It's possible someone is not on mute.
In recent years, Parliament has debated how to support Canadian journalism. Many members are justifiably worried about government subsidies compromising newsrooms' perceived impartiality. However, there are other options, and today I would like to highlight one that won't cost a dime.
Facebook is Canada's number one news source, and news is actually the number one reason Canadians use Facebook, according to Abacus Data. Yet, Facebook itself produces no news. They don't employ a single journalist. Instead they take a free ride on the investment and talent of Canadian newsrooms by taking their content without permission or payment and selling it as their own at a steep discount. Some would call this theft. At the very least, it's a parasitic and unfair practice that fatally distorts the market.
I challenge you to think of one other industry in which one or two firms are permitted to raid their competitors' output without even asking, let alone paying, for it and then reselling it as their own for a fraction of the price. I, for one, can't think of any. Yet this is exactly what Facebook does millions and millions of times a day.
Today Friends is proud to be launching a national advertising campaign called “WANTED”, featuring the poster that appears behind me, to alert Canadians to Facebook's unfair news appropriation practices and to rally support for urgent, reasonable regulations that would require these platforms to pay Canadian newsrooms a fair price for the content they publish, much as radio stations pay royalties for music they broadcast.
I refer you to newsthief.ca or ilnousvole.ca for more details.
In April, Australia became the most recent country to enact such measures, and Canada should do the same.
Let's be clear. Canadians value Canadian news and consume it in great quantities. Profits may have plummeted, but readership has remained strong and is now even stronger thanks to COVID-19. Canadians understand that “uncle Larry's” off-the-cuff opinions are no substitute for professional reporting, just as uncle Larry's hot takes are no substitute for thoughtful, professional parliamentary deliberation.
Our appetite for news has not changed. All that's changed is who gets paid. It used to be the people who create the value. Now it's the parasitic middleman who creates none. If you value free markets as I do, this situation should concern you greatly.
Recent events have shown that Facebook could not be a less-deserving company of such artificial competitive advantages. A recent Leger survey found that 53% of Canadians believe at least one COVID conspiracy theory that circulates widely on Facebook. This is not an accident. Facebook was recently exposed for proactively helping advertisers to target people interested in pseudoscience so that those most susceptible to COVID lies would be most likely to encounter them. This practice is not just immoral, but it undermines Canada's unprecedented and unprecedentedly expensive public health efforts. Recently, Facebook's response to police brutality and the protests against it have caused employees with $300,000 salaries to walk out on Facebook because they just can't stomach working there anymore.
What happens in Canada matters. Your work matters. The work that happens in provinces matters. Local news matters. Media is the only way for us to maintain a common national identity across great distances, and news is the only way for us to participate together in a unified democracy.
Australia's approach befits a confident sovereign nation. It's time for Canada to prove that we belong in that league.
No single action will solve the news crisis, but requiring Google and Facebook to pay for the news they use is a very good first step. This is something you can do to drive extra revenue to Canadian media without spending a dime of public money. I strongly encourage you to take up this policy without delay and I look forward to answering any questions you might have about how best to do so.
Thank you very much.