Under newly proposed legislation that seeks to create parity between tech giants and Canada’s news media sector, the federal government has unveiled their expectations for the financial contributions to Canadian journalism by the likes of Google and Facebook. The officials estimate that Google would need to provide $172 million, and Facebook, $62 million annually.
The governments formulated these estimates based on a proposal that if a company has a total global revenue exceeding $1 billion in a calendar year, operates in the search engine, or social media market, facilitating access to news content in Canada and has 20 million or more Canadian active users, it could be exempted from the requirements of the act if they already contribute a specific amount to Canadian journalism.
Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge has explained that these measures are designed to ensure those companies profiting the most from the Canadian market are the ones falling under the act. Currently, Google and Meta’s Facebook are the only two fitting the bill. However, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is closing in.
While Instagram and Threads are not currently under the legislative scope due to lower user numbers, St-Onge identified how swiftly technology and markets change, and emphasized the need for the bill to remain relevant in years to come.
In addition to cash, non-monetary contributions could potentially serve to satisfy the proposed criteria. These could include training and advertising according to government officials.
Reactions from Meta and Google have expressed disappointment and concern with the draft regulations, despite claims from St-Onge of Google’s willing cooperation. Both companies have historically lobbied against these legislations, arguing for the minimal financial impact news content actually has on their businesses.
Contrary to Google’s president of global affairs, Kent Walker’s assertion that the legislation creates ‘uncapped financial liabilities’ for the tech company, St-Onge has described the regulations as a “reasonable and predictable path forward for both media platforms and newsrooms.”
The regulatory push comes in response to the combined 80% share Meta and Google have in the $14 billion online ad revenue, as 2022 statistics reveal. Meanwhile, news outlets have been grappling with shrinking revenues that have led to layoffs and closure of Canadian news businesses.
With a significant majority of Canadians accessing free news online, the federal government has acted on its promise to support Canadian journalism. Dozens of telecommunication businesses have followed suit, and News Media Canada’s CEO, Paul Deegan, has expressed approval for the fairness and balance Minister St-Onge has endeavoured to achieve. He suggests that those acting in good faith should find the measures agreeable.