• By: Dan Donovan

Canada’s Greedy and Needy Mainstream Media Cannibalize Themselves

The Trudeau government Online News Act (Bill C-18) is a direct assault on journalism in Canada.

The Liberal government’s Online News Act (C-18 legislation) took effect on June 22, 2023. It requires Meta and Google to negotiate with Canadian news organizations for posting or linking to their journalism. Meta is the private sector parent company of Facebook and Instagram, which generates more than $120 billion in revenue annually. They made it very clear to the Trudeau government that their response to the draconian law, if passed, would be to block social media for hundreds of community newspapers, magazines, and local platforms across Canada (on Facebook and Instagram). Despite this, Bill C-18 was rammed through Parliament by the Trudeau government, whose sheepish MPs set aside common sense and democratic principles to follow the directives and false narrative of the high-paid lobbyists representing Canada’s failing legacy media.  To be clear, Bill C-18 is an undemocratic, irrational, ill-advised and half-baked law. It is an attack on free speech, free press, and free thought.

The idea that the Trudeau government is standing up for some principle to protect free media and speech in Canada is a canard of the most grotesque proportions. It comes on the heels of the government already providing billions of taxpayers money over the past four years to heavily subsidize the mainstream media in Canada—the CBC, BCE (CTV, the Globe and Mail), Post Media, and Torstar—under the ruse concocted by their paid lobbyists that this funding subsidy would protect Canadian journalism and stop the newsroom hemorrhaging. This was akin to throwing money out the window. The beneficiaries of this taxpayer largesse all remain in a steep decline, and the money did nothing to stop the demise of journalism or the layoffs of journalists.

The fact is Canadians no longer trust most mainstream media to tell the truth and have turned away in droves to find their news online and on social media. As for protecting journalists, their jobs and the integrity of news gathering, that too is a sad joke.

Look no further than BCE, the parent company of CTV News, terminating the employment of 1,300 staff in July, including CTV National News Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier and some of their most seasoned and prominent names in international news reporting. The layoffs included a 6 percent cut at Bell Media management, production, editorial and operations positions, sales and marketing and administrative and clerical jobs. In what can only be described as someone living in an alternate reality or a really bad joke, Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada—one of the leading companies in Canada’s incestuous media monopoly—had the audacity and gall to cite tough financial challenges in announcing the ‘significant reductions.’ “At Bell Canada, every year, we can expect to lose over $250 million in legacy phone revenues. Across Bell Media’s news operations, despite being Canada’s news leader, we incur $40 million and growing in annual operating losses, and the profitability of our radio business has been cut in half since the onset of COVID,” he said.

This coming from the CEO of the company that controls, along with TELUS and Rogers, the telecom monopoly in Canada that has given Canadians the highest cell phone and connectivity rates in the Western world for decades. The phrase, pigs at the trough does not even come close to describing the behaviour of these monopolistic companies and the outrageous, ravenous, and gormandizing profits they have fleeced off Canadian consumers for decades. It begs the question, why do we allow Bell, Telus and Rogers to operate in a business environment in Canada without competition?

Surely it would be better for hard-working Canadians to benefit from having foreign competition here. Allow Verizon and others to compete with these bloated telecom toads, and I guarantee your phone bills will be cut in half the moment that happens. Besides opening up the telecom monopoly, we should do the same with Canada’s monopolistic airlines, gas stations and grocery stores monopoly. Open them all to foreign competition to bring down prices and benefit everyday consumers.  However, that will not happen because the lobbyists who run the Trudeau government are paid big bucks by all the monopolies (including the Canadian bank oligopoly) to suppress competition in Canada. But I  digress.

You would think that after such a gargantuan policy and funding failure, common sense would dictate that Bell Media (which owns CTV and the Globe and Mail), Post Media, and the Toronto Star (Torstar) should be blocked entirely from receiving any more taxpayer funds. Instead, the government doubled down with a full frontal assault on independent media across Canada that thrive on Google and Meta. In essence, the Trudeau government passed a law to force Canadians back to the monopolized platforms of the legacy media that they have some control over while suffocating smaller independents like ottawalife.com and hundreds of other local newspapers and news and information platforms that count on Google, Facebook and Instagram to share their content.

Independent media in Canada did not ask for and do not expect Meta or Google to pay us a fee for the info we post on their platforms. We benefit through increased readership and analytics when we post material on their sites. In return, we get increased audiences and benefit from paid links and advertising. All that to say, if you get your Canadian news from Facebook, Instagram, Google or TikTok (yes, they are next), or other social media platforms, you are going to have a problem because the Trudeau government has just cut you off from getting the news from smaller independents and are trying to blame it on the social media giants like Meta and Google who run the platforms.

Setting aside the actions of the Trudeau government in attacking private sector platforms to pull a ransom out of them, the real story here is about the collapse of Canada’s legacy media: Post Media and Torstar are both in so much debt it is hard to see how they will survive. It is clear to most people outside of the legacy media (and even many in it) that the government-funded CBC has become outrageously biased clearly and is the Geisha of the Trudeau government — a ‘bought agency,’ whose television ratings have collapsed and whose news coverage is more advocacy than news. Clearly, the CBC must be re-purposed back to its original mandate and principles or shut down completely.

Canada’s mainstream or legacy media have no one to blame but themselves for this mess. They have failed miserably in recent years to provide balanced and accurate news to keep Canadians informed. As a result, millions of citizens have abandoned them for other platforms like ottawalife.com.

The government has no business in controlling or adjudicating private media in Canada. They can set boundaries to ensure entities operate within the law, but that is it.

The role of private media outlets is to report news, locals and hold public officials and others to account when necessary.

The Trudeau government’s Online News Act is going to fail. It is already failing. It will be replaced either by the current government if they come to their senses or, more probably, by a new government after the next election.

Social media and social media platforms are as important to news today as water is to life. Denying it is to deny democracy in our country. Rest assured, consequences are coming because of the new law, not for Meta and Google but for the Liberal government at the ballot box.

Photo: iStock