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Australia's standoff with Facebook has lessons for Canada, publisher says – CBC.ca

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Canada should move quickly on legislation to make Facebook and Google pay for news content, because it was only when Australia began taking action that the digital giants responded with deals, says the head of the association representing the Canadian news media industry.

“If these companies will only act once legislation is imminent, then we’d like to see legislation sooner rather than later,” said Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Australia’s Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code that forces Google and Facebook to pay for news. Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada would introduce its own rules in the coming months.

How Canada proceeds will likely have a major impact on the future of news in the country. Cox said Google and Facebook have so much power in the marketplace that it makes it impossible for small players to to compete. And they’re so big — Google parent Alphabet had about $180 billion US in revenue last year — that almost everyone is a small player.

In Australia, the digital giants won’t be able to make take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. A last-minute amendment gave digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code, giving the parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements.

In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news on their platform. Google had already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks, including News Corp.

Canada’s news media industry has come out hard against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.

‘They basically forced Facebook’

Cox said Facebook and Google had been reluctant to make any deals with publishers until Australia “forcefully” pushed forward, and it worked.

“They basically forced Facebook and Google to work with that legislation,” he said. “Now Facebook managed to get some changes to the legislation, but basically they’ll still be required to negotiate deals with publishers and that’s the end goal.”

WATCH | Newspaper publisher on making tech giants pay for news:

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, says local news could be in trouble if the government doesn’t take bold action. 6:09

Cox said he gives credit to Google and Facebook for programs they’ve enacted to support journalism, including training, grants and tools. Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would raise its funding of news publishers to $1 billion over three years, and the company estimates that the traffic it sends to news websites contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Canadian news industry.

“What they haven’t done, though, is pay for content, and that’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do,” he said.

Google recently announced a willingness to pay for content through its Google News Showcase licensing model, but it hasn’t begun to operate yet, Cox said. In a statement, Meg Sinclair, head of communications for Facebook Canada, said the company is “exploring” investments in news licensing and programs to support sustainability of journalism in Canada, but isn’t in any discussions about specific licensing agreements. 

Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the last-minute amendments in Australia’s legislation amounted to a “small victory” for Facebook.

Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down.

Andrea Carson, an associate professor in the department of communication and media at La Trobe University in Melbourne, agreed, but also said the government had gotten what it wanted.

What Canada can learn

As for what can be learned from Australia’s situation, Carson said Canada should consider whether Australia took the right approach.

“There are other mechanisms for doing this, such as putting a tax on digital advertising,” she said. “Maybe other countries might consider that rather than looking through competition law, which is what Australia’s done.”

Carson also suggested countries should make certain the money is used to fund public-interest journalism, a guarantee that doesn’t exist under the Australian system.

“It goes into the larger pool of News Corp.,” she said.

WATCH | Facebook and Australia are in a standoff. Is Canada next?

Facebook blocked news posts for Australian users as the government plans to make technology companies pay for sharing news content. There are concerns something similar could happen to Canadians. 7:37

Guilbeault, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, has promised a “made-in-Canada” approach. 

“We need to find a solution that is sustainable for news publishers, small and large, digital platforms, and for the health of our democracy,” he said on Tuesday.

There have been concerns in Australia that smaller publications might miss out while the tech giants focus on big players, a “real danger” that Cox said should be dealt with in any legislation.

“The main reason why we’ve always argued that government action is necessary [is] so that it helps the entire industry and helps support local news across the country, as opposed to simply the bigger publishers who have had access to Facebook and Google for a long time anyway,” he said.

Disclosure: CBC/Radio-Canada has business partnerships with Facebook for content distribution and with Google for services that encompass mobile distribution, data storage and communication tools.

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Citigroup lawyer says another bank made bigger payment error than Revlon

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for Citigroup Inc told a U.S. judge on Friday he was aware of another large bank that recently made a bigger payment error than Citigroup made last August when it sent $894 million of its own money to Revlon Inc lenders.

