Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he is looking at how other countries are trying to get companies such as Facebook and Google to pay for the copyrighted content, in a May 12, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ottawa examining new, existing tools to get web giants to pay up: Guilbeault

Global decline in ad dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — The federal heritage minister says if new tools are needed to get digital giants to pay for Canadian content, they will be built.

Steven Guilbeault says he is watching how other countries are trying to get companies such as Facebook and Google to pay for the copyrighted content that appears on their online platforms.

Australia and France have moved ahead on measures to help domestic media outlets, which often say they are losing ad money to international digital giants.

With a global decline in ad dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, calls are growing louder for Canada to follow suit.

Guilbeault says Australia and France have regulatory or legislative options that might not be on the table in Canada.

But he told the House of Commons industry committee Monday night that he is reviewing what is, or what might be needed.

Facebook and Google have both said they are strong supporters of local journalism, pointing to related funds and causes they support in the countries where they have a presence.

But Guilbeault says the government is still examining the issue closely.

“We’ve said for many months that we want the web giants to do their fair share, and clearly right now they’re not,” he said in response to a question from fellow Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.

“If we can use existing tools to make that happen, we will, and if we need to create new tools, we will.”

Earlier this month, several Canadian publishers banded together and published an open letter demanding the government force digital companies to share advertising revenues with Canadian media outlets.

While the sector was already struggling ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, a dramatic decline in advertising revenue has placed significant additional pressure on the companies.

One estimate suggests 50 community newspapers have closed since the outbreak of the pandemic, with 100 media outlets making cuts to operations in six-week period.

As many as 2,000 people have also lost their jobs, indicates an analysis conducted by the local news research project at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, the journalism news site J-Source and the Canadian Association of Journalists.

In March, the Liberal government announced a $30-million ad campaign for COVID-19 awareness as a stop-gap measure as it moves to roll out additional support to the media industry in the form of tax credits announced last year.

Guilbeault said the ads were placed in more than 900 newspapers, on 500 radio and television stations and in 12 different languages.

Altogether, 97 per cent of the money was spent in Canadian media, he said. He did not say where the remaining three per cent of funds were spent.

Both Facebook and Google have, in the past, pointed to their own financial support of local journalism, both in Canada and other countries.

Facebook has given US$5,000 grants to around 80 Canadian news outlets in recent weeks as part of a major financial effort to support COVID-19 related journalism here and in the United States.

Google has also allocated funds from its news initiative program to some Canadian media outlets.

While those two companies are the most common targets of lawmakers around the world as the dominant players in online advertising, any legislative or regulatory move could affect other social media companies or search engines as well.

Facebook and Google did not immediately respond for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020.

Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Only 13 new COVID-19 cases confirmed by Alberta gov’t Saturday

There’s currently only two active cases in province’s central zone

Central Alberta naturalists fear pristine headwaters will be contaminated by coal mine

Chutes of the Ram constitute one of Earth’s ‘most beautiful’ spots

Every Albertan eligible for COVID-19 testing

22 new cases confirmed on Friday

Sylvan Lake’s Lakefront Park public washrooms open

A team will work to regularly clean the washrooms resulting in periodic 20-minute closures

Fast-food restaurants serving up free non-medical masks

Free protection will come in packages of four

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Sylvan Lake News is firmly committed to seeing you through the changes ahead, but we need your help

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Sylvan Lake News is firmly committed to seeing you through the changes ahead, but we need your help

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

International student worry about pandemic as decisions loom on travel to Canada

Zohra Shahbuddin is weighing whether to enrol this fall or put off coming to Canada until next year

How finding a ministerial home for CMHC caused ‘madness’ in November

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. manages the national housing strategy

‘What do we do now?’ Labour dispute at Regina refinery nears 6 months

About 700 unionized workers were locked out by refinery owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Dec. 5

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Most Read