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e-2464 (Media and telecommunications)

E-petition
Initiated by Margaret Ormrod from St. Albert, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:
  • Canada’s largest newspaper chain is owned mostly by U.S. hedge funds which did a legal end run around our foreign ownership limits;
  • They were then allowed to take over our second-largest chain;
  • Postmedia Network thus owns 15 of Canada’s 21 largest dailies, including eight of the nine largest in our three westernmost provinces;
  • Federal enquiries going back 50 years warned Canadians about the dangers of growing media ownership concentration, including Reports of the Special Senate Committee on Mass Media (1970), the Royal Commission on Newspapers (1981), the Senate Committee on News Media (2006), and the Heritage Committee on Media and Local Communities (2017);
  • All these reports urged measures to check concentration and then newspaper-television “convergence,” but few were taken;
  • By 2010, convergence left our news media in ruins; we are now bailing out big media;
  • As Marc Edge noted in his recent book "The News We Deserve", their pages have been stripped of local news and filled instead with corporate and political propaganda;
  • In 2015, Postmedia merged the newsrooms of its duopoly dailies in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa despite promising not to; and
  • Assistance to news media outlets of $595 million was provided in the 2019 federal budget.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to use our tax dollars to foster a more pluralistic Canadian news media by providing subsidies only to Canadian-owned publications, as a free and diverse press is essential to a healthy democracy.

Response by the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Julie Dabrusin

The Government would like to thank the petitioners for expressing their concerns regarding federal support for Canadian news media organizations. A robust, independent news sector that consists of a plurality of voices is a foundational pillar of our democracy.   Financial pressures facing news media in Canada, and indeed globally, have been mounting for years.  In an online world where free content is readily available and advertisers have an abundance of options, monetizing original content is an unprecedented challenge.  Since 2008 for example, advertising in the newspaper industry has decreased from $3.9 billion to $1.6 billion: a 59% decline.  The result of these pressures has been layoffs, closures and consolidation, all in an effort to both manage costs and remain competitive against much larger digital organizations. According to the Local News Research Project, 279 local media outlets have closed since 2008 and an additional 144 have either merged, reduced frequency or reduced service. Despite these challenges, newspapers continue to produce a substantial proportion of original reporting, content that is later reproduced or discussed by other news organizations. In light of this, the Government has developed a number of measures to aid Canadian news media.  For example, the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) is a program that provides direct support to Canadian paid print magazines, print non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals to enable them to overcome market disadvantages and continue to provide Canadian readers with the content they choose to read.  Each year, the CPF provides over $15 million to over 300 non-daily newspapers. In Budget 2018, the Government announced the creation of the Local Journalism Initiative, a program that is providing $50 million over five years to support the hiring of journalists so that they may produce original reporting for underserved communities across the country.  Budget 2019 went further still by announcing three additional actions to support Canadian journalism: enabling news organizations to become qualified donees and issue tax receipts; introducing a refundable labour tax credit on journalist salaries; and, establishing a temporary tax credit for subscriptions to Canadian digital media. These measures; which are estimated to cost $595 million over five years, will foster a sustainable, pluralistic media ecosystem. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges that span the global economy and Canadian news outlets are not insulated from this pressure; in this context, support is perhaps more important now than ever. To this end, the Government has announced an additional $500 million in emergency support funding for heritage, cultural and sport organizations. In recognition of the vital role non-daily newspapers and periodicals serve for communities across the country, approximately $63.7 million has been earmarked for the Canada Periodical Fund to provide emergency relief support to Canadian magazines and community newspapers. The Government recognizes the Canadian news media’s essential role in maintaining a healthy democracy, especially in this time where information is vital to all Canadians. As the news media landscape continues to evolve, the Government will continue to provide support while safeguarding the fundamental principal of press independence thus ensuring Canadians have access to reliable information from diverse, trustworthy sources.   

Open for signature
March 18, 2020, at 3:36 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 17, 2020, at 3:36 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre)
June 17, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00270)
Government response tabled
September 24, 2020
Photo - Hedy Fry
Vancouver Centre
Liberal Caucus
British Columbia
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