speech from the throne to force big tech to pay for Canadian content could make a big difference for the struggling media companies, the attorney says
The Confederation’s Speech from the Throne provided a good news nugget for the Canadian media industry after a long and costly battle against content poaching tech giants.
Canada will pass a new law that will force companies like Facebook and Google to pay for the stories, music and videos they record and post online, the speech said in the throne.
The two companies have a “digital duopoly” on advertising, excluding local media that create much of the content, and advocates of better regulation have long argued that Canadian publishing laws are out of date, mostly for the pre-digital age.
The government’s promise could make a big difference to the struggling media companies, said John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada, a newspaper advocacy group that has pushed for a policy change to protect the dwindling industry.
“I think this really cements the government’s commitment,” Hinds said on Wednesday. “So far (the government) has been conspicuously silent, although (Canadian Minister for Cultural Heritage) Steven Guilbeault has taken it over in recent months.”
Governor General Julie Payette’s speech said: “Web giants are taking Canadians’ money and setting their own priorities. Things have to change and will change.
“The government will ensure that their revenues are more fairly shared with our creators and media, and they will also be encouraged to help create, produce and distribute our stories on screen, in text, in music and in writing.”
Hinds said Guilbeault had indicated that the legislation could go to cabinet soon since the legislation was introduced in the spring.
That won’t be fast enough to protect local radio and television stations, said Lenore Gibson, chairman of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.
“Without immediate action this fall, Canada will see local television and radio bans across the country,” Gibson said in a statement.
“This will deny communities access to local news and a daily media voice, and it will reduce the diversity of Canadian news in our provinces and territories. This is particularly worrying as local news has never been more important to keeping communities safe and informed, ”she said.
While the Broadcasting Association backed Wednesday’s pledge, Gibson said new laws and regulations “take time – something that private local television and radio stations don’t have.”
Gibson said private broadcasters are hoping for government support on “additional short-term measures”.
Hinds said he believes Australia’s plans for new laws that resulted in threats to discontinue Facebook and Google services are worth considering here. Australian law would force the digital giants to negotiate payments with news organizations.
At the time, the star’s Guilbeault Susan Delacourt said the Canadian government “stands with our Australian partners and denounces all forms of threat.”
Hinds hopes Canada will keep its promise of change.
“The alternative is a combined market failure and, in my opinion, a reliance on public funding for the news industry that not many people will be comfortable with in the long run,” he said.
“I sat at my desk and watched (the Speech from the Throne) on my computer,” Hinds said. “It was a long speech, but it was a pleasant surprise and worth waiting for.”
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