Pablo Rodriguez says he's open to amending his online news bill

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Pablo Rodriguez says he is open to amending his online news bill

The text aims to force “web giants” to share revenue with news companies.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told a Commons committee on Friday that he would be open to amendments to his bill which he said would make Canada a world leader in supporting a modern free press.

Bill C-18 seeks to force web giants to enter into agreements with Canadian news companies to share some of the revenue they collect by publishing journalistic content on their online platforms. It would not affect agreements already in place with news organizations.

This is about the future of journalism in our country, said Mr. Rodriguez.

“The law aims to ensure that news organizations in Canada get fair compensation for their work. »

— Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Bill C-18, if passed, will help strengthen democracy, including creating a more equitable news ecosystem, according to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez.

Under the bill, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would be responsible for developing regulations on how the framework is established, investigating complaints and investigating complaints. impose administrative penalties if the parties violate the law.

Canada's decision to make web giants pay for news and subject them to an arbitration process of the CRTC follows similar legislation passed in Australia last year.

As Australia's bill was being finalized, Facebook, which has since rebranded itself as Meta, removed news content from its platform in that country for several days, but restored it after the government had made changes to its law.

Meta Canada did not appear before the Commons committee. According to a statement from its head of media partnerships, the company was surprised not to receive an invitation to participate, especially given public comments from lawmakers that this law targeted Facebook.

Marc Dinsdale's statement outlines Meta's concerns and argues that the bill would essentially force the company to pay for content that media outlets voluntarily share on the platform, which it says already amounts to marketing. free for news content.

“We feel it is important to be transparent about the possibility that we will be forced to consider if we continue to allow sharing of news content in Canada.

—Marc Dinsdale, Head of Media Partnerships at Meta

Mr. Dinsdale adds that Meta is open to working with the government.

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Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu asked Minister Rodriguez if Canada was doing anything to prevent an outcome where Facebook content would be banned. This is a business decision to be made by the platform, Rodriguez replied.

Under the new framework, Canada would take a similar approach to Australia, but with more transparency mechanisms, the minister said. So much so that even Aussies are looking at us and saying, 'Wow, that's good, let's see if we can do the same,' he added . The world is watching and I hope we will rise to the occasion.

Newspaper companies have largely supported the bill, but associations representing small media x27;information have complained that eligibility criteria requiring newsrooms to have two full-time reporters could exclude many struggling community newspapers.

Minister Rodriguez said Friday that the bill is not intended to be a silver bullet and that the government is investing money in other programs that support local journalism. But he also said he was open to discussing changes that would address any concerns.

He added that a collective bargaining provision in the bill is designed to support small media outlets by allowing them to band together when sitting across from the big platforms.

Google Canada criticized the legislation this week, saying a provision requiring platforms not to give undue preference to particular media would prevent the search engine from elevating sources from x27;reliable information above inferior content and misinformation.

And documents provided by Google to the Heritage Committee highlight other concerns about how the bill defines eligible news outlets.

An overly vague definition means companies headquartered elsewhere that fail to meet ethical journalistic standards could still qualify as long as they employ two people in Canada, the documents say, raising concerns. the possibility of unintentionally including foreign propaganda.

When asked if he would support amendments that would specifically write provisions on the journalistic integrity in the bill, Mr. Rodriguez said he was always open to discussing changes.

He said the bill tries to be as independent as possible and that the government has no role to play in selecting and deciding which media can enter the negotiation process, other than beyond the criteria set out in the bill. I don't think it's up to me to decide and name which organizations would be included.

CRTC officials who testified before the committee earlier Friday said that&#x27 ;they would only review the legislation itself to determine which media are eligible.

Rachelle Frenette, General Counsel and Deputy Director General of the CRTC, confirmed that to include journalistic integrity in the list of criteria, it would have to be explicitly enshrined in law.

< p class="e-p">CRTC Chairman Ian Scott told the committee earlier Friday that his agency was well equipped to iron out the details of the bill and oversee its complaint mechanisms, even if it there will be challenges along the way. Scott said he has already sought advice from colleagues in other countries where similar laws are in place, such as Australia.

An assessment by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) suggested earlier this month that the measures in Bill C-18 could help Canadian news organizations hit $329.2 million a year . According to the PBO, $247.7 million would go to broadcasters with an online presence, and $81.6 million to other news organizations.

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