Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to pick up where we left off last night.
I have to say I was a little disappointed. We had a great opportunity to debate Bill C‑18 last night, but we were cut off at about 6:30 p.m. in the middle of my speech. I had about 12 minutes to go. The classy thing to do would have been to let me finish my speech before interrupting the proceedings. Let us not talk about that right now. Let us talk about Bill C‑18 for the time we have left because, as everyone knows, the House just voted in favour of time allocation.
During the debates on Bill C‑18, there was a lot of talk about money. Basically, people talked about the financial difficulties news outlets have been experiencing for decades, ever since the web giants came on the scene and helped themselves to the lion's share of advertising revenue. People have talked a lot about money, which is certainly important because that is the crux of the matter, obviously. That is what news outlets need in order to succeed and keep providing the essential service they provide: high-quality, independent, fact-checked, thorough information; essentially, news that meets recognized journalistic standards.
Bill C‑18 will benefit the news sector. It will most likely help save many news businesses. That is the objective of the bill, and I think that it will largely achieve that objective. Today, I also wanted to talk about something else that Bill C‑18 will help preserve or even save, and that is journalism itself. We have heard all kinds of things about eligible news businesses and which businesses would benefit more than others from this bill and from the regulations and regulatory framework that will be put in place by Bill C‑18. However, we are forgetting to define and discuss journalism itself.
With the advent of social media and digital platforms, it is true that we have seen the emergence of new types of news media, new types of businesses, new ways of disseminating information. However, we have also seen more news businesses engaging in what we might call advocacy journalism. In some cases, it could even be described as activist journalism, a form of journalism that involves embracing a cause and using the medium to provide news to the public in a way that is biased in favour of that cause. One example would be environmental journalism. We agree that the cause is worthy, but environmental journalists will always deliver the news with an activist slant. I have nothing against that, but is that journalism in the true sense of the word? No, not really, in the same way that a certain type of media outlet might have a political bent. I know some people will say that CBC/Radio-Canada has a pro-government, pro-Liberal bias.
What is journalism, really? Journalism is a profession that demands a lot of meticulous work and a lot of passion. It has certain standards, certain rules that I would hazard to say are accepted around the world. Its first guiding principle is independence. What does independence mean for journalism and for journalists? It means the ability to work unfettered by the influence of a government, company, movement or cause. That is what journalistic independence means. The second guiding principle is handling the news in a meticulous way. That means having an almost obsessive passion for truth-seeking and fact-checking, while remaining objective.
The other guiding principle is respect for individuals and groups and respect in handling sources.
These are the guiding principles of the journalism profession. I am not saying that advocacy journalism, activist journalism or opinion journalism are bad. However, they are not necessarily what we are trying to protect through Bill C‑18. That is why we included eligibility criteria in Bill C‑18. News outlets eligible under the regulatory framework proposed by Bill C‑18 will have to espouse a code of ethics. The code in question may not necessarily mirror the journalistic standards and practices of CBC/Radio-Canada or the ethics guide of the Quebec Press Council. However, the media outlet would need a code, even one scribbled on a piece of paper, that reflects its commitment to complying with the guiding principles of journalism.
I think this should offer some comfort to people who think that Bill C‑18 will favour certain large media outlets that they believe show a bias for the government and could act as a conduit for the government's opinions.
I do not think that what I am about to say will be a big surprise to members who did not participate in the debates on Bill C-18. My Conservative friends were not very supportive of this bill and they do not generally like what we call the mainstream media, the major news media outlets. I am talking about traditional media companies like CBC/Radio-Canada, Vidéotron, Bell Media and Québecor, of course. I am talking about these major companies that produce the news. The Conservatives find them biased because, in general, they take positions that are not relayed as the Conservatives would like, for all sorts of reasons. Generally, the populist spin gets filtered out in the mainstream media, which adopt journalistic standards and adhere to broad journalistic principles.
I will now digress briefly, since we are talking about CBC/Radio-Canada. I know someone who has worked in the news service for a good part of his career and who received complaints from the public. On the French side, Quebec separatists have often accused Radio-Canada of being federalist and not reporting the news or doing so in a biased way when it comes to the separatist cause. Conversely, Quebec federalists find that Radio-Canada is a gang of separatists. This person I know told me that when it comes to the news, if he receives the same number of complaints from people who complain that they are being too federalist relative to those who complain that they are being too separatist, he feels that they did a good job, that they worked objectively and that they were “on the right track,” as my friend, the House leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for La Prairie might say. In short, it is all a matter of perception.
However, there is something that is different about the mainstream media. I do not want to advocate for CBC/Radio-Canada, but in general, these major media companies are objective. Obviously we see biases from time to time, but not serious ones. These major media outlets must change course and correct the situation when they make a mistake, when they err, when they are, for example, partisan, or biased, or handle a news item badly. They all have mechanisms for receiving complaints, processing them and making retractions as needed. Knowing how to make retractions after recognizing that a mistake was made is also one of the major principles of journalism.
I am talking about mainstream media, but I also spoke earlier about the new media, new forms of news media that we have seen emerge, media of all kinds. There is a lot of opinion news, as I said. I wondered whether these media had to be neglected. The answer is obviously no.
Changes are happening in the news sector. Everyone acknowledged that when we studied Bill C‑18. A lot has changed. The fact is that news companies need to adapt, transition to digital technologies and make sure they reach people where they are.
Consumer habits have changed in recent years when it comes to the news. People get their news on social media. They go on Facebook, for example, or they search for a particular piece of news or subject using Google. These are now the ways we get our news. What is more, these outlets and general content companies sell huge amounts of advertising, since 80% of advertising is said to now be in the digital sector. I think it is normal that these outlets and these companies, which profit heavily from the news sector and the content generated by newsrooms, contribute to the content they are benefiting from. It is the least they can do.
I am well aware of the fact that Bill C‑18 will not solve all the issues with the news sector, the media in general and culture, the latter being addressed more specifically in Bill C‑11. Bill C‑18 will not solve everything. There will still be problems and challenges. In my opinion, it is normal that governments come to the aid of a sector as fragile as the news sector. It is a fragile sector, but it is essential.
Clearly, we will need more tools to help the media. That is obvious. The fund the Bloc Québécois is proposing would be a very effective tool, allowing us to collect royalties from the digital giants that are making outrageous profits and use them to support more fragile media, such as regional media. I think that would be a good solution.
Once again, the Bloc Québécois is the party proposing solutions rather than simply opposing suggestions and obstructing Parliament. I would be very pleased to discuss this with my colleagues and to make a more detailed proposal to the government.