Report on ailing media industry proposes new funding model

2017.06.15

A parliamentary report released today offers 20 recommendations to help the ailing media industry get through a period of major upheaval.

A key proposal is the creation of a new government funding model that is platform agnostic and would support Canadian journalistic content. Another suggests leveling the playing field across all platforms so that foreign news aggregators such as Google and Facebook are subject to the same tax treatment as Canadian providers.

Among the recommendations are a requirement that CBC eliminate advertising on its websites; allow media companies to deduct taxes on digital advertising on Canadian-owned platforms; and a tax credit for print outlets for digital investments.

While CWA Canada supports aid for the print media industry, said President Martin O’Hanlon, “the devil is in the details.”

“We must ensure that any government subsidies go toward creating front-line journalism jobs and increasing quality civic journalism,” O’Hanlon said. “They must not be used for executive bonuses or to feed hedge fund lenders as we worry would happen at Postmedia.”

The heritage committee, chaired by Liberal MP Hedy Fry, also sought a five-per-cent tax on broadband internet services, with the revenues being directed into a media fund that would support the creation of Canadian content.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to reject that proposal, saying he would not support more taxes on the middle class.

The report, entitled Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape, is the result of year-long study.

“Witnesses pointed out the slow decline of local and regional print and broadcast media, and its negative impact on democracy,” Fry said in a news release. “Local media allows Canadians of all backgrounds, cultures and opinions to be informed and participate in the democratic life of their country.”

The 131 witnesses, drawn from print, broadcast and digital media experts and academia appeared before the Committee to provide their views on the state of Canadian media today. Many expressed concerns about the concentration of media ownership and its negative effect on the diversity of voices locally, regionally and nationally.

“We heard about the challenges caused by news aggregation, which often conflated verifiable and accountable news sources with ‘citizen journalism’, giving rise to the phenomenon of ‘fake news’, said Fry. “It was noted that the very nature of journalism is changing in the digital age‎ and it was imperative that all media follow the same ethical and regulatory guidelines.”

CBC/Radio-Canada’s local services also loomed large in discussions. The committee reiterated the importance of the national public broadcaster and its role in the production and dissemination of ‘locally reflective’ news and programming across all platforms.

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