Nine Media Oppose Subsidies

Nine independent publishers and commentators yesterday denounced federal newsroom subsidies. The first organized opposition to media bailouts was initiated by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa think tank.

“Our media companies will not accept the per employee subsidies currently on offer from government and industry,” said an Ottawa Declaration signed by publishers. Annual subsidies paid to cabinet-approved newsrooms are currently worth up to $29,750 per employee.

“We encourage other digital news outlets to sign this Declaration and reject the payroll subsidies,” it said. “In trying to ‘save’ journalism, these subsidies damage the independence of the press, stifle much needed innovation and private investment and fail to rebuild readers, listeners and viewers’ trust in our industry.”

The first publishers to sign the pledge were Holly Doan of Blacklock’s Reporter, Sam Cooper of The Bureau, Rudyard Griffiths of The Hub, Tara Henley of Lean Out, Candice Malcolm of True North, Substack commentator Paul Wells, Derek Fildebrandt of The Western Standard and Claire Lehmann of Quillette. Columnist Andrew Coyne also signed the petition.

None of the publishers previously solicited federal aid. Blacklock’s in an earlier February 19 submission to the Commons heritage committee opposed the ongoing $595 million bailout as wasteful, corrupting and futile.

The Ottawa Declaration represented the first act by a coalition of independent publishers in opposition to News Media Canada, the newspaper lobby that successfully sought taxpayers’ aid. CEO Paul Deegan claimed in 2023 testimony at the Senate transport and communications committee that publishers could not survive without federal money.

“We have a market failure here,” testified Deegan. “It isn’t working so we need a solution. That’s why we have come to the government even though, frankly, we would like to stay as far away from government and the CRTC as we can. But we do need them.”

The Ottawa Declaration yesterday disputed the claim. “The broadly unpopular subsidy regime represents a challenge to our democratic process insofar as it raises questions in the public’s mind about the independence of the press, thereby undermining the perceived veracity of reported news,” it said. “The subsidy regime also creates an uneven playing field whereby some news outlets, primarily legacy media companies, are able to qualify for government support and others are not.”

Privy Council in-house research confirms taxpayers do not support newsroom subsidies and are indifferent to media failure. “Asked whether they felt that protecting and supporting the Canadian news industry should be a priority for the federal government, few agreed,” said a 2023 report Continuous Qualitative Data Collection Of Canadians’ Views. “Only a small number believed the news industry in general should be a top priority,” it added.

“It was generally felt most Canadians had access to a wide range of news sources on a variety of platforms and there were currently more pressing issues for the federal government to focus on such as housing affordability and the cost of living,” said Canadians’ Views.

By Staff


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