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Feds planning $30M ad buy to help media deal with COVID-19 fallout – National Observer

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The federal government announced Wednesday that it is planning a $30-million COVID-19 awareness advertising campaign and moving closer to implementing long-promised tax credits for newspapers as it seeks to support Canada’s struggling media industry during the pandemic.

Yet the measures were immediately deemed by some as insufficient to deal with the financial pinch that newspapers, broadcasters and other media organizations, many of which were struggling even before COVID-19, are now facing as their advertising revenues evaporate.

Several media organizations have blamed that collapse in revenue for their decision this week to lay off hundreds of journalists and support workers, and shift their operations by closing or combining publications and ending print editions during the week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previewed the coming support during his daily appearance outside his Ottawa residence, where he emphasized the importance of Canadians having accurate information while thanking journalists for doing their jobs.

“Right now, it is more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information,” Trudeau said. “To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital work, our government is announcing new measures to support them.”

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault later announced the government plans to spend $30 million on an advertising campaign to raise awareness about COVID-19 — money that he promised would go primarily to Canadian media organizations.

Those include Canadian newspapers, magazines, television stations and online publications, Guilbeault said, “so the revenues generated by this campaign can breathe new life into our media.”

The federal government has spent on average about $39 million per year on advertising since the Liberals came to power in 2016, according to official figures. That represented just more than half what it spent each year between 2010 and 2015 when the Conservatives were in government.

Those increasingly scarce advertising dollars have also shifted more and more away from newspapers, radio and television toward online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are not Canadian-owned.

Guilbeault also said the government has finished putting together a panel tasked with assessing whether media organizations qualify for three different tax measures that were first promised last year.

The most significant is a tax credit that qualified newspapers can claim on up to 25 per cent of the wages or salaries they pay to their journalists or other eligible employees. The credit, which is not available to broadcasters, is retroactive to salaries that were paid starting on Jan. 1, 2019.

“It is essential that Canadians can obtain authoritative, well-sourced and factual information related to COVID-19,” Guilbeault said. “This is why the government of Canada is taking immediate action so Canadians can continue to access diverse and reliable sources of news.”

The measures were widely criticized as too little to make a real difference, including by the head of one large newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada that laid off 240 employees — or about 40 per cent of its workforce — on Tuesday and shuttered several of its publications.

“This is not going to help us,” said SaltWire Network president Mark Lever. “Our business, we see two-thirds of our revenue at risk here. I mean it went away overnight with cancellations and businesses shuttered.”

Lever was skeptical newspapers would get very much of the promised new advertising money, suggesting broadcasters and online platforms would see the lion’s share. And he said newspapers were already working the tax credits into their business models before COVID-19.

“It’s money due to us that’s been frankly already spent,” he said. “So it’s a shame to see that the aid package is repurposing money already committed.”

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and chair of News Media Canada, bluntly accused Trudeau of lying when he spoke of new measures to support journalism.

All the government has done is re-announce measures “that were first announced a year ago that have been mismanaged and delayed and to date have provided zero dollars to news outlets,” Cox said in an opinion piece to be published Thursday in some newspapers.

SaltWire wasn’t the only newspaper group to lay off staff this week. More than 140 employees of a co-operative that owns six daily newspapers outside Montreal were also temporarily laid off on Monday and the organization said it was ceasing print editions during the week.

Lever said what news organizations really need is more liquidity to be able to ride out the precipitous drop in revenue until after COVID-19. That and for the government to finally take action against foreign social-media sites that circulate news content for free while stealing ad revenue.

Daniel Bernhard, executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, echoed that assessment, noting Facebook, Twitter and other sites continue to benefit from Canadian journalism while being free of having to pay any corporate tax.

Bernhard was also skeptical that the measures announced on Wednesday would make a huge difference to media organizations, adding he was worried the government would be slow in approving tax credits or other assistance at a time when it is facing so many other challenges.

Feds plan $30M ad buy to help media deal with COVID-19 fallout

“Not only are these measures small and were probably insufficient when times were normal, I’m not confident that they’ll be able to get this package out the door with enough time to be helpful,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.

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Battling Coronavirus, Moldova Targets Unwanted Media 'Opinion' – Balkan Insight

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A short-lived order for media in Moldova to refrain from printing or broadcasting ‘opinion’ and to convey only the position of authorities during a state of emergency imposed to aid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has set alarm bells ringing in the former Soviet republic.

 

The decree was issued on March 24 by Dragos Vicol, president of Moldova’s Audiovisual Council, CCA, the country’s chief media regulatory body, but it was met with a storm of criticism from journalists and media associations.

 

“Journalists will unilaterally renounce formulating their own opinion or other arbitrary opinions in reflecting on topics concerning the COVID-19 pandemic,” the order read.

 

The following day, Vicol tried to defend the order, saying it referred only to “unqualified opinion”. The media, he told the TVR broadcaster, should get their information from the World Health Organisation, WHO-approved sites, the government and the health ministry, “not from persons who bear no responsibility.”

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China state media reports 19 people killed in forest fire – CTV News

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BEIJING —
Nineteen people have died while fighting a raging forest fire in southwestern China and hundreds of reinforcements were sent to fight the blaze and evacuate nearby residents, officials and state media reported Tuesday.

The area threatened by the fire in Sichuan province is thinly populated, but there was no estimate on how many people were leaving the evacuation zone. State media have described villages, a school, a chemical plant and other places as under threat.

It wasn’t exactly clear when the deaths occurred, but an information officer in the city of Xichang was cited as saying the fire started on a farm Monday afternoon and quickly spread to nearby mountains due to strong winds. It said one of those killed was a guide and the rest were firefighters.

An emergency evacuation was initiated, and more than 300 professional firefighters and another 700 militiamen were sent to help, while Xinhua said another 885 firefighters from other cities in Sichuan were being deployed to Xichang, along with 142 fire engines, six remote water supply systems and extensive firefighting equipment. It said drones would be used to monitor the fire’s progress.

Along with fighting the flames and evacuating residents, those force have also been deployed to protect key industrial infrastructure.

Almost exactly a year ago in the same area, a blaze high in the rugged forested mountains killed 30 people, 27 of them firefighters and three helpers.

That was China’s worst death toll among firefighters since 2015, when an explosion at a chemical warehouse in the port of Tianjin killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and other first responders.

Like many countries, China has seen a greater number of more deadly forest fires as a result of climate change, habitat destruction and human encroachment into formerly wild areas. Weak industrial safety standards and enforcement has also led to frequent deadly accidents.

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Letter: Media needs to press for analysis of decisions made about COVID-19 – MorinvilleNews.com

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We are finally hearing numbers of people who have recovered.

This is hopefully giving cautious hope to many.

I am interested in the numbers that are stated as “community contact” versus travel related. As this pandemic did not originate in North America, at some point they are all travel related.

I would like to see the media pressing questions as to the analysis of decisions made.

Especially the new cases.

Can sickness, and deaths, be traced to decisions to return Canadians? Are any traced to the people who were flown to the military base in Ontario and then released?

Were people passed through airline and airport screenings who then proved to be sources, after it was clear, especially in Italy, that the pandemic was escalating?

Families, and the governments, are making decisions in uncharted, emotional times.

We will face this again in the future.

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I would like assurances that there are analysis structures in place to improve the decision making processes for the future.

On the economic front as well.

Alan Otway
Morinville

Editor’s note: Readers are “finally” hearing about the number of people recovered because those numbers are “finally” being included in the daily update from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. As the CMO indicated, previously there was no administrative process in place to determine accurately who had recovered. With that process in place, we are now being given daily updates on recovery numbers.

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