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Hardball send-off by Tech
Giants to Federal Government

TORONTO – Happily, Canadians need not live the realities of a “shooting war” like the one in Ukraine or the raging civil unrest that resembles one, as in France. We are insulated from those realities by the distance, the demeanour of our protestors and the topics which apparently motivate Canadian debate and perceptions.

We live in a bubble, a “la-la land”, judging by the reactions of the Big Tech giants (Google and Meta/Facebook) to the Federal government’s passage of two Bills, C-11 and C-18.

This latter Bill proposes to compel the digital platforms to compensate news providers for some of their editorial costs. Based on the Australian model, Google/Meta and others would only be compelled to negotiate the amount, about 25% of newsroom expenses (the Italian model’s comparative has a limit of 75%), with Qualified Canadian Journalistic Organizations (QCJO).

Corriere Canadese is one such QCJO. There is only one other third language print outlet with said designation. We, and our readers, have a material interest in those negotiations – if and when they take place.

Whether for English, French or “other” language press/broadcasters, Google/Meta have objected from when the Minister for Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, first proposed his two Bills. The Bills have been approved in Parliament; now the designated Government agency has begun the prerequisite Regulatory consultations required by law before the Bills are “implemented”.

As the Parliament rose for its summer recess, Google issued a warning to the government of Canada. It intends to join Meta in blocking Canadians from linking to news sources via their platforms, from the day that Bill C-18 would take effect later in December of 2023.

Print and electronic advertising are the life blood of both communications mediums. Traditional advertisers in North America are moving to digital providers. Last year, the estimated Advertising Invoice total for all of North America was circa $360 Billion – 75% of that had already migrated to digital formats; the trend is upward. Canada’s share is less than 10% of the combined total.

The reasons may be numerous and complex. In this instance, the Digital Giants are saying “too bad, so sad: that’s the market”. In fact, advertising in radio is now at 1% of the total, while 2% still relies on Print. Governments, including and especially the federal one, are no different. The feds allocate 95% of their ad buy to digital distributers.

From our perspective, Google/Meta appear to be pushing back with the argument that if governments want to ‘protect and promote’ independent quality local journalism, they should invest with advertising dollars, not with punitive legislation that shifts responsibility onto a private sector foreign entity.

By way of contrast, Italy, and other European nations facing similar problems and wishing to stem the tide of jobs losses in the ‘creative sector’ and erosion of sovereign reporting have resorted to Civil Court actions to “bring the giants in line”.

In May, the European Court levied a 1.2 billion Euro fine against Meta for breach of privacy and other issues…

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