Bill C-18 has a worthy goal – stabilizing our declining news industry. Between 2008-2021, 450 news outlets closed in Canada, mostly small and local outlets; the problem is real. Yet Bill C-18 botches the fix, awarding support overwhelmingly to the large national incumbents that have survived, with no dedicated compensation to reawaken small and local journalism.2,3 Bill C-18 follows the model of the Australia News Bargaining Code, where an estimated 90 percent of negotiated revenues flowed to the three largest media companies.4 That’s why over 100 smaller news outlets have raised concerns about Bill C-18.5
But Bill C-18 doesn’t just fail to make our news system better; there’s a huge risk it will make it much worse. Afraid of being seen as deciding who is a journalist and who isn’t, the government has set standards so low almost anyone can qualify, Canadian or not, whether they produce high-quality journalism or intentionally misleading clickbait content.6 And that’s about more than being financially compensated; there’s a small clause in Bill C-18 that prevents platforms from ‘discriminating’ against any of this intentional disinformation content by ranking it any lower in search results than content from outlets with decades of journalistic integrity and established fact-checking and error-correcting processes.7
The result? An explosion of malicious online disinformation in Canada, driven by a bill that’s supposed to reward high-quality news.
Independent and well-funded journalism at all levels is necessary to making democracy work. But if passed as is, Bill C-18 will fundamentally undermine quality news in Canada, not save it. Email your MP to demand they fix Bill C-18 to support strong independent news in Canada!