The Online News Act explained

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, received Royal Assent on June 22nd. Here’s a Q&A to help explain what C-18 is, where things stand, and what the next steps are.

Why do we need C-18?

To address the negotiating imbalance between news publishers and platforms.

In the lead up to C-18, both Google and Meta did deals with some larger publishers. C-18 is intended to ensure that more publishers those who produce original public interest journalism of general interest to Canadians – get to the negotiating table with the platforms. It’s important for publishers to be compensated for the value of the content our journalists produce in order to sustain news businesses across Canada and keep Canadians informed and engaged.

What does C-18 do?

C-18 allows news businesses to negotiate collectively with dominant platforms. If negotiations don’t lead to a fair settlement, it goes to mediation and final offer arbitration overseen by the CRTC.

Which publishers are eligible?

Publishers with the QCJO designation are eligible.

While not in the original version of the Bill, News Media Canada pushed for and got an amendment that ensured that any publisher, who meets the following criteria, is eligible:

  • Produces news content of public interest that is primarily focused on matters of general interest and reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes, and
    • (i) regularly employs two or more journalists in Canada, which journalists may include journalists who own or are a partner in the news business and journalists who do not deal at arm’s length with the business,
    • (ii) operates in Canada, including having content edited and designed in Canada,
    • (iii) produces news content that is not primarily focused on a particular topic such as industry-specific news, sports, recreation, arts, lifestyle, or entertainment, and
    • (iv) is either a member of a recognized journalistic association and follows the code of ethics of a recognized journalistic association or has its own code of ethics whose standards of professional conduct require adherence to the recognized processes and principles of the journalism profession, including fairness, independence and rigour in reporting news and handling sources; or
  • Operates an Indigenous news outlet in Canada and produces news content that includes matters of general interest, including coverage of matters relating to the rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right of self-government and treaty rights.

What has the response from the platforms been?

Meta has blocked news and has given notice that it is terminating agreements with publishers. Google has also threatened to block news, but it is assessing the regulations.

What are the regulations?

On September 1st, the government unveiled the accompanying regulations. Highlights include:

  • The platforms would have to pay a floor of roughly 4% of Canadian revenue.
  • Agreements are to be within 20% of the average agreement.
  • An appropriate portion of the compensation will be used for the production of local, regional and national news content
  • Agreements must prohibit the following:
    • (a) taking retaliatory action in response to an editorial decision of a news business
    • (b) restricting actions a news business may take to protect journalistic independence; and
    • (c) intervening in a news business’s editorial process.

What happens next?

There is a 30-day comment period for the regulations.

Can I comment on the regulations?

Should you wish to comment, you have until October 2, 2023 at 11:59pm EST and you can do so here.

When will the regulations be finalized?

The regulations will be finalized by December 19, 2023.

How do I indicate my interest in participating in a News Media Canada collective group of publishers to negotiate?

So far, over 200 new titles have indicated their interested in joining a News Media Canada collective. Please click here if you are interested and haven’t told us yet.