More publishers need a fair deal

Editor’s Note

To help save their country’s conflict-free press system, the US Congress and Canada’s parliament can help publishers receive fair compensation from major tech platforms by using their news content. Canada is close to passing such a policy as the US version is being revised in the Senate. Here, leaders from the Canadian Press Association explain how this approach works and why it is necessary.

During Canada’s 2021 federal election campaign, several political parties committed to introduce news remuneration laws.

Why is such a law needed?

First, the need for strong, independent local news has never been greater – it engages and informs on issues directly affecting communities. Keeping city halls, provincial and territorial legislatures, our courts and parliamentarians in mind is vital to our democracy. we asked polara, a leading research firm, to ask a question to Canadians. Ninety-nine percent of respondents said they believe it is important that local media outlets survive. And for those outlets to survive, they have to be commercially viable.

Second, there is a significant imbalance of power between the tech giants and Canadian news outlets. To put this in perspective, Google has a market capitalization of about $2.3 trillion; Meta is over half a trillion. Overall, this is larger than the GDP of Canada, Brazil, Italy or India. On a combined basis, these companies account for over 80% of online advertising revenue. And the pandemic has only worsened the situation.

Third, with Canadian legislation likely, Google and Meta negotiated content licensing agreements with more than a dozen news publishers, including big players like the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. These publishers should be compensated for their content. But now we have the situation of Canadian news publishers, with Google and Meta picking winners and losers. And that’s not fair—especially for the many smaller publishers that have been left out in the cold.

In April, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced the bill. C-18, Online News Act, According to the same Polara survey, 80% of Canadians support parliament passing a law that would let smaller outlets interact collectively with web giants. Our organizations represent hundreds of credible news headlines in every province and territory, and support this law for three reasons.

First, it allows us publishers to come together and interact collectively. Currently, the Competition Act prohibits us from making collectives. Given the huge power imbalance, we will be in a strong bargaining position if we stand together.

Second, it involves an enforcement mechanism. Baseball-style final offer arbitration ensures that the parties put forward their best offer and the arbitrator chooses one or the other. The hammer of arbitration prompts both the parties to reach a fair settlement on their own.

Third, a similar law is at work in Australia. According to rod sims, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, paid news organizations more than $200 million. More important than who accessed the content licensing agreements. Country Press Australia, an affiliation of 160 smaller regional newspapers, was able to settle with Google and Meta. Recently, a group of 24 small Australian publishers entered into an agreement with Google. We recognize that Google has, to its credit, signed a Content Licensing Agreement with each eligible Australian publisher.

Bill Greskin, professor of professional practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, wrote in a paper For the Judith Nielsen Institute, “Monica Attard, professor of journalism at Sydney, says she can’t persuade most students these days to take internships because it’s so easy for them to get a full-time job – and she believes that the code is too much. Something deserves credit: ‘I swear to god, I haven’t seen it like this in 20 years.’ ,

While there are clear benefits to publishers from collective interaction, the question remains: How should members of each group organize themselves in an inclusive, fair and transparent manner for all their members?

In theory, News Media Canada and the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada believe that publishers large and small should benefit equally from any agreement based on their proportionate investment in newsroom staff. Simply put, any agreement by collective negotiation will be shared between publishers on a proportionate basis – based on their total wages and wages paid to eligible newsroom employees – by reducing the expenses associated with this collective negotiation.

The C-18 builds on the success of Australia’s news media bargaining code. While not a silver bullet, it brings the value of reliable, high-quality Canadian journalistic content to readers through greater licensing deals, which will allow more publishers to reinvest in their newsrooms and their digital business transformation.

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