The government’s inaction puts the Canadian news media at risk.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Let’s get right to the point. We, the signatories of this letter, are competitors. We publish news in all regions of Canada, in both languages. We don’t often see things the same way.
This open letter to you – and the place we give it in our publications – is therefore unprecedented, as is the threat to the news media in Canada. And, frankly, your government’s inaction is so offensive that it demands exceptional measures.
For months, you and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, have promised to act to put a stop to the monopolistic and predatory practices of Google and Facebook that are harming Canadian news media. Unfortunately, all we have so far are words. Words which, every week, become more and more hollow.
Use without paying
Google and Facebook use their internet control and highly sophisticated algorithms to steal 80% of all online advertising revenue in Canada. They share the work of professional journalists across the country without compensation.
The two web giants are using their monopoly power in the same way around the world, depriving journalism of the financial resources it needs to survive. It is not just a Canadian problem. The difference is that other countries are confronting it.
In Australia, Parliament, with all-party support, passed new legislation requiring Google and Facebook to bargain collectively with Australian media. These new rules are also accompanied by a rigorous enforcement system.
Time and time again, you, your Minister of Canadian Heritage and other elected officials have pledged to take similar action. After months of promises, there is still no legislation.
Divide and rule
With the summer recess approaching and the strong possibility of a fall general election, words alone will not be enough to sustain Canadian journalists during the long months of no legislative action and in facing the constant power games from Google and Facebook.
In fact, Facebook recently announced short-term trade deals with a few Canadian media outlets. Until the news media can bargain collectively with Google and Facebook, the two multinationals will continue to divide and rule, using their dominant market position to impose conditions that are favorable to them, to the detriment of smaller news media and more financially vulnerable.
Let’s be clear: Canadian news media are not looking for new funds, new taxes or user fees. We are not asking – and certainly do not want – any restrictions or regulations affecting freedom of expression.
In fact, the health of our democracy depends on a vibrant and healthy media environment. To put it bluntly, this means that you, Mr. Prime Minister, must keep your word by introducing legislation to break Google and Facebook’s stranglehold on news before the summer parliamentary recess. It is a question of political will. This is a promise from your government.
The fate of the news media in Canada depends on it. The same goes for our democracy.
Members of News Media Canada
Owner and editor of Viva Média