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Do you want to know how Canadian journalism can be saved?

A key recommendation is that the CBC be reformed, re-funded and removed from competition for advertising.

OTTAWA — In a new Macdonald-Laurier Institute paper, “And now, the news: A national news media policy for Canada”, Senior Fellow Peter Menzies and Konrad von Finckenstein propose the basis of a Canadian National News Media Policy which would ensure fair commercial treatment for Canada’s news producers, allow for a free and independent media to flourish, and for public trust to be maintained.

One of its key recommendations is that the CBC be reformed, re-funded and removed from the competition for advertising. Another is for large legacy print media organizations to accept digital is the new black ink.

“It is generally accepted that the provision of unbiased, fair, accurate, balanced journalism is required for democratic societies to be well informed,” write Menzies and von Finckenstein. “What’s necessary, given the evolved economics of news, is for policy-makers to ensure that it is possible for good journalists employed by competent operators to fill that role in a financially stable fashion.”

In that spirit, Menzies and von Finckenstein highlight six areas in which public policy-makers can assist in the development of legislation to support a sustainable news industry:

  • Reform the CBC’s role as a commercial competitor;
  • Encourage news subscriptions through tax benefits;
  • Support the digital transition of news media;
  • Reform current tax benefits and funds in support of journalism;
  • Re-evaluate the role of the CRTC,
  • And, create a Canadian Journalists Fund.

Menzies and von Finckenstein accept that the industry must take responsibility for its own state of affairs: to date, much of the lobbying for policy changes has focused on rescuing struggling business models rather than inspiring new ones. The most recent effort involves the tabling of the Online News Act (Bill C-18) aiming to redistribute advertising income from offshore tech companies like Meta and Google to national news companies. This is untenable.

“The industry and public policy-makers need to accept that during a period of… there will be companies incapable of surviving… What is necessary is not the survival of all companies currently involved in producing journalism, but that journalism and journalists can transition from unstable platforms to those capable of sustaining the work in the future,” write the authors.

“Allowing market forces to drive the industry is, ultimately, the solution.”

To take on your long weekend read, find the full paper in PDF form here:

Peter Menzies is a Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and spent close to 10 years as a member of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, including terms as a part-time Commissioner, regional Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories and as vice-chair of Telecommunications. Prior to that he had a long newspaper career, most significantly at the Calgary Herald where he served as editorial page editor, editor-in chief and publisher. He is a National Newspaper Award winner and Association of Opinion Page Editors award winner. He is a frequent writer of commentary for the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, The Line, The Hub, C2C Journal, Epoch Times, and numerous other publications across Canada.

Konrad W. von Finckenstein is a Senior Fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute, focusing mainly on communications law, dispute resolution, competition law, and mergers and acquisitions. Von Finckenstein served as Chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) from 2007 to 2012. A Federal Justice from 2003 to 2007, and Commissioner of Competition from 1997 to 2003, he is also an accomplished trade negotiator and diplomat. He was Senior General Counsel in the Trade Negotiations Office during Canada-US free trade negotiations in 1987 and 1988, responsible both for negotiating the dispute settlement provisions and overseeing the drafting of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement as well as its implementation legislation. He has also held senior positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Industry, and Department of Justice.

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