Concerns are growing that Canada’s Online News Act (Bill C-18) might heavily favor established big media when it comes to the revenue share they will be able to collect thanks to the proposed legislation, should it become law.
This issue was first raised when the bill was introduced earlier in the year, but now some estimates and statements coming from the country’s parliament and MPs are reinforcing fears that C-18 will not only give most of the money to giants like Bell and Rogers – but also pave the way to (re)define what a news outlet is.
The bill, as presented by the authorities, has the goal of improving fairness in the economic relationship between news businesses and online platforms by enhancing their bargaining position.
Another is to support news businesses to negotiate and receive fair compensation when third parties with a dominant market position monetize their news content.
At the same time, polls show that Canadians are most interested in C-18 ensuring journalistic standards and ethics – and protecting local news by helping them survive in the market.
However, a committee heard from the Parliamentary Budget Office that the biggest beneficiaries would be CBC, Bell, Rogers, and several other large broadcasters who would get the lion’s share of the estimated $329 million per year. Hundreds of news outlets, meanwhile, would have to divide under 25% of that figure among themselves.
But the optics here could be much better if one could whittle down the number of news outlets by declaring that hundreds of them are actually – not news sites.
In response to an amendment to the bill, Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner recently dismissed online news organizations that have appeared since 2008 as “not news” but rather “opinion organizations.”
“They’re not gathering news. They’re publishing opinion only,” said Hepfner, bizarrely, clearly ignoring the fact that there are many online news outlets that produce legitimate news and that the bill is catering to mainstream media at the expense of rising news outlets.