Canada’s Online News Act Fuels Big Media, Harms Independent Outlets

By Didi Rankovic – Reclaim The Net

One of Canada’s divisive and controversial pieces of legislation, the Online News Act (Bill C-18), has been promoted and defended by proponents as the “solution” to the ongoing crisis faced by media outlets.

But critics say it has done little thus far except to further harm the media scene, particularly smaller and upcoming outlets, by cutting them off from one of the two key sources of traffic (and ad money).

The bill became law last June, and the overall picture that has in the meantime been emerging is that the biggest legacy media will likely get the lion’s share of the money – at the expense of independent and digital outlets.

Those behind the law have been selling it to the public as a way to achieve “fair commercial deals” between large search engines and social media sites, and media organizations.

Who the Canadian lawmakers failed to convince is Meta, which decided it would rather block links to news from Canadian outlets on Facebook and Instagram than be forced to pay publishers.

But Google agreed on a deal worth 100 million Canadian dollars annually (it is expected to turn into a five-year deal worth a total of approximately US$ 366 million). Now, the new controversy is – who will be administering that money.

The decision regarding the first batch of these funds covering one year will be made in June. Google has decided to keep things simple for itself – the giant will negotiate with only one collective, and all media outlets that have the right to apply will be represented by it.

Sources are now saying there are two main contenders – one being the Online News Media Collective, which represents some of the biggest players in the industry, like CBC, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), and News Media Canada (NMC).

This raises fears that independent outlets will struggle to benefit from the agreement since they are virtually excluded from the Online News Media Collective, and because the funding rules favor media companies with a larger number of full-time employees.

The other contender is a non-profit, the Canadian Journalism Collective, which is hoping to secure a fair and transparent allocation of money.

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