By definition, media institutions being dependent upon politicians choosing to direct money their way defeats the purpose of the ‘free press.’
As the consequences of Bill C-18 have become more and more obvious, I have repeatedly made the following point:
The Liberals aren’t upset by Google and Facebook planning to end news sharing in Canada. In fact, that’s exactly what they want.
Sure, they are pretending to be upset, because they know that’s the pose they must take.
But the end of news sharing on a major social media platform and a major search engine serves the interests of the Liberal government perfectly well.
During their time in office, the Liberals have consistently sought to make more and more the media dependent upon the government.
They believe it is the role of the government to step in and bail out media outlets. They also believe the government should be cracking down on freedom of expression online, and that the government should have the power to force social media companies and content platforms to fund what the Liberals think deserves funding, rather than letting the market figure it out.
Remember, the Liberals are pushing to regulate what they call “lawful but harmful” content, which would take the idea of what is ‘offensive’ away from what it should be – an individual decision made by adults – to something the government will decide for us.
You can see the common theme here: The government decides.
A rebellion against the inevitable
As the saying goes, you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube. And that aptly describes the internet and the rise of social media.
It cannot be undone.
The internet can’t be ‘uncreated,’ and social media can’t be stopped.
It can be delayed and temporarily controlled, but even the most totalitarian regimes find themselves unable to completely control the flow of information the internet and social media platforms make possible.
The countries that succeed the most in the 21st century are the countries that embrace this reality and make the most of it.
The countries that fall behind – as Canada currently is according to our per capita GDP – are the countries that waste time and effort fighting against reality.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Liberal government is doing. Legislation like Bill C-11 and C-18 represent a rebellion against the inevitable, but it is a rebellion that can still have negative consequences despite being doomed to long-term failure.
A misjudgment of power
The Liberals appear to believe they are the more powerful institution in their dealings with Meta – Facebook’s parent company, and Google.
They are wrong.
Canada has a population of 40 million people. By contrast, almost 3 billion people are on Facebook.
Similarily, about 3.5 billion people use Google on a daily basis.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Even if Google and Facebook lost all of their Canadian traffic, it would be almost unnoticeable to them. And, keep in mind that the end of news sharing in Canada won’t impact most of their traffic in Canada anyway, since news queries and posts make up a small percentage of all Canadian usage of Facebook & Google.
So, the Liberals have no power here.
You can see the power-dynamic in how Facebook has responded to Bill C-18. They are simply going to end news sharing, and have no interest in discussing it further:
“Meta’s head of public policy in Canada says there are no talks underway with the federal government on the new online streaming law and the social media giant is moving on its threat to drop Canadian news from its platforms.
“We are proceeding towards ending the availability of news permanently in Canada,” Rachel Curran told Power & Politics on Tuesday.”
“Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said he hopes the Liberal government can negotiate an agreement with Meta that allows news to remain available on the company’s platforms and also follows the rules laid out in C-18.
But Curran said there is no room for negotiations with the bill as written.
“Our trajectory is set. There is no way to negotiate out of the framework of this bill,” she told host David Cochrane.”
Similarly, Canada has absolutely no leverage over Google. Google can simply stop allowing the sharing of news links, and that’s that.
What is the real goal here?
According to their stated goals, the actions of the Liberals make no sense. They can’t force Google & Facebook to pay for links (an absurd idea). That’s it. They can’t force those companies to do anything. However, the Liberals know that by refusing to compromise on the legislation, the end result will be that Canadian media outlets will be weakened.
And this is the real goal of the Liberals – to make all Canadian media dependent upon government financing.
Look at it from the point of view of the Trudeau government. They’ve shown a clear penchant for control and secrecy. They are obviously angry that many Canadians – including Yours Truly – have built strong online followings without needing government money. They are angry that those outlets often criticize the government. And, they are seeing that many of the formerly well-established media outlets – who are often less critical of the government and more ‘predictable’ are struggling.
So, if the Liberals can simultaneously reduce the availability of news online, hurt independent media outlets, and make the establishment outlets more dependent upon taxpayers money, that’s a ‘win’ from their perspective.
And that is exactly what Bill C-18 is leading to.
“Resources” will be made available
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez – who has been the face of Bill C-18 – is now stating that the government will provide ‘more resources‘ to newsrooms in Canada if news sharing is blocked on Facebook/Google:
“Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said he remains hopeful digital giants will not make good on their threat to block access to Canadian news on their platforms, but if they do then the Liberal government will ensure newsrooms have the resources they need to continue their work.
“The world has changed and the same way we’re adapting to platforms, well, the platforms also have to adopt to the new reality,” Rodriguez said Tuesday in an interview.
“We have to make sure that newsrooms are open, that (journalists) are able to do their job and (they) have the resources necessary,” he said.
The legislation for online news is one of two bills the Liberals passed this year that bring in new government oversight to”
Of course, ‘resources’ means money.
The government will take more of our taxpayer dollars and give them to media outlets who are struggling as a direct result of policy imposed by the Liberals. They thus create a problem, and solve that problem in a way that makes the government more powerful and the media less independent.
It goes without saying that independent media outlets won’t be getting that government money – and wouldn’t take it in order to maintain their integrity even if it was offered. You can’t truly be independent if you depend upon government money, because it will always be in the back of your mind that you could fall apart financially if the government turned its ire on you. That will temper criticism of the government, which is exactly what the government wants.
Toronto Star & National Post merger?
It’s fitting then that we learned of a potential merger between the owner of the Toronto Star – Nordstar Capital LP – and the owner of the National Post – Postmedia Network Canada Corp:
“Postmedia Network Canada Corp. said Tuesday that it’s in talks to merge with Nordstar Capital LP, the owner of Metroland Media Group and the Toronto Star.
The two publishers say the proposed deal, which is yet to be finalized, is a bid to create greater scale so they can respond to the “existential threat” facing the media industry.
“The viability of the newspaper industry in Canada is at an extreme risk,” said Jordan Bitove, publisher of the Toronto Star, in the news release.
Postmedia said discussions to consider a combination are so far non-binding, but that the proposed merger would see an even division of voting rights. Postmedia shareholders would hold a 56 per cent economic interest and Nordstar would hold a 44 per cent interest.
Bitove, owner of Nordstar, would be chairman of the merged entity and Andrew MacLeod, chief executive of Postmedia, would be CEO.”
This will also please the Liberal government.
The more the media consolidates, and the more those consolidated entities are dependent upon government money, the easier it is for the government to influence what the press says, and the more the idea of the ‘free press’ erodes further.
We are thus going to see a larger and larger gap between those outlets that depend on the government, and those that are able to survive through voluntary support from Canadians – thus maintaining their true independence.
Photo – YouTube