(Black Press Media files)

Liberal changes to media aid plan hint at speedier spending, industry group says

Liberals first unveiled a $595-million, five-year package of help for the news industry in the 2019 budget

The federal government’s planned changes to its financial aid for news outlets in Canada should allow more of them to qualify for the financial help, a news-industry association says.

The Liberals first unveiled a $595-million, five-year package of help for the news industry in the 2019 budget, promising, among other things, refundable tax credits to cover one-quarter of salaries for journalists at qualifying outlets.

Some of the rules for the politically charged spending were worded in a way that, for instance, if one small paper in a large chain took advantage of a different program offering help for publishers, the entire organization was banned from the new aid.

John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada, says the suite of legislative changes the Liberals have unveiled should capture a broader range of news organizations by dropping that prohibition.

Another change would remove a requirement for a labour tax credit that qualifying outlets be “primarily” engaged in news production, and instead allow newsroom employees to spend one-quarter of their time on promoting goods and services.

Hinds says the package of changes may also be an indication that the Liberals intend to speed up disbursement of funds to an industry that has seen demand spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, but revenues plunge.

“The industry desperately needs cash and this is a pretty good way of getting it,” Hinds said in an interview.

“This not something we can wait as an industry for months and months to get processed, so we do hope this is an indication that the government is going to fast-track this.”

Businesses forced to close to curb the spread of the pandemic have cut spending, accelerating a decline in newspaper advertising. Outlets that have diversified some of their revenue streams by hosting events, seminars or training have similarly seen declines, Hinds said.

He recounted the story of one small publisher that saw printing costs rise in the week after the crisis took hold in Canada, the result of increase demand and content, and yet the outlet had no advertising revenue to pay for it.

“Never have people wanted to read our products more, and yet we have a huge revenue shortfall,” Hinds said.

The result has been layoffs and pay cuts designed to shore up cash flows to keep paying the bills. One newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada shuttered weekly publications and laid off 240 people in March, saying it needed to preserve its resources in hopes of reopening later. In early April, hundreds of workers at the Winnipeg Free Press accepted pay cuts to keep their publication going.

In Britain, Culture Minister Oliver Dowden called on citizens to buy newspaper subscriptions to support what he called the country’s fourth emergency service. He also asked remaining advertisers not to block their ads from appearing next to stories on COVID-19.

In Australia on Monday, the government moved toward forcing digital companies such as Facebook and Google to share ad revenue with producers of Australian content, using the country’s competition law.

In Canada, the Liberals have also proposed a tax credit for news subscriptions, but now plan to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to publish details of eligible subscriptions and require organizations to tell their readers if their subscriptions cease to qualify for the credit.

It’s not just print and online publications that may soon be able to access the money.

The Liberals propose changing rules so that only broadcasters with “licensed” broadcasting undertakings can’t access the program’s tax credits. That would likely allow some community radio and television broadcasters to access the program.

Journalism partnerships with different organizations would also be able to qualify under the proposed changes, which would, if approved, be retroactive to last year.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirusjournalism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

RDEK urges residents to be prepared for emergencies including flooding, wildfire

The East Kootenay region has been placed on a high streamflow advisory

Hosmer Fire Department sends thank you to anonymous gift donor

A handmade wooden plaque was left in front of the Hosmer firehall on May 28

Castle Project seeking public input

The comment period surrounding the expansion closes on June 23

City seeks public input on new cannabis retail license

The application must first gather approval from city council before being approved by the province

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Angel Flight takes flight from Creston after being grounded by COVID-19

Angel Flight is a volunteer-run organization which gives people flights to doctors appointments

Nature Conservancy takes in more lands near Canal Flats

Badgers, bears and birds to benefit from bolstering bunchgrass conservation in Rocky Mountain Trench

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Chilliwack dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

Most Read