Liberals’ Bill C-18 Seeks To Force Big Tech To Fund Legacy Media At Independent Media’s Expense

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on April 10, 2022

The Liberal government’s Heritage Minister MP Pablo Rodriguez is seeking to pass a new piece of legislation that under the guise of supporting Canadian local media will pad out the budgets of already subsidized legacy media, at the expense of independent news publications.

Bill C-18, according to the Office of the Ministry of Heritage: 

Bill C-18 would require tech giants to make fair commercial deals with outlets for the news and information that is shared on their platforms. The deals would need to provide fair compensation, respect journalistic independence and invest in a diversity of Canadian news outlets, including independent local businesses, among other criteria. The bill allows media outlets, big and small, to bargain collectively. This is fundamentally fairer for Canadian news media, which will be able to negotiate on more equal terms with the tech giants.

On its face, it all sounds like it is aimed at helping all Canadian media organizations, but, on top of the fact that it is unethical to legally squeeze companies to force them to pay higher ads revenue, it is only really aimed at helping media friendly to the Liberal government.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

Like Bill C-10 proposed in the previous Parliamentary session, the definition of what counts as a “Canadian media organization” is likely to be incredibly loose. Bill C-10 would have made it so that Canadian citizens producing Canadian news shows would not be pushed to the front of Youtube algorithms, but reruns of legacy media news broadcasts like CTV or CBC News would count.

Back when Bill C-10 was going through Parliament, Daniel Bordman made a good explanation on the way it selectively favours “Canadian content,” which simply means pushing pro-establishment sources.

Bill C-18, instead of forcing platforms like Google and Facebook to favour “Canadian content” in the algorithm, forces those platforms to pay out creators of “Canadian content” more ads revenue than the standard content creator would make.

Google and Facebook are likely not going to take a large hit from this legislative change in Canada, and will simply cut back on revenue for non-Canadian government-approved creators in favour of those friendly to the Liberals.

This means True North, Rebel News, The National Telegraph, Canadaland, The Post Millennial, etc, will all take revenue hits in order to redistribute larger portions of ads revenue from Google, Facebook, and other platforms, to legacy media outlets in Canada. 

It is notable that Minister Rodriguez’s own press release on C-18 basically admits that Canadian legacy media is incredibly unpopular compared to Canadian independent media and American media as at one point it states:

Collectively, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines have lost $4.9 billion over the past 12 years. At least one-third of Canadian journalism jobs have disappeared since 2010. From 2008 to August 2021, almost 450 news outlets have closed, with nearly 63 of those closures happening since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

This is not at all an endorsement of helping to prop up Canada’s already bloated and subsidized legacy media publications, it shows Canadians simply do not want to consume any of their content on mass. 

The CBC already gets over $1 billion in government funding every year (plus ads revenue), so if it isn’t able to prop itself up at this point, what would forcing platforms like Google and Facebook to give it a larger share of ads revenue actually accomplish? Money is clearly not the issue, the content is. 

In reality, the government does not care that the legacy media industry is unprofitable, they just want them to stick around for propaganda purposes, as well as to try and crowd out Canadian independent media. 

The silver lining for independent media is that the government can likely not subsidize its own media forever and we are merely seeing a dying form of government-friendly media trying to stay relevant in the face of the growing independent media industry in Canada.

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

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