OTTAWA, ON (June 7, 2023): The creation and rise of high-speed Internet has been nothing short of revolutionary. It has put all the vastness of human knowledge at our fingertips and birthed entirely new industries. Where some industries have adapted to new ways of delivering their goods and services, others have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Canada’s newspaper business joins the latter group.
In this new MLI paper, And now, the news: A national news media policy for Canada, Senior Fellow Peter Menzies and Konrad von Finckenstein propose the basis of a Canadian National News Media Policy which would ensure fair commercial treatment for Canada’s news producers, allow for a free and independent media to flourish, and for public trust to be maintained.
“It is generally accepted that the provision of unbiased, fair, accurate, balanced journalism is required for democratic societies to be well informed,” write Menzies and von Finckenstein. “What’s necessary, given the evolved economics of news, is for policy-makers to ensure that it is possible for good journalists employed by competent operators to fill that role in a financially stable fashion.”
In that spirit, Menzies and von Finckenstein highlight six areas in which public policy-makers can assist in the development of legislation to support a sustainable news industry:
- Reform the CBC’s role as a commercial competitor;
- Encourage news subscriptions through tax benefits;
- Support the digital transition of news media;
- Reform current tax benefits and funds in support of journalism;
- Re-evaluate the role of the CRTC,
- And, create a Canadian Journalists Fund.
Menzies and von Finckenstein accept that the industry must take responsibility for its own state of affairs: to date, much of the lobbying for policy changes has focused on rescuing struggling business models rather than inspiring new ones. The most recent effort involves the tabling of the Online News Act (Bill C-18) aiming to redistribute advertising income from offshore tech companies like Meta and Google to national news companies. This is untenable.
“The industry and public policy-makers need to accept that during a period of disruption… there will be companies incapable of surviving… What is necessary is not the survival of all companies currently involved in producing journalism, but that journalism and journalists can transition from unstable platforms to those capable of sustaining the work in the future,” write the authors.
“Allowing market forces to drive the industry is, ultimately, the solution.”
To learn more, read the full paper here:
Peter Menzies is a Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and spent close to 10 years as a member of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, including terms as a part-time Commissioner, regional Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories and as vice-chair of Telecommunications.
Konrad W. von Finckenstein is a Senior Fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute, focusing mainly on communications law, dispute resolution, competition law, and mergers and acquisitions.
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