Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Provencher.
As always, I recognize what a privilege it is to stand in the House of Commons and represent my community of Peterborough—Kawartha.
Today, we are debating Bill C-18 amendments that have been brought back from the Senate. It is known as the online news act. In a nutshell, this bill proposes to make big tech like Google and Facebook or Meta, as it is now known, pay when they share links from smaller independent legacy media. This bill is deeply flawed and, quite frankly, it is an absolute disaster.
I grew up just outside Peterborough, Ontario in a town called Douro. We had about three channels. As the youngest child, it was my job to be the human remote control. It was also my job to turn the dial for the aerial outside to make sure it was just right. Everyone at home who was a child of the eighties knows what I speak of. My favourite shows were the CHEX news, The Raccoons and The Beachcombers.
When I was nine we moved to the township of Otonabee and we got a satellite dish. It was a huge deal. If someone pressed a button, the giant satellite dish out in the yard moved with a remote control with hundreds of channels.
As technology has rapidly progressed, the customer has definitely taken more of a driver role. The customer says what they want, when they want and how they want it.
There are so many more options and it has increased competition, which has made it harder and harder to capture the attention of the customer. Local news will always be relevant. Local news will always be a priority because we need to know what is happening in our community. We want to know.
The landscape of how we consume media has drastically changed but our need to stay connected and informed has not. I worked at a local television station for 14 years and then I went on to start my own business in social media. I know the value of local media.
I also know the competition has dramatically impacted our legacy media and not necessarily in a positive way. I worked for CHEX television at that time and we always dreamed of having a satellite truck so that we could go live. Imagine doing live hits. We were a small-town news media but with a big following because people wanted to stay connected. Then along came this little guy and we could go live with our phones like that.
Bill C-18 is not going to help legacy media. It is going to hurt them. Bill C-18 is a subsidy program. It is not a support program and it will never work. It also opens a dangerous door for censorship and control. It is a terrible idea hidden behind a classic Liberal narrative of "We will protect you and we know what is best for you."
This morning I spoke with Jeff Dueck, who is the sales manager from My Broadcasting Corporation in Peterborough, Ontario. He has major concerns with this bill. He shared many of his concerns with me, but the one that struck me the most is when he told me that they do not want subsidies but they want an equal playing field.
Subsidies are the polar opposite to sustainability and they are a classic Liberal tactic. They create chaos and then offer a sliver of help and long-term dependence, rather than freedom and autonomy. Canadians have caught on and the trust is gone. Jeff went on to say this:
The inability of our Government and the CRTC to listen to us and modernize outdated policies is slowly killing our industry, and in doing so, putting Canadians at risk of losing access to valuable sources for local news and information from trusted media outlets. When major players make major changes, it affects us all and stigmatizes us as a “passe“ business model amongst the businesses that we count on for advertising revenues - but that's still far from the reality.
If people take anything from this, please listen to what I am about to say. The harsh reality of this bill is that despite its intention, it is actually going to do the exact opposite.
If I were at Google or Facebook and the government told Google or Facebook it had to pay to share the links of small legacy media, what motivation would I have to share it? I would have none, zip. I would not share it. That is what is going to happen. This methodology is literally the stick instead of the carrot.
The truth is that one of the very best ways to get news to more people is to have a bigger platform to share it. That is the exact thing one would want. Once a bigger platform shares one's content, they are then able to tap into a whole new audience. Once they have that audience they have the opportunity to promote their subscription or merchandise. It is literally the best way to grow their business and brand online.
Bill C-18 will destroy legacy media: it will no longer be seen because it will no longer be shared.
Andrew Coyne, a columnist at The Globe and Mail, said it well when he said:
The premise, that the problems of the newspaper industry can be traced to search and social-media platforms like Google or Facebook "stealing" their content, is utterly false. The platforms don't take our content. They link to it: a headline, sometimes a short snippet of text, nothing more. When users click on the links, they are taken to our sites, where they read our content. Much of the traffic on our sites, in fact, comes from social-media links, which is why we go to such lengths to encourage readers to post them - indeed, we post such links ourselves, hundreds of times a day.
Has anyone even begun to ask how in the world this would work administratively? Who, and how are the links going to be tracked? Who is billing? Is it the legacy media's job to be their own watchdog and submit a claim? I am not sure who has worked in a newsroom in this room, but I can tell you, nobody has time for that. We do not need another government-run program with more bureaucracy to create more backlogs.
This whole idea is bonkers. It is a distraction from the out-of-date and archaic mandates by the CRTC. The real problem here is there are a bunch of platforms that can play what they want. They have no rules and no restrictions. Then there are legacy media that are bound by the archaic shackles of the CRTC.
How about we let radio stations play the music they want? That would be a great start. Of course they will continue to promote our talented and diverse Canadian artists. How about we trust them to listen to the customer instead of holding them hostage?
Bill C-18 is a terrible bill. It will be the death of our legacy media. If members in this House want to support our journalists and artists then they need to vote this down. Seriously, if members do not believe me, they should pick up the phone and listen to the people on the front lines. They know this is a disaster.
Jen Gerson is the co-founder of The Line, an independent journalist. She was a witness at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in September 2022. She said that this bill:
...is predicated on a lie. The bill adopts a very ancient complaint of newspaper publishers that aggregation-based news websites and social media networks are unduly profiting by “publishing” our content. However, we know this isn't true. In fact, the value proposition runs in exactly the opposite direction. We publishers are the ones who benefit when a user posts a link to our content on Facebook, Twitter and the like. This free distribution drives traffic to our websites, which we can then try to monetize through subscriptions and advertising.
Legacy media does not need Liberal interference and control. They need the government to get out of the way, stop regulating how they do their jobs and let them do what they do best, which is to create content Canadians want to consume. If Canadians cannot see the content, what is the point in creating it? Let us make sure that legacy media's hard work pays off. Let us vote down Bill C-18.