Neal Katyal, the lawyer, made the disclosure at a hearing in Manhattan federal court, where Citigroup urged U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to extend a freeze on $504 million that it has been unable to recoup from the Revlon lenders.

Katyal did not identify the bank, the size of the payment error, or whether the error was fixed.

Citigroup is appealing Furman’s Feb. 16 decision that 10 asset managers, whose clients include Revlon lenders, could keep its mistaken payments.

Furman accepted the asset managers’ argument that Citigroup, as Revlon’s loan agent, paid what they were owed, and they had no reason to think a sophisticated bank would blunder so badly.

Citigroup has said the lenders received a “windfall,” and Furman’s decision could steer banks away from doing wire transfers in a “finders, keepers” marketplace.

Katyal is a partner at Hogan Lovells and former Acting U.S. Solicitor General. Citigroup hired him for its appeal.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Diane Craft)

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Canada aims to raise safety along notorious “Highway of Tears” with cell phone service

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By Moira Warburton

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian authorities will help fund mobile phone service to increase safety along a remote stretch of highway in British Columbia known as the “Highway of Tears” for the number of women who have gone missing on the route, most of them indigenous.

Indigenous groups recommended the move in 2006 in a report on disappearances and murders of women along the highway between the cities of Prince Rupert and Prince George, roughly 800 km (500 miles) north of Vancouver.

The recommendation was endorsed by a provincial government-mandated commission several years later.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating 13 cases of murdered women and five who disappeared on or near the Highway of Tears, although no new cases have been added since 2007. Advocates believe the number of homicides and missing is significantly higher.

Lisa Beare, British Columbia’s minister of citizens’ services, called the project “a critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies along this route.”

Cell phone plans in Canada are among the most expensive in the world, according to government data, and the cost and lack of coverage in rural areas was a top issue in the last election.

The provincial and federal governments will contribute C$4.5 million towards the C$11.6 million ($9.24 million) cost for Rogers Communications to install 12 cell phone towers, the British Columbia government said on Wednesday.

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, applauded the plan but said it was only one step in making the area safer for indigenous women.

“This truly is a blessing for the women,” she said. “But not all women have a phone. These towers are being put up, but it makes no use to the person that has no cell phone.”

($1 = 1.2558 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Canadian fertilizer producer Nutrien to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030

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By Rod Nickel and Rithika Krishna

(Reuters) –Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd, the world’s largest fertilizer producer by capacity, said on Thursday it aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2030, in a plan costing the company up to $700 million.

Agricultural companies, including Mosaic and Corteva, have set carbon emissions targets as climate-conscious investors push firms to become more environmentally friendly.

Nutrien plans to spend $500 million to $700 million to meet the carbon emissions target, which includes cutting emissions from nitrogen production by 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by the end of 2023.

“We’re in a really unique spot to address two big societal challenges – food security, and in a way that reduces our environmental footprint,” said Mark Thompson, Nutrien’s chief corporate development and strategy officer, in an interview.

Synthetic fertilizers account for 12% of global emissions from agriculture, according to a 2016 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report.

Nutrien’s target includes Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which reflect direct operations and electricity use. Nutrien is addressing Scope 3 emissions – those related to on-farm activity – with a program that encourages growers to adopt sustainable practices that generate monetary credits.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company plans to deploy wind and solar energy at four potash plants by the end of 2025, replacing electricity generated by coal and natural gas.

It also plans to expand its sequestration of carbon emissions from nitrogen fertilizer production and to invest in technology to capture nitrous oxide gas from its facilities.

Nutrien estimates that its carbon credit program could directly amount to $10 to $20 per acre for farmers, and it expects to benefit financially itself as well.

“If we can provide agronomic value and the value of the carbon credit over time, we’ll have customer loyalty – we anticipate that we’ll be a preferred supplier,” Thompson said.

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Steve Orlofsky)

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