Digital giants must pay media to use information: Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez

OTTAWA — Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says the government is moving forward with plans to ensure digital giants pay Canadian media for the reuse of their news content.

OTTAWA — Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says the government is moving forward with plans to ensure digital giants pay Canadian media for the reuse of their news content.

Rodriguez is consulting with opposition parties on introducing a bill inspired by an Australian law requiring tech giants to pay for news content on their platforms.

The minister said a bill was a “top priority” for him and he was moving quickly to introduce it.

He said there was now a “critical situation” that needed to be resolved in the news industry in Canada.

Hundreds of newspapers and other news outlets have closed in Canada and the bulk of advertising revenue now goes to two digital companies, he said.

“Over the past 15 years, about 450 news outlets have closed,” Rodriguez said. “If you only go back to February 2020, 63 of these outlets have closed, so we need to act. I would say there is a crisis in the Canadian information system.”

Rodriguez said he believed the shutdown of Canadian media meant “our democracy hasn’t gotten stronger, but weaker.”

“We have to make sure that we have a system where we will have a strong and free independent press,” he said. “We must protect and ensure that Canadians have access to professional, impartial, neutral and non-partisan information.”

Last week, NDP MP Peter Julian wrote to Rodriguez accusing the government of dragging its feet. In his letter, he said “digital giants such as Facebook and Google have misappropriated the advertising revenue that our media is funded from.”

Julian told The Canadian Press that the NDP would be willing to work with the Liberal government to pass legislation modeled on Australian legislation.

The NDP MP said quick action was crucial during the pandemic as Canadians were basing important decisions, such as whether or not to wear a mask, on “misinformation” on digital platforms, rather than unbiased reporting by journalists.

Julian said making tech giants pay for news, like in Australia, would be “an important first step” to redress the balance and help keep local media alive.

Facebook, now known as Meta, initially responded to Australian law by blocking Australian news on its platform before reaching a deal with that country’s government.

Meta, who funds reporting grants at The Canadian Press, said he would not comment on Canada’s bill until he saw a draft. But he said that over the past four years he has invested nearly $10 million in partnerships and programs to encourage and support the development of sustainable business models for news outlets – print and broadcast – in Canada. .

Rodriguez said there was a ‘general consensus’ that Australia’s legislation was ‘fair’ – adding that ‘there will be things that will be uniquely Canadian’ in the bill he plans to introduce .

“I think it (will) be fair to everyone on all sides and protect the independence of the press and allow us to have a free press,” he said.

Lauren Skelly, spokesperson for Google Canada, said information is “vital to a thriving democracy” and “at the heart” of Google’s mission to make information “universally accessible and useful”.

But she said some aspects of Australia’s system were “unworkable”.

“Canada has the opportunity to create a world-class internet policy that strengthens the news industry and we look forward to working closely with the government to help achieve this goal,” she said. declared.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 25, 2022.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

Comments are closed.