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As MPs pass Liberal online news bill, Meta again threatens to pull content

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The House of Commons passed a Liberal bill on Wednesday designed to require web giants to compensate journalism outfits for reposting their content, and Meta is once again threatening to remove news content from Facebook in Canada.

Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has argued the bill will “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace by creating a framework and bargaining process for behemoths such as Google and Meta, which owns social media sites Facebook and Instagram, to pay media outlets.

“On the surface, the bill we are debating now is simply about ensuring fair compensation for Canadian media, but the issue is actually much bigger than that,” he said during a final speech on Tuesday.

“It is about protecting the future of a free and independent press. It is about ensuring that Canadians have access to fact-based information. It is about protecting the strength of our democracy.”

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The bill would create a system overseen by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which would have the power to impose administrative monetary penalties on companies that are not compliant with its provisions.

Companies could be exempt from the negotiation process set out in the proposed legislation, known as Bill C-18, if they already have agreements with media outlets that fulfil certain criteria.

Last week, the heritage committee sent the bill back to the House with 18 amendments to add clarity on Indigenous news, eligibility requirements, clearer timelines for the negotiation process and transparency.

As NDP heritage critic Peter Julian pointed out during a speech on Tuesday, 16 of those amendments came from his party during a weeks-long clause-by-clause process.

“There was much that was missing in the bill regarding transparency, supporting local community press and journalism, supporting non-profit journalism, and allowing Indigenous news outlets to have a role. There was radio silence regarding Indigenous news outlets,” he said.

Several of the amendments explicitly created protections for Indigenous-led news outlets into the bill, including one that requires tech companies to have agreements in place with “a significant portion of Indigenous news outlets.”

The same section was changed to make sure that the companies have agreements with a “range of news outlets in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors,” and that reflect “all markets and diverse populations, including local and regional markets in every province and territory, anglophone and francophone communities, including official language minority communities, and Black and other racialized communities.”

And it was also updated to allow for public consultations on any such exemptions.

With Conservatives taking issue with the fact that CBC online content would fall under the bill’s provisions, another amendment stipulated that the national broadcaster would be required to publicly report any agreements it has with the tech giants.

Google and Meta have roundly criticized the bill.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Meta once again threatened to “consider removing news from Facebook in Canada rather than being compelled to submit to government-mandated negotiations that do not properly account for the value we provide publishers.”

Google had previously warned that a provision requiring it to show no “undue” preference to certain outlets could lead to poorer-quality information being presented in search results. It also raised the prospect of misinformation becoming more visible for the same reason.

A Bloc Québécois amendment raised during the committee process sought to assuage concerns that outlets that are not committed to journalistic principles could still benefit from the bill.

It included to the bill’s definition of “eligible news business” a requirement for the outlet to be a member of a recognized journalism association and to follow its code of ethics or have its own code that requires “adherence to the recognized processes and principles of the journalism profession, including fairness, independence and rigour in reporting news and handling sources.”

Such a code would need to include measures to make sure that news content produced by the outlet does not promote “hatred or misinformation against any identifiable group” and that any errors of fact are promptly and transparently corrected.

Another amendment ensured that any companies that are headquartered outside of Canada would not be captured under the bill.

And the legislation was also updated to broaden the definition of eligible businesses so that owner-operators could be included as one of the two journalists the business employs.

It did not, however, remove a requirement for the two journalists to be employed, despite concerns that would exclude many small businesses. Rodriguez said that the government has other measures for supporting the news business. “As I have said many times, this bill is not a panacea.”

Conservatives have argued that the bill would give regulators too much leeway to make decisions about what is and isn’t real journalism.

“We want to keep the internet free and we do not want the government choosing what needs to be done there,” Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said on Tuesday.

“To do that, the best thing to do is get rid of Bill C-18 and allow the tech giants to fund something that small media outlets could themselves divide.”

The Liberals and NDP have argued that such suggestions make the Tories seem like they are speaking for companies such as Meta.

Another Conservative MP, Brad Redekopp, had given a speech praising Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter as having breathed “fresh air” into the tech industry.

Redekopp also said that the people who work at Google are those who care about freedom of speech on the internet: “They may run worldwide organizations, but the Silicon Valley boys are still hackers at heart, living out of their mothers’ basements playing Halo, sharing on Twitch and posting on Reddit.”

In response, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux emphasized that such companies bring in billions of dollars of revenue every year while media companies have struggled to keep up.

“The creators and news agencies are reporting on the news and their content is being utilized by these giants, which are not paying anything for it.”

The vote ultimately passed 213 votes to 114 on Wednesday, with Conservatives the only ones to vote against it. It goes to the Senate for consideration next.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2022.

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Meta funds a fellowship that supports journalism positions at The Canadian Press.

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.

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The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian soccer player describes the horror of the earthquake in Turkey

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Canadian soccer player

Canadian soccer player Sam Adekugbe is one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape earthquake-ravaged Antakya in Turkey.

Some of his teammates and staff at his club Hatayspor are still missing.

The 28-year-old from Calgary is now safe in Istanbul with Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig for Besiktas. But in a Zoom call Wednesday sitting next to Hutchinson, a sombre Adekugbe told a harrowing tale of being caught in the quake — and the horror of what he saw in the aftermath.

“Unfathomable. Something you never really expect,” said Adekugbe, who looked shell-shocked.

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Adekugbe was relaxing at home with some teammates after a 1-0 win over visiting Kasimpasa in a Turkish league game Sunday evening. The quake began as he started cleaning up his home when they left.

He started shaking, which initially made him think he was having a panic attack. Then the furniture and TV began to tip over and cups and dishes smashed in the kitchen.

