Feds must take ‘urgent’ action on news industry report

2017.01.26 | NEWS RELEASE

OTTAWA  – CWA Canada, the country’s only all-media union, is calling on the federal government to take urgent action in response to today’s independent report on the news industry.

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said it’s imperative that the feds move quickly to help the industry and stop the tremendous damage being done by Postmedia.

O’Hanlon welcomes at least three of the Public Policy Forum report’s 12 recommendations, especially the call for allowing non-profit organizations to qualify for charity status and receive support from philanthropic foundations.

“We at CWA Canada have been urging this for some time in order to encourage local, non-profit ownership of newspapers rather than the destructive, predatory hedge fund disaster that is Postmedia,” O’Hanlon said.

“But this alone won’t break up the Postmedia monopoly. We also need the government to introduce legislation or regulations to limit concentration of media ownership and prevent destructive leveraged purchases of important national companies.”

The other two recommendations CWA Canada supports immediately:

  • The creation of the Journalism and Democracy Fund that would invest in digital-news innovation and civic-function journalism, with an initial focus on local and indigenous news operations.
  • Changing the Income Tax Act to remove tax deductions on foreign digital advertising, to favour the placement of ads on Canadian websites.

“Almost 90 per cent of Canadian digital advertising dollars go to foreign-owned companies like Google and Facebook that have an unfair tax advantage and that simply must change,” O’Hanlon said. “Otherwise Canadian media companies will continue to struggle and fight amongst themselves over the digital ad crumbs.”

The situation is more complicated at Postmedia, which has been hurt by its self-created debt and hedge fund ownership as much as by declining print ad revenues.

Under CEO Paul Godfrey, his team, and the hedge fund lenders who keep them in their pockets, Postmedia has been in a long freefall. The newspaper chain is collapsing, communities are being hurt, and journalism is in steep decline.

This week, Postmedia began serving notice of layoff, which, combined with recent buyouts, will cut the company’s workforce by about 20 per cent. That’s on top of the 50-per-cent cut (3,000 jobs) in the last six years.

Despite the layoffs, the company continues to pay bonuses to its top executives. O’Hanlon noted that the $2.3 million in “retention” bonuses paid to Godfrey and friends could save up to 40 jobs. CWA Canada is demanding that Postmedia rescind the bonuses and use the money to save the jobs.
CWA Canada represents about 6,000 media workers at companies across the country, including the CBC, The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters, and many Postmedia publications.

For more information, contact:
Martin O’Hanlon
President, CWA Canada
(613) 867-5090
mohanlon@cwa-scacanada.ca

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