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Trudeau’s Online News Act sparks angry letters to Trudeau as it nears a deadline of December 19th

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Justin Trudeau’s plan to help the media industry with the Online News Act IS actually doing more harm than good. In trying to take on powerful tech giants like Google and Meta, he has severely miscalculated the consequences for small, independent publishers. 

As the law’s deadline of December 19th approaches, warnings from these smaller outlets are growing increasingly dire.

Meta has already blocked access to Canadian news on its platforms and Google is joining soon.

From the very beginning, this bill was a misguided attempt to force the tech giants’ hand. Trudeau should have known better than to provoke two of the largest corporations in the world into a confrontation on their own turf. The aftermath of Bill C-18 shows Trudeau’s naivety in thinking powerful companies like Meta and Google would simply comply with his demands.

Maybe next time Trudeau should consult experts beyond just big legacy players before ramming through laws that will just hurt those he claimed to be helping. 

With freelancers, small blogs and town newspapers all in jeopardy, can Canadian media as we know it survive? Or has Trudeau destroyed it forever? 

The December 19th deadline looms large over the news industry as Trudeau’s Bill C-18, or the Online News Act will soon come into effect.

This may be bad news for big tech companies like Google and Meta, but it is especially bad for small businesses. Meta and Google’s threat to eliminate access to Canadian news altogether rather than pay the government harms small news organizations who rely on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google for viewership.

Trudeau has blamed these tech giants time and time again. But who’s really to blame for this?

It’s common knowledge that journalists and anyone who puts content out on the internet, benefit from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or X. They provide unparalleled reach, so journalists can connect with new audiences and even profit from the page views and support they receive. 

So it was a surprise when Trudeau crusaded as the hero, promising that he would get two American technology behemoths, Meta and Google, to pay a fair price for all the content they receive from Canadians.

It seems like Trudeau’s ego truly led him to believe that if he talks a good enough talk, he would be the Prime Minister that made Meta fall to its knees. Well, that doesn’t seem to be working out so well for him. 

In a classic case of biting off more than you can chew, Meta has retaliated against Trudeau’s provocation by blocking Canadian news on its platforms. Facebook and Instagram, under Meta’s umbrella, began the permanent removal of Canadian news in August – sending shockwaves through the Canadian media industry. 

Indiegraf CEO, Erin Millar, warned in a letter to Trudeau that the bill could cause “an existential event” for many local newsrooms since “Removing Canadian news content from these platforms will raise the barrier to entry for start-ups and chill news innovation, development and investment. It will harm small and Indigenous news businesses, and distort the playing field.” 

Things haven’t been going well with the Canadian media industry for a while now, 60 outlets closed in just the past two years and CTV shut down its foreign bureaus. Over 250 Canadian newspapers have shut down since 2013, turning chunks of the country into areas devoid of local journalism.  

Clearly, the rise of social media has completely changed the way people get their news and as a result, social media platforms benefit from the ad revenue which was once the lifeblood for local news outlets and publications. 

So it’s obvious to many that traditional journalism is in decline and news outlets that have failed to adapt quickly enough to these changes will die out regardless of Trudeau’s policies. With the industry on shaky ground, Meta’s move could be the final nail in the coffin.

As the December 19th deadline inches closer, many small news organizations and startups have sent letters to Trudeau expressing how this bill is a misguided motion that does more harm than good.Through an Access-to-Information request, Politico recently uncovered these urgent appeals from Canadians in danger of losing their businesses and jobs if the bill goes through. 

Bridge Canada’s co-founder, Gabriel Ramirez, said in a public consultation with Ottawa that Meta’s exit is “killing us” since traffic to their videos has dried up. ZoomerMedia, which reaches over 10 million Canadians through social media sites, warned officials in a letter that between the changes at Google and Meta, they expect a 60% reduction in traffic. The COO said jobs will be lost and even entire divisions are at risk.

Meanwhile, Village Media, a publisher operating in 21 Ontario communities, directly told the PM in a letter that losing Facebook and Google news “will likely result in the shutdown of 5 to 6 of our newer community news sites.” They also said around 30 jobs could disappear across the company.

Narcity Media has been forced to lay off over 16 employees as a result and Michael Kras, an arts and culture writer for a small local start-up website in Hamilton, pleaded with the Heritage Minister, saying the platforms blocking Canadian news “will simply be catastrophic for our industry” and “the end of my job, my livelihood.”

It’s truly sad to hear these hard working Canadians begging their government, hoping that Trudeau will finally listen to reason. But unfortunately, their appeals are for nothing as Trudeau shows no signs of stopping.

As he alluded to this summer, Trudeau see’s C-18 as a fight for democracy, even comparing it to the Second World War.  

Unfortunately, many journalists and small businesses do not see it that way. 

By provoking a confrontation instead of collaborative solutions, Trudeau has backed himself into a corner.

Those tech giants built their empires by providing content, not producing journalism. Seems hypocritical to force them to pay up now. Let’s not forget that news sites signed up for this  by posting on their platforms in exchange for free traffic. And now Canadian media may be censored all together if Google also pulls the plug on Canadian news content like Meta.

However, there’s a very interesting contrast between the CBC and smaller Canadian publishers on this issue.

are directly blaming Trudeau and sending urgent letters about the harm from Bill C-18, versus how the CBC is pointing the finger squarely at Meta and Google.

CBC head Catherine Tait has laid the blame for CBC’s $100 million budget shortfall at Meta and Google’s feet, stating that “deregulated competition from foreign digital giants is suffocating our industry”. Tait also criticized Meta’s news blocking, saying it allows fake news to spread. 

Is this real journalism or is Tait just parroting Trudeau’s talking points again?

There’s clearly a gap between how the well-funded CBC frames the issue, versus the panicked warnings from small outlets fearing they may not survive the fallout of Trudeau’s policies. While the CBC is busy blaming everything on Meta and Google, other Canadian news outlets are busy taking their urgent concerns directly to Trudeau, doubting he will fix things with the tech giants in time to save their businesses.

Trudeau naively expected that by forcing negotiations through legislation, the tech giants would come to the table, pay up, and accept the terms handed down to them. But these are businesses valued at over a trillion dollars, they were never going to comply that easily. Trudeau should have known they would fight his policy, so why isn’t he doing something to fix it now?

Many are asking this question because not just Canadian news outlets, bloggers, and journalists are affected by Meta’s decision, but freelance artists are too. Canadian illustrator Chelsea O’Byrne has warned Trudeau that her career hinges on contract work with media companies like The Globe and Mail.

She criticized Trudeau’s policies and how unaware the Liberal government is of the implications of their actions “Bill C-18 suggests that our government leaders are deeply unaware of the role that social media plays in today’s freelance economy,” she said. “This bill is going to make it virtually impossible for freelancers like me to continue finding new clients while residing in Canada.” 

And there you have it. Trudeau’s misguided policy is driving talented Canadians away from our country. 

His absurd demands ended up severely jeopardizing countless small independent outlets, freelancers and the diverse voices within Canadian journalism. Even when confronted with warnings and pleas, Trudeau has not listened. 

In fact, he doesn’t seem interested in listening to those being hurt most.

With deadlines closing in and Google also threatening to pull the plug, the damage could end up being much greater than anything the government aimed to fix with C-18 in the first place. At this point it’s hard to see how Canadian news survives the mess Trudeau has created unless both parties come to the negotiation table to save Canadian news. 

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