News Media Canada statement on 2018 Federal Budget

There is no mention of news media in the Minister’s budget speech.

In the Budget document, there is a section entitled “Supporting Local Journalism” that has two announcements, both of which have already been reported over the past few days.

First, the federal government will be providing $50 million over five years starting in 2018-2019 to one or more independent non-governmental organizations to support local journalism in under-serviced communities. The organizations will have full responsibility to administer the funds, respecting the independence of the press. There is no indication of who that organization or organizations will be.

The second item is that the federal government will, over the next year, be exploring new models that will enable private giving and philanthropic support for trusted, professional, non-profit journalism and local news. According to the budget document: “this could include new ways for Canadian newspapers to innovate and be recognized to receive charitable status for not-for-profit provision of journalism, reflecting the public interest that they serve.”

Unfortunately, there is no mention of increased support for the Aid to Publishers program.

There is little else in the budget that is of help to the industry. While not directly linked to media, the government has announced increased funding of $500 million over five years for the regional economic development agencies and are asking the agencies to “assist with adoption of new technologies and processes,” which may be of help to the industry.

Key points to consider:

  • While we welcome the government plans to explore the expansion of the charitable model to allow support for newspapers, we are disappointed in the lack of support for the industry.
  • We are concerned that the amount announced is far too little to address the growing challenge of providing local news. It falls well short of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as well as the Public Policy Forum’s Shattered Mirror report.
  • The industry had requested $350 million to support a Canadian Journalism Fund which would have supported journalism across the country and allowed Canada’s news media industry to continue to provide high-quality civic journalism.
  • We are concerned that the focus of the funding announcement is on communities that have already lost newspapers and are now under-serviced, rather than on supporting existing newspapers and their journalists to allow them to continue to provide local news in their communities.
  • $10 million a year for the next five years will not prevent more newspapers from closing nor will it bring back any of the estimated 16,500 journalism jobs that have been lost across the country over the past 10 years. In the coming months and years, more and more Canadian communities will lose their local newspaper.
  • To put the amount announced in the budget in context, $10 million/year is the cost of running a newsroom in one mid-sized Canadian daily newspaper. Having to spread that amount of money over Canada’s 3700 municipalities will mean that there will not be sufficient funding to support real investment in journalism and local news.
  • We are also concerned that there is no additional funding available for the Canada Periodical Fund. The government is looking at changing the Fund to include digital publications, and we are concerned that without additional resources, the existing participants would see their level of support fall, which would further reduce their ability to cover their communities.