Thank you, Nick.
You've heard in prior testimony to this committee what you no doubt already knew, that media are facing a revenue problem. Advertisers are able to exploit digital opportunities that offer more eyeballs and a larger audience share. This has irrevocably shifted balance sheets at media companies across Canada. First it was the classifieds, then the national advertisements, and now it's hitting at every level.
Just this week, as referenced today in earlier testimony, Rainy River Record, a paper that has served its readers for almost a century, announced that it will stop publication this month and shut its doors. Why? The Record's publisher said that two of its major advertisers, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, have chosen to, as he put it, “shun newspaper advertising” in favour of global giants like Google. That closure represents yet another blow to all newspapers in both Ontario and across Canada.
Put simply, as revenue drops, many media owners cut expenses by laying off journalists. With fewer human resources in those newsrooms, less journalism is produced, and journalists spend more time chasing audiences that generate potential new online revenue than they do investing in high-quality content. With less content available and the quality of that content dropping, audiences look elsewhere for the information they want. All the while, revenues continue to drop.
Bob Cox, chair of the Canadian Newspaper Association, told this committee earlier this year, on May 31, that the “federal government could find ways of encouraging Canadian companies to spend their advertising dollars here”. The CAJ supports that view. We're not proposing a regulatory solution to the pervasive revenue question that's gone largely unanswered in many media companies, both big and small. To be certain, different markets face different pressures, and some have more success than others, but there's a clear and urgent need to find creative solutions for those communities in need.
The CAJ does support, generally speaking, government making it easier to invest in Canadian media, such as a tax break for local advertisers who currently see no advantage in placing their ad in their local newspaper or on the air with their local broadcaster. We know that when local media can raise enough revenue from their own communities, they can thrive. Let's offer an incentive for companies to invest in the journalism being done in their backyards.
When media companies can cover their expenses through the revenues they raise from advertising, they can and they do invest in quality, namely, content that informs Canadians about their roles and responsibilities in a civil society, that shines a light in dark places, speaks truth to power, and comforts the afflicted.
Nick, back to you.