Broadcasters ask government to make Apple pay news outlets under Online News Act

The association said only Google and Meta are covered by the Online News Act, ‘even though there are other platforms that benefit from the distribution of news content’

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OTTAWA — A group representing Canadian private TV and radio broadcasters is asking the Liberal government to include Apple in legislation that would force Google and Meta to share revenues with news publishers.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) said under the government’s proposed regulations only Google and Meta are covered by the Online News Act, “even though there are other platforms that benefit from the distribution of news content and are negatively impacting news businesses in Canada.”

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The group gave the example of Apple, which includes Apple News, a free news-aggregator app, with its products and also offers Apple News+, a paid subscription service for content including magazines and newspapers. “The CAB believes that such services should be scoped into the framework, rather than excluded up front,” it said.

The Online News Act, which forces Google and Meta to reach revenue-sharing agreements with news publishers, became law earlier this year. In response, Meta blocked news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada and Google has said it will follow suit with its products unless the government can address its concerns about the legislation. If both companies pull news from Canada, they will no longer be covered under the legislation, meaning news publishers and radio and TV news broadcasters would receive no funds.

The CAB’s comments were made as part of the government’s consultation on draft regulations on implementing the bill, the final version of which is yet to be released. A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said the office has been reviewing the “hundreds” of submissions it received and will put out the final regulations after that process is finished. The government has not yet made those submissions public, though some participants, like the CAB, have released their own comments.

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“As we’ve said all along, we are open to good and constructive ideas to improve the proposed framework. Our goal remains the same of creating fair deals directly between news organizations and tech giants that can and should contribute more,” the minister’s spokesperson said.

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The majority of any revenues generated from the legislation are expected to go to broadcasters, including companies like Bell and Rogers, but also the CBC. A Senate committee heard that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the bill will generate $320 million in funding, with about $240 million of that going to broadcasters. Government officials said in later estimates they expect in total that Google could contribute $172 million a year and Facebook $62 million, if they were to be subject to the legislation.

The CAB, which represents private TV and radio broadcasters, said in its comments the rules should specifically require Google and Meta to reach revenue-sharing deals with broadcasters.

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There should also be “a specific clause to ensure that platforms sign deals with the most important providers of news in Canada before they can be exempt,” it said. That means the platforms would have to sign deals with “every eligible news business or any collective bargaining group employing 100 or more journalists in Canada” outside of Quebec in addition to at least 25 journalists in Quebec. It also asked the government to count positions like camera operators, sound technicians, and audio and video editors as journalists.

The CAB also said the payments should be based on the platforms’ global revenue “from all sources including subsidiaries and/or associates.” Government officials have said their estimates were based on revenues from Google’s global search revenues and Meta’s Facebook global revenues.

CAB president Kevin Desjardins said in an email that suggestion wasn’t meant to “expand the pool of eligible revenues into other business lines, but merely to ensure that relevant revenues are not excluded by any cagey corporate accounting.”

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