The Comment

Online News Act, Google moderates its position on C-18

TORONTO – One hundred million dollars($100,000,000) sounds like a lot of money, so one “should not look a gift horse in the mouth”. Unless, that gift horse was yours initially and is now being returned in pieces. Before anyone comes across as ungrateful, lets acknowledge [minor] victories for the side, when they occur.

The Government of Canada was able to bring Google, the biggest of the tech giants, to the negotiating table with the aim of having it, and others, compensate independent “news producers” for the product they have aired gratis until the passage and implementation of the Online News Act – Bill C-18.

News outlets were abuzz yesterday with the [leaked] news that Google had returned to the negotiating table with the government. Both sides adopted a more conciliatory tone towards negotiating fair compensation for the use and transmission of product generated by outlets like the Corriere Canadese.

The complaint against those tech giants (Google, Facebook/Meta and others) was and is that they suck advertising dollars from the marketplace, giving nothing back and “killing independent, ‘local’ journalism” in the process. The public demanded a mitigating intervention by the Government, which in turn, responded with Bill C-18 compelling Google and Meta make annual payments to news ( Print, Radio, Television) companies for their losses. The government Claimed about $234 million as a staring position, with about $172 million of it from Google.

Meta blocked all Canadian news outlets from its platforms. Goggle threatened to do the same. In the third quarter, it declared revenues of $76.3 billion (worldwide), an 11.87% increase over the same period last year. The Government of Canada has been spending an increasing amount in advertising on social media platforms.

It spent [virtually] nothing on print media in the ethnocultural last year, or in our case, since the Corriere was taken out of bankruptcy in 2013. It is not a partisan issue. Under the Harper government, because we were seen to be “Liberal”; under Trudeau, “not Liberal enough”.

We are part of the ethnocultural, multilingual media sector which identifies with the roughly 24 % of Canadians who self-identify as functioning in a language other than English or French. Our position is supported by Canada’s Multicultural Act and the Charter of Rights. The Italian Canadian community is 4.5% of the total Canadian population. The Canadian government, however large or small its advertising budget may be, has an obligation to inform its citizenry on its programs and on how it proposes to advertise them.

Last year, according to some of the governments’ own estimates, it spent a minimum of $20 million (Google’s reported $100 million suggest the real number is much bigger) in direct advertising to the two tech giants – none with us. Even at that minimum, roughly $900,000 should have been made available to Italian language Press and Media.

Where did that money – Tax dollars – go? I am not aware how much advertising went to our other ethnocultural, multilingual partners in NEMPCC – combined they represent 24% of Canadians.

Even now, at $100 million, the proposed sums may be allocated on a gross subsidy basis to the roughly 8,000 qualified “journalists” in the country (including the staff at CBC- Radio Canada who currently receive c. $1.5 Billion in annual government subsidy), about $12,500 each.

As I said, count our blessing, but do not blow it all in one single eatery.

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