Country in Focus: Canada
Building upon the “Notable Legislation” section of CNTI’s issue primers, find more information here about recent and proposed legislation in key countries across our issue areas. These pages add additional information at the country level where there has been a high level of legislative activity requiring more detail or context.
Canadian Parliament’s new law, Bill C-18, requires digital platforms to compensate media outlets for reposting or linking to their content, with the stated aim of providing “access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels.” Several elements of this bill pertain directly to the challenge of determining and assessing “quality” journalism. Without a clearly established basis for payments, platforms’ use of content reach or volume as key metrics for payments may end up incentivizing cheap, low-quality content. An “undue or unreasonable preference” provision intended to protect publishers from platform retaliation may also impact existing algorithmic structures prioritizing fact-based content and original reporting. Finally, the bill requires publishers to meet standards to be eligible for bargaining set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – which may serve as a template for governmental bodies to serve as the arbiters of content.
In June 2023, Canada passed its Online News Act, Bill C-18, to go into effect in December 2023. Using Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code as its starting point, C-18 narrowed the platform exemption process (with non-designated platforms still subject to some regulation) and added several transparency requirements, including participating organizations needing to report deals to a regulator and an amendment ensuring some (though not a majority of) funding goes to newsroom staffing. Concerns about the bill include the ambiguity of its inclusion criteria potentially harming smaller publishers, its “undue privilege” clause (while aiming to prevent retaliation against publishers) potentially harm platforms’ ability to promote high-quality content or curb disinformation and its potential knock-on effect of further commercializing the internet overall. Google has agreed to pay $100M CAD annually in financial support to the Canadian news industry, whereas platforms like Meta have blocked Canadian news links in response to the legislation.
This is not the first initiative of Canada’s to provide policy-driven economic support for news. In 2020, the Canadian government developed the Local Journalism Initiative, a $50 million, five-year program funding local and civic journalism for underserved communities. The initiative raised critical questions about how to determine who receives such support.