The Canadian government and tech giant Google have struck an agreement, bringing an end to the prolonged dispute stemming from the Online News Act.
The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage, unveiled a breakthrough last week, announcing Google’s commitment to provide $100 million annually in financial support as part of a framework aimed at ensuring Canadians have access to credible news content.
St-Onge highlighted the culmination of constructive discussions, expressing satisfaction in finding common ground with Google for the implementation of the Online News Act.
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“Following weeks of productive discussions, I am happy to announce that we have found a path forward with Google for the implementation of the Online News Act,” she stated. “This will benefit the news sector and allow Google to continue to play an important role in giving Canadians access to reliable news content.”
Under this framework, Google will allocate $100 million in yearly financial assistance, indexed to inflation, to a diverse array of news businesses across Canada. This support extends to independent news outlets, Indigenous publications, and those representing official-language minority communities.
Google will have the option to collaborate with a single collective to distribute these contributions among eligible news businesses, based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists engaged by each entity.
Emphasizing the broader societal importance of a sustainable news ecosystem, Minister St-Onge stressed the critical role news and journalism play in informing communities, fostering civic engagement, and combating the proliferation of disinformation. She highlighted the necessity for Canadians to have access to news to fully participate in a democratic society, especially amidst the challenges faced by newsrooms, including position cuts and closures.
Addressing the Online News Act’s objectives, St-Onge reiterated the government’s confidence in this framework, affirming its viability and equity for both news organizations and digital platforms.
The Online News Act was introduced in 2021 in response to concerns over fair commercial relationships between tech giants and Canadian news outlets. Apart from the financial contribution, Google has committed to providing various programs to support Canadian news businesses, including training, business development tools, and assistance for non-profit journalism projects.
Moreover, Google has assured that Canadian news entities will be treated fairly in comparison to their global counterparts. In the event of any deviation from this commitment, Google has agreed to engage with both the Government and the industry to address concerns and seek resolution.
The enactment of the Online News Act in Canada echoes similar moves globally, following precedents set by countries like Australia. It represents a stance taken by governments and media entities against tech monopolies such as Google and Facebook, aiming to ensure fair compensation for publishers contributing content used by these platforms to generate substantial ad revenue.
Pending approval by the Treasury Board of Canada, Canadian Heritage will provide additional details on the final regulations before the Act takes effect on December 19, 2023.