OTTAWA: After months of negotiations, Canada and Google have reached a “historic” agreement under which the California giant will pay compensation to the country’s media companies in exchange for distributing their content, the federal government announced on Wednesday.
“Google will provide financial support of $100 million per year (67 million euros, editor’s note), indexed to inflation,” Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said. in Ottawa and welcomed a “historic” agreement. “.
However, she clarified that Canada “retains the right to reopen the agreement” if better deals are never negotiated in other countries.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with Google to ensure that journalists, including small local media outlets, continue to be supported for years to come,” welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, assuring that the agreement “is a model for us “represent democracies”.
At the end of these negotiations, his government initially wanted $172 million from Google.
Ottawa has been feuding with Google and Meta in recent months over its new “online news law,” which aims to force the digital giants to enter into commercial agreements with media outlets to broadcast their content on their platforms.
The law, known as C-18, is not due to come into force until December 19, but Meta and Google – the only two companies affected by it – have already spoken out against it.
At the beginning of October, Google mentioned a possible blocking of information sites in its search engine if Canadian law was not changed.
For its part, Meta – owner of Facebook and Instagram – has blocked access to news media content on its platforms in Canada since August 1.
The agreement announced Wednesday allows Google to “pay its contribution to a single collective,” which in turn distributes the amount “to all eligible and interested news media outlets” based on the number of full-time journalism positions.
The aid is considered insufficient
Google Canada responded on Wednesday, saying it was committed to “sending significant traffic to Canadian publishers.”
“We thank Minister of Canadian Heritage Pascale St-Onge for acknowledging our concerns,” said Kent Walker, director of public affairs at Google.
However, the community media defense movement “Les Amis” fears that the promised sum will not be enough to come to the aid of a crisis-ridden environment.
“While this agreement represents a much-needed cash injection for the Canadian news media sector, it will not provide the level of support to Canadian journalism that we had hoped for,” its director general Marla Boltman told AFP. , and insisted that “other support tools” be put in place.
The new federal legislation was enacted earlier this year to stem the erosion of the press in Canada in favor of digital giants to which advertising revenues have migrated.
According to Minister St-Onge, nearly 500 Canadian media outlets have closed their doors and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs for more than a decade.
Earlier this month, TVA Group – the largest private television news channel in Quebec – laid off a third of its employees due to its loss-making situation.
Plans for budget restrictions are also expected at CBC/Radio-Canada, the Canadian public broadcaster.
While the Canadian Association of Journalists welcomes the agreement between Ottawa and Google, it fears that the distribution of the $100 million will cause real problems.
“I am sure that this task will be difficult since all media are currently in a serious financial situation,” its president Brent Jolly replied to AFP.
The latter was nevertheless satisfied with the agreement because, in his opinion, the future of journalism would have been even more at risk if Google had decided to block media content from its search engine.
When asked about the agreement reached by Google, the Meta Group reiterated its position on the law.
“Unlike search engines, we do not seek to retrieve media articles from the Internet to provide them to our users,” a spokesperson said in a press release, assuring that the only way to do this is to be consistent with “Blocking access to media content in Canada”.
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