He went outside to find the road split and people yelling amid freezing rain and lighting strikes. After witnessing the damage around his home, he drove the 20 minutes to the team training ground, seeing the devastation along the way.

“It just felt like a movie. You’re seeing collapsed buildings, fires. People yelling, people crying,” he said. “People digging through the rubble. Broken pieces of houses. Just things you never really expect.”

It got worse the closer he got to the centre of the city, which is located 1,100 kilometres southeast of Istanbul in a region bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria.

“Roads split. Bridges broken. Twelve-storey highrises just completely collapsed. Families looking for loved ones. Parents looking for their kids. Kids looking for their parents. It was just something unfathomable. Something you never really expect.”

Adekugbe says people are still missing, including the team’s sporting director, Taner Savut. There is confusion over the whereabouts of Ghana international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

Reports of Atsu being rescued are now in doubt, said Adekugbe, who joined the search for survivors after getting to the training ground.

“It’s also people who work around the team,” Adekugbe said.

He says one of the team’s equipment men died in the quake. So did the daughters and mother of a woman who works in the team kitchen.

The wife of another equipment man needs urgent medical attention, facing having her arm amputated if she doesn’t get it.

“Of course I’m thankful that a lot of my teammates have been found. But the people that do help the team, the people who work around the club, they still have loved ones that are missing and unaccounted for. Really it starts to hit home when you just see the agony, the desperation on their faces,” he said.

In the light of day, the horror grew.

“You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates. You’re trying to yell for them in like darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing,” Adekugbe said. “It’s just something you never find yourself doing. People coming back with broken bones. People still missing to this day. It’s something you can’t really explain.”

Adekugbe and some of his teammates managed to get out thanks to his coach, Volkan Demirel, who used to play for Fenerbahce, another Turkish club based in Istanbul. He called the Fenerbahce president who organized a plane departing from a city about a 150-minute drive away.

Adekugbe and other Hatayspor players and staff were bused to the waiting plane, which took them to Istanbul.

“We were very lucky,” Adekugbe said.

“I just grabbed what I could … I have three suitcases and my dog.”

Hutchinson was waiting to take him in. Adekugbe had called him in the aftermath of the quake, showing him the damage via FaceTime.

He called his parents when he got to the training ground.

Antakya is renowned for its cuisine, which has many Middle Eastern influences. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated Antakya as a “city of gastronomy.”

Adekugbe, who joined Hatayspor in June 2021 from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball, has won 37 caps for Canada and saw action in all three of Canada’s games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Born in London, England, he was three when his family moved to Manchester and 10 when it came to Calgary.

At 16, he moved to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps residency program. He signed a homegrown contract with the MLS team in 2013 but made just 16 appearances for the team over the next four seasons, spending much of the time out on loan.

Adekugbe had loans stints with Brighton in the English Championship and Sweden’s IFK Goteborg before joining Valerenga in January 2018.

While Istanbul escaped quake damage, Hutchinson’s concern for Adekugbe grew when internet connection was lost and a second quake hit.

Both players urged Canadians to donate to relief organizations to help the region and its people.

“There’s a lot of people that are still under the rubble,” Hutchinson said.

“People are just really in bad conditions right now,” he added. “It’s really cold here. Just making it through the day and the night, it’s extremely difficult.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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How much money is needed to retire in Canada

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Canadians now believe they need $1.7 million in savings in order to retire, a 20 per cent increase from 2020, according to a new BMO survey.

The eye-watering figure is the largest sum since BMO first started surveying Canadians about their retirement expectations 13 years ago. It’s also a drastic increase from the $1.4 million in savings Canadians expected to need for their nest eggs just two years ago.

The results reflect Canadians’ concerns about current economic conditions, particularly inflation and higher prices, said Caroline Dabu, head of wealth distribution and advisory services for BMO Financial Group.

“If you look at the average Canadian, they’re feeling the rising inflation costs,” said Dabu.

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“And so, not surprisingly, we are seeing that Canadians are feeling they absolutely will need more to retire.”

Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent in the summer of 2022 and has since fallen to 6.3 per cent as of December 2022. BMO Economics expects the country’s CPI to decline to around three per cent by the end of the year.

The sharp increase to Canada’s inflation rate in 2022 exceeded wage gains, eroding purchasing power for most families and heightening fears about the future. The BMO survey found that just 44 per cent of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned — a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.

But while the $1.7 million figure may sound overwhelming to working-age Canadians, Dabu said the number says more about the economic mood of the country than it does about real-life retirement necessities.

“Certainly when we’re working with clients, we find that many overestimate the number that they need to retire,” she said.

“It really does have to be taken at an individual level, because circumstances are very different … But $1.7 million, I would say, is high.”

While rising inflation may require tweaks to a retirement plan — such as contributing slightly more to savings each month if you’re a young worker, or making cash flow adjustments if you’re nearing the end of your working career — Dabu said these changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic.

When it comes to retirement planning, Dabu said, knowledge is power. By working with a professional financial advisor and making a plan that encompasses individual circumstances and goals, Canadians can come up with their own retirement savings number.

“In the survey, we note that 53 per cent of Canadians didn’t know how much they will need to retire,” Dabu said.

“That increased confidence comes from knowing the exact number that I need to save for, and how I’m going to get there.”

The BMO survey also found that approximately 22 per cent of Canadians plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 69, with an average age of 62.

Millennial and generation z Canadians are the most nervous about their ability to save and invest right now, the survey found. However, all age groups — 74 per cent of survey respondents — said they are concerned about how current economic conditions will affect their financial situation, and 59 per cent said economic conditions have affected their confidence in meeting their retirement goals.

The BMO survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 7, 2022 by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,500. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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