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 Time for “fair share”
in business and politics

TORONTO – The Minister for Canadian Heritage introduced a new concept for political and business decisions when he declared war on Digital Tech giants last week. The Minister affirmed that the Government of Canada (GC) would no longer advertise on Meta/Facebook unless it abides by Bills C-11 and C-18 and contributes its “fair share” towards the editorial costs of Canadian journalistic organizations.

A similar fate awaits Google – if either of them care. We should. Both are cannibalising the advertising marketplace, thus threatening the lifeblood of journalistic organizations everywhere. We applaud his “tough guy” approach. We hope it is infectious.

Through its fifty-two (52) “institutions” (Departments and Agencies), the GC, in 2022-2023, distributed $138 million (figures rounded) in advertising to get its message out. This does not include the circa $1.4 Billion allocated to the CBC-Radio Canada, on an annual basis.

It is not doing it out of love. The GC’s official website emphasizes its “obligation to inform Canadians about policies, programs, services, rights and responsibilities, as well as to alert them of dangers to health, safety or the environment. Advertising is one means of communications used to achieve this.”

Actually, when it comes to delivering a message, it is the only one. There are two types of advertising: either “earned” or “paid”. Hence the problem. Independent, local journalists have a professional interest in shaping, analysing and presenting a story involving government initiatives in the lives of the citizenry. When said journalism reports on that “activity” as part of its civic duty, those stories (free advertising for GC) are considered “earned” – no cost to the government. No outcome predetermined.

Digital giants have no such civic duty. They are simply in the business of “renting space” on their platforms ‘to whoever wants to ride their train’. Someone else has “to create the story and buy the ticket”. That is paid advertising.

Back to the “obligation” and “fair share”. Canada is now a country of forty (40) million people. The latest Census (2021) found that roughly 23% self-identified as Ethnic – being neither Anglophone (51%), Francophone (22%) or Aboriginal in origin (4%). Yet only $8.9 Million of the $138 million in advertising was dedicated to fulfilling the obligation to informing and alerting those culturally and linguistically diverse Canadians.

If the GC’s expectation is that its ad buys are part of its plan to sustain a vibrant and independent journalism sector, it might want to reassess its meagre $1.6 Million allocation to ethnic print media (AR on GC Advertising Activities, 2021-2022). That amounts to barely 5% of all funds spent on print advertising.

This is where it becomes uncomfortable. Just three of the self-identified European-Canadian ethnic groups (Italian, Polish, Ukrainian) combined account for approximately 14% of Canada’s population. The Italian group alone numbers 1.4 million. Corriere Canadese, one of only two ethnocultural daily newspapers did not receive any advertising from the GC. Neither did its Digital site.

Remember we are talking exclusively about fulfilling an obligation to advertise to inform and alert. Television viewership and radio audiences are shrinking as the Digital giants grow their business model. Nonetheless, the GC continues to bestow monies and monopolies to the CBC, Bell and Rogers.

The clarion call for ethnocultural press and media should be: “give us our fair share” of our own advertising money.

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