The Comment

Federal Government Walks Away from traditional news media

TORONTO – A free and independent press (media) is the best safeguard for a healthy democracy. For us, there is a bit of self-service in repeating the phrase. Safeguards cost money, just like so many services and government programs.

In the marketplace, advertisers invest dollars in introducing products, maintaining service to clients and keeping their consumers current and interested in their supply of goods and services. There is no better client than the one you already have. It is true in the commercial world as it is in the political world.

In the governmental-political realm there is the added burden of expending public monies (tax dollars) to advance a governmental goal that serves collective interests and informing/educating the public of both the service and purpose of those interests. It is an obligation for responsible government.

A week ago, the Federal Government published its Annual Report on the Government of Canada Advertising Activities (2022-2023). Last year, across all platforms, the government spent $86.09 million to inform you about what it did with your money to make this country a better place. That’s the “good” news.

The reality check is that there are 40 million Canadians, so the government spent an average of two dollars and fifteen cents ($2.15) per Canadian to inform its residents. It gets worse. Forty-eight (48) government institutions, (see diagram 1.) “split” those dollars to reach Canadians via traditional (hard copy and over the air), digital (Google, Facebook etc.), and social media.

Of the overall total, only $944,602.00 was dedicated to print media – 2.3 pennies per person. One must guess that the Feds do not think anyone reads anymore! There is an election coming soon – hope they are right. As per the diagrams, 71% of all advertising dollars are going to digital and social platforms – none of them are Canadian companies.

Radio and TV combined received $10,203,131, ten times the amount spent on print media. Staying on theme, the big search engines, Google and Meta, received $16,780,189.00. Last year Meta/Facebook, Instagram blocked all Canadian news providers, Corriere included, from its platforms. Hold on; it gets even worse… for some.

The Report makes a big deal of the fact that the three super-agencies of government responsible for advertising (the Privy Council Office, Procurement and Treasury Board) comply diligently with the Official Languages Act and allocate funding according to a formula that reflects a Canada populated by 22% Francophones and 78% Anglophones. However, the 2021 census says 25% of the population identifies as speaking a third language at home and at work; so the Anglophone population must include that 25%. Guess how much their publications received in advertising.

You would be correct if your answer started with a Z. The tragedy is that that answer reflects the same amount expended among third language groups during the height of the pandemic when information flow was at a premium. Happily, publications like the Corriere Canadese continued responsible activities by researching and disseminating valuable information as a public service. But they are not the government.

Graphics from the Annual Report on the Government of Canada Advertising Activities (2022-23)

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