An association representing more than 700 Canadian journalists is threatening to pull out of a federal panel that will decide which media outlets qualify for $600 million in tax breaks.
Canadian Association of Journalists president Karyn Pugliese told The Post Millennial that any secrecy over determining winners and losers in Ottawa’s media bailout is a dealbreaker.
“This has to be open, this has to be a transparent process,” Pugliese said. “Journalists are not going to live with something that’s not completely open.”
On Wednesday, Heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez announced the eight groups invited to join a panel tasked with determining what constitutes a Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization. Organizations that make the cut would then be eligible for up to $13,750 in annual tax breaks for individual editorial staff.
Those asked to nominate one member to the federal panel also include News Media Canada, the Association de la presse francophone, the Quebec Community Newspaper Association, National Ethnic Press, Media Council of Canada, Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, Unifor and the Fédération nationale des communications.
“We might participate, we might not,” said Pugliese, adding that the association’s board is meeting Monday to make its determination.
“This is highly controversial for journalists. There are journalists who think the government shouldn’t be doing this. There are journalists who are ok with it,” said Pugliese, whose day job is director of current affairs and news for the Aboriginal People’s Television Network.
“And there are journalists doing startups who are worried about the impact on their business if the legacy media is supported and they’re left out.”
Given Unifor president Jerry Dias’ purported mission to stop Conservatives from winning the next federal election, Ottawa’s invite to the biggest private sector union in the country, which represents workers at several “legacy” newsrooms like The Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Free Press, has also raised conflict of interest concerns.
Unifor did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Bruce Valpy, publisher of Northern News Services in Yellowknife, a non-union shop that produces seven weekly and bi-weekly papers distributed in Northwest Territories and Nunavut, said the purported tax breaks “are appreciated.”
“But I’d rather have something that helps us make money,” he told TPM. “The tax breaks will help, the grants will help but they’re not sustainable.”
Valpy said that revenue from federal government advertising in NNSL publications has fallen more than 30 percent in recent years, “and that represents hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
While federal government spends on local and national media advertising have fallen, online media giants like Facebook and Google have benefited – in 2018, Ottawa dolled out nearly $25 million to these and other U.S. internet companies to promote government programs and services.
According to News Media Canada, an amalgam of the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA), in 2013-2015 the federal government spent barely $867,000 on local newspaper advertising.
Taken in concert with the nearly $1 billion the CBC receives in government funding, Valpy said independent news organizations like NNSL are in the fight of their lives.
“It’s great that they’re pumping so much money into CBC, but the problem is if all that money goes to CBC and Facebook, it ends up killing community journalism,” he said.
“I love the CBC and listen to them all the time, but they shouldn’t be in advertising. And not only are we competing with them on that, but we’re competing with them on journalism and they have unlimited resources.”
Newspapers like those NNSL publishes, would be represented on the federal panel by News Media Canada.