The Department of Canadian Heritage has vetoed a bailout of money-losing daily newspapers. Staff earlier noted any bankruptcy of the nation’s largest daily publisher, Postmedia Network Canada Corp. and its Sun tabloid subsidiary, would leave 28 cities without a daily newspaper.
“Our approach will not be to bail out industry models that are no longer viable,” said Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. “Rather, we will focus our efforts in supporting innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.”
Postmedia has reported annual losses as high as $263.4 million. Joly’s department in memos earlier obtained through Access To Information said subsidies should target “the next generation of Canadian publishers”. Joly yesterday said the department would consider “start-up funding” for new digital media.
No regulations were detailed. Digital start-ups are currently eligible to apply for modest grants, typically under $50,000, through a “business innovation” program. The fund is part of a larger $79 million-a year Canada Periodical Fund that mainly subsidizes weeklies and periodicals. Blacklock’s has neither solicited nor accepted taxpayers’ subsidies.
“As more publications add mobile versions or move fully online, what’s important to Canadians is that they continue to publish original Canadian content, and that our programs provide the support they need to innovate,” said Joly. The Minister noted current eligibility for grant applicants “is still based upon dwindling numbers of print subscribers.”
Some thirty-seven print dailies have folded in Canada since 2008 including the Guelph Mercury, Halifax Daily News, Kamloops Daily News, Nanaimo Daily News and Prince Rupert Daily News.
Joly’s department in a report Research Study On The Impact Of Digital On The Magazine Industry noted paid circulation for periodicals had fallen sharply. Circulation of Reader’s Digest in Canada has declined from 1.5 million to an average 327,000 since 1970. Reader’s Digest continues to receive $1.5 million a year through the Periodical Fund.
Maclean’s has seen paid circulation fall from 294,000 to 226,000 in the period from 2014 to 2016. Maclean’s also receives $1.5 million in annual aid. Rogers Media, Maclean’s publisher, last January restricted its print run from weekly to monthly.
“The publishing industry is in flux at the moment,” said Magazine Industry. “No publishing operator has found the ‘right’ business model.”
Statistics Canada in a 2016 report Periodical Publishing calculated total industry revenues fell 18 percent from 2013, from nearly $2 billion to $1.6 billion. Advertising sales fell by a third, a decline of $349 million. Industry subscription sales fell 17 percent, by $80 million.