Canada’s Online News Act, a possible harbinger of industry disruption

Canada’s journalism industry to undergo disruption with new C-18 Bill, but government remains optimistic.

The ongoing spat between the Canadian government and big tech continues, although the Prime Minister remains optimistic about the outcome of the Online News Act (Bill C-18). Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, announced the government’s intention to quit its annual spending of CAD 10 million (7.5 million USD) on advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. In turn, Google will close down its Google News Showcase program, through which individual newsrooms, like Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, receive payment for content. Its innovation and training boot camps for startup entrepreneurs costing $1.5 million will also cease. Similarly, Meta’s programs, such as its Local News Accelerator program and one-year fellowship program, which costs the company $1 million, will also end. With the new law in place, both companies will stop sharing Canadian news links on their platforms. 

With the aim to subsidize the journalism industry, Canada’s Bill C-18 became law on 22 June 2023. It is expected to come into force by the end of the year, and undoubtedly, all stakeholders will face significant hurdles, some more than others. Large legacy media houses like BCE Inc will receive $300 million annually in government subsidies, whereas small new-age digital organisations stand to lose customers as the 45% of Canadians who depend on social media for news will no longer be able to access it there. Still, the government remains optimistic about finding a resolution, suitable for all.