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Niagara Falls
Saturday, July 13, 2024
Guest Editorial: Rules needed to protect Online News Act funding

Gordon Cameron
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

When Canada’s Parliament finally passed Bill C-18, a.k.a. the Online News Act, there was great rejoicing in the country’s news media industry.

For too long, multinational online behemoths like Facebook and Google had been profiting from our journalistic efforts and paying nothing in return.

Rather than pay its share to compensate news producers, Facebook’s parent company Meta, which also owns Instagram, decided to start blocking news on its social networks.

That’s why The Lake Report and NiagaraNow.com can no longer post direct links on those platforms.

However, Google and its parent company, Alphabet, decided to take a more productive approach and negotiated with the news media to arrive at deal that would fairly pay for news while ensuring that the company’s liability wasn’t unlimited.

As part of that agreement, which still needs to be approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Google has selected a consortium of media businesses to manage the $100-million annual fund and to ensure that it’s properly distributed to news creators based on the Online News Act’s rules and regulations.

To ensure that as much of that money as possible goes to publications that are eligible under the act, the Ontario Community Newspapers Association, along with media organizations across the country, is asking the commission to make certain rules, including:

  • Defining what constitutes a full-time equivalent employee.
  • Capping the administration fees for managing the fund.
  • Requiring that any interest go to the eligible news businesses rather than the administrative organization.
  • Ensuring transparency by requiring all money be held in trust, all administrative expenses be made public and that everyone involved with the management of the fund declare all conflicts of interest.
  • Instituting fines for news businesses or individuals that try to cheat the system.

I know that this may seem like a whole lot of inside baseball stuff, but if you love your local community newspaper it matters.

Every dollar spent on running this program is one fewer dollar that’s spent on actual journalism.

Every non-eligible business that receives funding is taking money out of the pockets of those it was meant to help.

The Online News Act was passed to help stabilize Canadian journalism. It’s important that it is administered in a way that will do just that.

Gordon Cameron is the executive director of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association. He can be reached at g.cameron@ocna.org.

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