Federal government’s plan to support news industry falls short of expectations

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to provide media organizations with assistance, in order to keep journalists working, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said Trudeau: “Right now, it is more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information. To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital work, our government is announcing new measures to support them.”

This afternoon, the details arrived. And they likely won’t do enough to help struggling Canadian news publishers.

“Canada’s news media appreciates that the Prime Minister and the government recognize their work, but this is a crisis for the industry and we need support to continue, not just rehash announcements of last year’s promises,” says John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada.

In the August 2018 mandate letter issued to Pablo Rodriguez, the then-minister of Canadian Heritage was tasked with ensuring that the government’s advertising budget better supported Canadian content providers and platforms. This was to be done in tandem with several other government ministers, including those from the Treasury Board, Public Services, and Digital Government.

“While the commitment to place ads in Canadian media is certainly welcome, and will provide short term support there are bigger systemic issues that need to be addressed,” said Hinds

In order to meet the needs of struggling Canadian news publishers, Hinds says the federal government would be much better served by providing more generous support to publishers through an expanded Aid to Publishers program. As well, publishers would be helped if the federal government could provide clearer guidelines on eligibility for taxation credits.

“At the current moment, about three-quarters of Canadian news media companies are stuck out in the cold,” says Hinds with respect to the government tax credit program.

News Media Canada will continue to bring these concerns to the attention of public policy makers.