Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press In recent weeks, Minister St-Onge maintained that Ottawa could reach an agreement with Google even if the digital giant said it was dissatisfied with its proposed regulations.
After several months of negotiations, the federal government finally reached an agreement with Google on the regulatory framework that will establish royalties for Canadian media. The Minister of Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, confirmed the long-awaited news in the media on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have found a way to answer Google's questions about the application of the law,” she announced during a press briefing in Ottawa.
The Law on online news, also known as C-18, will come into effect in less than three weeks, on December 19. The legislation aims to force digital giants such as Google and Meta to enter into compensation agreements with media outlets for sharing their content.
Under this framework, Google will provide financial support of $100 million per year, indexed to inflation. Ottawa initially wanted to extract around $172 million per year from the company.
Asked whether the government had not given in to a cut-rate deal, the minister said that the deal is “of the added value” since it includes, in addition to 100 million, non-monetary compensation, such as agreements with certain media.
Google will also have the possibility of paying its contribution to a single collective which will distribute it to all eligible and interested media, according to their number of full-time equivalents in journalism.
In October, Google threatened Ottawa to no longer show Internet users Canadian media articles in their searches from December 19 if the government did not make certain changes to its regulations. The company wanted “predictability” regarding the amount of monetary compensation and flexibility on how to reach agreements with different media outlets.
Find out more
< ul id="U63483882825xJy">
Minister St-Onge also assured that Canada reserves the right to reopen the agreement if better agreements were eventually concluded elsewhere in the world.
Meta does not don't give up
As the deadline approached, many wondered if an agreement between the digital giant and Ottawa was possible — especially since discussions with Meta had not borne fruit.< /p>
Last summer, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, blocked the sharing of journalistic content on its platforms in order to avoid the provisions of the law.
However, Meta does not budge, despite the agreement reached with Google. Questioned byLe Devoir, a spokesperson for Meta affirmed that “unlike search engines, we do not proactively draw news from the Internet to integrate it into the news feed of our users.”
For the digital giant, the only way to comply with the Online News Act is still “to end the availability of news to people in Canada.”< /p>
“It hasn’t been easy. We have seen that Meta has completely abdicated its responsibilities as a Web giant, but we are very happy to have been able to reach an agreement with Google to ensure that journalists, including small local media, will be supported for years to come,” responded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before entering the question period.
For Éric-Pierre Champagne, president of the Professional Federation of Journalists (FPJQ), Wednesday's announcement will certainly put pressure on Meta in the long term. “They have the opportunity to demonstrate that they want to be a good corporate citizen and get on the train,” he said in an interview with Devoir.
The news was favorably received in the media sector. “We salute the work of Minister Pascale St-Onge and the government to reach an agreement with Google on a unique regulatory framework in the world,” declared Pierre-Elliott Levasseur, president of La Presse.
The director of Devoir, Brian Myles, also welcomed the agreement from the federal government. “Le Devoir is very pleased that the good faith interlocutors […] have succeeded in supporting the Canadian news sector,” he declared. Like the president of La Presse, Mr. Myles believes, however, that it will be necessary to know the details of the regulations to understand whether the law will have the desired effect.
In reaction to Wednesday's announcement, the National Federation of Communications and Culture (FNCC–CSN) for its part declared that Meta must imperatively reintegrate journalistic content on its platforms and begin negotiations with press companies, such as provided for by law.
Blurred for CBC/Radio-Canada
Asked whether the CBC/Radio-Canada news network could receive monetary compensation as part of the agreement with Google, Minister St-Onge did not confirm its eligibility. The details of the final regulations will be known and published shortly before the official implementation of the law on December 19.
“But I can say that we considered very seriously the comments regarding our broadcaster [public],” she assured.
The president of the FPJQ admits that the media crisis, “which affects both private and public sector media,” is of great concern to Radio-Canada journalists. This fall, the public broadcaster announced limiting the creation of new positions and questioning the replacement of departures.
The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, for his part, judged that commercial agreements were not should not be granted to them: “From the moment CBC/Radio Canada have access to sums guaranteed by the Canadian state, my first instinct is [to say] that it is not intended for them”, he declared.
On Wednesday, CBC/Radio-Canada simply stated that it “welcomed” the agreement between the Government of Canada and Google aimed at guaranteeing fair compensation for news content.
Harmonize with Quebec
Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe, did not comment on the substance of Ottawa's announcement, of which he had only been informed through media reports.
“If there’s an agreement, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. We will see what this agreement is about. » Mr. Lacombe will be attentive to the way in which the funds will be distributed.
More generally, the minister will meet his federal counterpart soon to discuss aid to the media and a joint plan. He insisted on the importance of consultation between the two governments in this matter, marked by a recent wave of job cuts at TVA.
“Quebec can do whatever it wants, but if it is not harmonized with Ottawa and it is not a common game plan, I wonder what it will be used for,” said Mathieu Lacombe.
As for its jurisdiction, the Quebec government is the one that best supports the media in North America, affirmed the minister.
“Historically, radios and televisions come under Ottawa, even if it is less and less true, so we have to talk to Ottawa and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
With Alexandre Robillard