Canada Free Expression

Deeply flawed Online News Bill C-18 passes without key fixes

The Online News Act won’t fix Canadian journalism - and might hurt it.

JUNE 23 2023 — Yesterday Bill C-18, The Online News Act received royal assent after passing through the House of Commons. The bill was first introduced in April 2022, and its final passage follows the House’s acceptance of small scale amendments from the Senate. Unfortunately, neither the House nor the Senate made significant changes to the bill that would direct a substantial quantity of the funds towards local and independent journalism or prevent platforms from opting out of sharing Canadian news entirely. 

“Unfortunately, Bill C-18 is as flawed today as it was a year ago,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “A sustainable base for quality journalism is critical for Canadians, which is what makes this poorly conceived legislation so incredibly disappointing. Bill C-18 won’t fix our news industry. Instead, by giving online platforms an easy out — the option to simply stop allowing news sharing — it could actually drive down news revenue further.” 

“Instead of providing support to independent news outlets, Bill C-18 will see boosted funding for legacy national media outlets, while small local outlets will be left to bleed out,” continued Hatfield. “Instead of re-opening the local news outlets that Canadians have lost, the great majority of funding is earmarked for large national chains, with no requirement to spend it on public interest reporting. And C-18 encourages them to spend that money poorly. By rewarding the spread of their content on social media, it incentivizes poor quality clickbait journalism, not the high-quality, well researched, investigative reporting that Canadians actually need. While we’ll continue participating in bringing a public interest lens to the implementation of Bill C-18, we hope the government will consider replacing Bill C-18 with a smarter news sustainability solution soon.” 

The Senate initially passed Bill C-18 back to the House on Friday, June 16. The House’s hurried review is due to Parliament’s upcoming summer recess, slated to begin later today.

Since May 2022, OpenMedia community members have sent over 13,000 messages to MPs, Senators, and the Department of Canadian Heritage calling for greater transparency and protections to support quality news in Canada. The CRTC will likely begin public consultations on the implementation of Bill C-18 in the coming months.

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