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:
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?
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.
Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”
In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.
Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.
The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.
But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”
At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.
Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.
“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.
In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.
($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.
Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.
“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.
Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.
Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.
“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)