(Ottawa) We have to give time to modernize Broadcasting Act and the implementation of the Online News Act to act, said Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge. She hopes that these two bills, better known as C-11 and C-18, will succeed in giving new impetus to media suppressed by web giants and digital broadcast platforms.
What there is to know
Pierre Karl Péladeau recently announced the layoffs of 547 TVA Group employees, almost a third of the workforce.
These cuts highlighted the channel’s difficult competition with the web giants.
Aiming to “turn the tide,” Bill C-11 wants to force digital platforms to fund local productions, while C-18 will force web giants to enter into compensation agreements with local media.
“I think we have to give the modernization of the laws a chance, but yes, we must continue to address the question of the future of the media until we are convinced of the feasibility and success of the news media, because it is for ours Democracy is fundamental,” she admits in an interview.
However, there is no talk of holding a general meeting about its future in the wake of the TVA cuts, as requested by the Bloc Québécois. The Minister responds that there will be “opportunities for very detailed discussions” before the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as the regulations that will accompany C-11 and C-18 are developed.
On the other hand, it does not rule out the creation of an emergency fund for the news media. “I share the sense of urgency of the bloc and everyone who cares about what’s happening in the media landscape right now,” she said. There have been many closures, there have been layoff announcements, we know our newsrooms are weakened.
So I listen to all suggestions and solutions, but the path we will choose will always be to preserve the independence of the media.
Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage
“To turn the tide”
TVA’s recent cuts have highlighted the network’s difficult competition with Web giants, both in entertainment programming and newscast production. Quebecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau recently announced the layoffs of 547 TVA employees in an attempt to save the television network. It is ending in-house production of entertainment programs and making cuts to regional news channels.
Negotiations with Google continue with a view to the entry into force of C-18 for online news on December 19th. The web giant is threatening to block news articles to avoid the law, as Meta has already done. This would avoid entering into compensation agreements with the news media in exchange for their content. Minister St-Onge remains optimistic that the final regulations will allow her to “respond to the concerns” that have been raised.
She recalls that the goal of C-18 is to “turn the tide” so that newsrooms regain financial viability while maintaining their independence and “having as little government interference as possible.” For this reason, the government has decided to “create a fairer trading relationship” through this legislation.
“In this context, I would say that the public also has a role to play,” she emphasizes. It is not true that the content is free, even if this impression arises thanks to digital platforms. »
It’s Netflix’s turn
Bill C-11, which amended the Broadcasting ActShe too will soon take a new step. It forces digital platforms like Netflix to invest in content from Canada and Quebec. The instructions to the CRTC will be released this Tuesday in anticipation of the start of consultations, and Minister St-Onge will mark the occasion at a press conference in Montreal.
The CRTC must impose financial requirements on these platforms to support local programming, use our creative resources and promote series produced in Quebec and Canada.
We have given them flexibility to allow platforms to assess how best to contribute to and influence Canadian content based on their business model and realities.
Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage
The development of the regulations will take several months. The minister believes that an earlier enactment of the law “really could have changed everything” for a broadcaster like TVA. “We’re seeing more and more people opting out of cable TV,” she notes. Consumers are increasingly finding what they are looking for online rather than on television and radio. So it is certain that, given the regulatory framework that is not adapted to this modernity – we have seen it with the VAT cuts – our broadcasters are demanding that there be this sense of urgency in the transformation. »
She regrets “the Conservatives’ constant obstruction” on the issue since the first consultations began in 2016. They have complained about censorship and promised to repeal the law when they form the next government.
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