(OTTAWA) Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne’s attempt to frame the negotiation of revenue-sharing agreements between web giants and news media like in Australia has failed. The government has indicated that it is rejecting two of the ten amendments to Bill C-18 submitted by the Senate last week.
“I’m not surprised,” she responded. The government had been quite clear that it was going to reject this amendment. I must tell you that I am a little perplexed by the explanation in the message. »
His two amendments sought to recognize that the media also derive an advantage when their content is broadcast on digital platforms and that the value of this advantage should be part of the negotiations for revenue-sharing agreements with the web giants.
She wanted to clarify the content of the negotiations of revenue sharing agreements as Australia had done. “It was the Australian code way,” she explained. So, this is our model and it seemed to me that it lacked clarity to have no object in the negotiations. »
In the message that will be sent to the Senate after a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, the government considers that they “undermine the objectives of the bill” for the conclusion of fair agreements “and that they reduce the scope of the process negotiation”.
In particular, the government accepts an amendment to delay the coming into force of the bill for six months after royal assent, another so that a media outlet can opt out of this new regime and others so that C-18 applies to official language minority media, Indigenous media or those serving Black and racialized communities.
“Since 2008, there are nearly 500 media outlets, newsrooms that have closed across the country. That’s in 335 different communities, so there’s probably zero or very few MPs where there hasn’t been a newsroom closure in their riding. It affects us all,” he said during his chamber address on Monday.
“We are very concerned about the path we are on and are urgently seeking to work with the government to find a compromise that would avoid a negative outcome for Canadians,” said Google spokesperson in Canada Shay. Purdy. Google had limited access to news to about one million users in Canada last winter before backtracking. Meta followed suit earlier this month.
A vote on the government’s message to the Senate will take place in the House of Commons over the next few days, but it is expected to pass with the support of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois. It will then be sent to the Senate where it could be adopted by Thursday.
“We will ensure that C-18 is adopted as quickly as possible. I think it’s been going on long enough, “said Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux, in a press scrum.
“There is something suspicious about the 1,300 job cuts at Bell Media just before the bill became law,” Conservative MP and former sportscaster Kevin Waugh said in a scrum Monday. The Conservatives, who are against Bill C-18, believe that only major media like CBC/Radio-Canada, Rogers and Bell Media will be winners.
Several media have announced cuts since the start of the year, including Bell Media last Wednesday. Google and Meta, owners of Facebook and Instagram, take the vast majority of online revenue, and this loss of ad revenue is hurting newsrooms.
The government estimates that between 450 and 500 media could be eligible to negotiate agreements with the two web giants after the bill is passed.
The lack of news content on Facebook began to be noticed by users last week, days away from its final adoption. However, if access to the news is permanently cut off once the law is in force, Meta will not have to conclude agreements with the media, the office of Minister Rodriguez confirmed last week.
“Canada is a small player, but which at the moment serves as a bit of an example for Google and Facebook, remarks Senator Miville-Dechêne. It’s really quite a difficult game, you see. I don’t know if it’s a bluff or not. »
The two web giants accuse Canada of undermining free internet by imposing a price on hyperlinks. The Parliamentary Budget Officer had estimated that the news media could raise $330 million.
Meta has already signed agreements with 18 media, including Le Devoir, the six Coops de l’information dailies and the Toronto Star in 2021.