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Online News Act and the Pass Herald

Lisa Sygutek

Aug 23, 2023

Local Crownest Pass news is available online on our website or through hard copy sold throughout the community and delivered through the mail.

The Online News Act (‘Act’) is intended to ensure fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news outlets. Specifically, if tech giants like Facebook, Instagram and Google want to host Canadian news content on their platforms the Act requires that they compensate the media organizations that created the content. The tech giants don’t want to pay to host Canadian news content so for now they have blocked that content on their platforms.

The Act lays out a framework that would require digital giants to develop agreements with Canadian news sites to provide them with compensation for sharing their online news content through links or other means.

The Act “introduces a new bargaining framework intended to support news businesses to secure fair compensation when their news content is made available by dominant digital news intermediaries and generates economic gain,” an explanatory note from the government says. “It seeks to support balanced negotiations between the businesses that operate dominant digital news intermediaries and the businesses responsible for the news outlets that produce this news content.”

While this inconveniences some readers, local Crownest Pass news is available online on our website or through hard copy sold throughout the community and delivered through the mail.

Here’s how I see the problem. Newspapers hire the journalists who create the news content. The articles are uploaded to social media. The tech giants sell advertisements based on the traffic that the journalists bring to their sites. These advertising dollars would have traditionally been paid to the newspapers to cover the expenses of running the newsrooms. Without advertising, there is no money for newspapers to hire journalists and operate newsrooms. 

As a result of the lost revenue, more than 450 local Canadian news sites and newspapers have gone out of business in the last decade. That’s due to the huge economic power and influence of the tech giants — they basically put them out of business.

Some local residents, and indeed many Canadians across the country, may be confused about the impact of the Act, and tech giant responses to it.

Not helping are statements from some politicians, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, whose party ran on a similar platform in the 2021 election to make tech giants compensate media companies. “I think it’s like 1984. You have a Prime Minister passing a law to make news articles disappear from the internet,” Poilievre told the media on August 2.

News isn’t disappearing, it’s still there. Canadians can still access any news article they want by going directly to news websites, downloading mobile news apps, and subscribing to publications.

If we don’t figure out the compensation for news with the tech giants, I fear that there will be no more newspapers. The Act introduces the new bargaining framework, yet the tech giants argue the Act unfairly imposes on them what amounts to a tax on website links. According to government data, Google and Facebook have a combined 80 per cent share of all online ad revenue in Canada, bringing in about $9.7 billion per year. I’m pretty sure they have the money to compensate us for our articles.

News creation isn’t free. It requires an educated journalist to make it happen. It required a publisher and editor to make it happen. It requires an advertising manager to make it happen.

In the last 10 years we have seen unprecedented loss of revenues for newspaper in this country. I have lost close to a million dollars in revenue in that time alone. To compensate we have moved from an office of six people to three. We have little money left over to donate to community function or groups putting together incredible events. The Pass Herald is the diary of our community. Without advertising revenue, the Pass Herald won’t be around. I’m pretty sure the tech giants don’t care about our community, but they sure care about taking our stories and using it to boost their revenue at the sake of the Pass Herald.

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