Editorial: Bill C-18 helps old media while hindering new media

The Government of Canada’s advertising expenditures in the 2021-2022 fiscal year reveal a stark contrast in their support for social platforms versus traditional media. A whopping $21,205,519 was allocated to advertising on social platforms, with Facebook and Instagram alone receiving $11,423,728 (53.87%). The government invested a mere $6,511,880 in print media advertising.

Ironically, the government champions Bill C-18, touting it to hold social media giants accountable for using content from Canadian news publications that receive minimal financial support from the feds. However, the passage of this legislation, known as the Online News Act, coupled with Meta’s recent decision to block news content on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users, places our publication and countless others in a precarious position.

While Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, Post Media, supports Bill C-18, it’s worth noting that they received $10 million from the media bailout a few years back. It is unsurprising, then, that they would favour government intervention.

Unfortunately, the repercussions of this legislation are dire for independent publications like ours. Meta’s move to sever access to news content on their platforms further exacerbates the situation, potentially severing a significant channel through which we reach our audience.

MorinvilleNews.com has served our community for 13 years, providing essential information and creating local engagement. However, Bill C-18 and Meta’s news blockade’s collective impact threatens our existence and those of other non-traditional print media outlets. At some point between dwindling revenues and now government meddling, one has to seriously consider just pulling the pin.

Diminished traffic to our daily news site would make it increasingly challenging to keep the community informed, ultimately undermining our ability to sustain our operations. What remains uncertain is when and for how long Facebook’s news ban is likely to occur.

In the same week that Meta, the owner of Facebook, has indicated it will not negotiate with the feds on pulling Canadian news from its platform, Post Media, which is majority owned by a US hedge fund, is in talks to merge with Nordstar, the owner of the Toronto Star and its Canadian dailies and weeklies. The proposed merger is to save them all from sinking and to compete with the Internet giants.

Meanwhile, should the blockade come to pass, independent publications will lose a share of our news site audience because the federal government has decided to step in on behalf of the sobbing media giants in Canada.

Bill C-18, now officially enacted, will allocate funds to major media outlets. However, it will hinder rather than assist small independent news publications like ours, which have yet to be on the feds’ radar for consideration or consultation.

When the government spends 3.25 times more on social channels than on print and online media sites, it becomes clear that Bill C-18 is nothing more than empty virtue signalling from the Trudeau Government.

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