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Canada pledges to make Facebook pay for news content

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault condemned Facebook blocking Australian news content, says it won't deter Ottawa

Canada plans to make companies like Facebook pay for news content and won’t back down if tech giants block Canadian news as they did in Australia.

For those unfamiliar with the ongoing news issue, the Australian government proposed legislation to require Facebook and Google to pay fees to Australian publishers for news content that drives activity on their services. While Google complied through its ‘News Showcase‘ feature, Facebook blocked all Australian news content on its service.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who heads the creation of similar legislation in Canada, condemned Facebook’s blocking of news content, according to the Financial Post. Further, Guilbeault said the move would not deter Ottawa.

The Financial Post points out that Canadian media organizations warned that the market could fail without government action last year. Worse, a lack of action could lead to the loss of 700 print journalism jobs in Canada. However, a similar approach to Australia could recover $620 million a year for Canadian publishers.

It’s worth pointing out here that while foreign tech giants like Google and Facebook certainly harm Canadian media organizations, Canada’s own big tech companies do their fair share of damage as well. Just recently, Bell Media cut hundreds of journalism and radio jobs after its parent company, BCE, received millions in wage subsidy funding from the Canadian government.

Canada could follow Australian, French models

Guilbeault said that Canada had a few approaches to pick from. For one, the country could follow the Australian model, which requires tech companies to reach deals to pay news outlets for links that generate activity on their services. Alternatively, the legislation says the companies must agree on a price through binding arbitration.

Canada could also follow France, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers that seek remuneration for the use of news content.

Additionally, Guilbeault said he spoke to his French, Australian, German and Finnish counterparts about working together last week. A joint approach could help ensure fair compensation for web content.

“I suspect that soon we will have five, 10, 15 countries adopting similar rules… is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France?” Guilbeault said.

Facebook said this week that news makes up less than four percent of content people see on the platform. However, it acknowledged that it helped Australian publishers generate about $407 million AUD (about $404 million CAD) last year.

Meanwhile, Google has signed 500 deals with news publishers around the world for its News Showcase service. The deals are worth about $1 billion USD ($1.26 billion CAD). Google is in talks with Canadian companies as well, although Guilbeault says the search giant will also be subject to the new Canadian law.

Source: Financial Post

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