As the Canadian government tries to level the playing field between online tech giants such as Google and Facebook and Canadian news media who produce a lot of the stories that they run on their websites, weekly newspapers may be left behind. Despite this, Martin Shields MP for Bow River is fighting hard on the side of weekly newspapers to ensure that they do receive some aid if Bill C-18 gets implemented.
“One of the things that I have been able to be on in (heritage) committee, we have been talking about weekly newspapers and a lot of what C-18 will do is that it’s a bill that takes money from Facebook — Meta as it is now called, Google, and re-distrib- utes it,” said Shields. “Well, 75 per cent of that money looks like it will head to CBC those types of corporations that are already there. The 25 per cent leftover will head into the mega newspaper chains. There’s going to be virtually nothing left for the weeklies out of that piece of legislation. When I challenge people that have come as witnesses I say, ‘The weekly papers are such a critical and important part of our communities. They cover the news of municipal governments, they cover the news of sports teams, they cover the schools, they cover fundraisers.’ They are so critical in our communities, and we got a lot of them in this riding and a lot of them in rural Alberta and rural Saskatchewan, but yet this legislation is not going to help those weekly newspapers.”
After illustrating what is going on within committee, Shields discussed what points he is bringing up, and how some of the criteria to receive aid is hard to meet for some weekly local newspapers.
“I have been on the committee talking to the minister showing them a whole stack of weekly newspapers including your paper (Taber Times) from the riding saying, ‘This legislation does not support our weekly newspapers. They are struggling.’ That has been going on for the last week or two and will continue within the next couple of weeks as we talk about Bill C-18 and how we support our weekly community newspaper. That’s something that is front and centre for me in the past couple of weeks and will continue to be in the next couple of weeks on the heritage committee. I don’t think anybody objects to there being some kind of equalization out of money that’s coming, but yet when the qualifying criteria is you have to have two full-time journalists, and that can’t include the owner and can’t include the family of the newspaper — that really draws a line against a lot of our weekly papers.”
Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times