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Key questions answered about new bill forcing tech giants to pay media for content

Google and Facebook among platforms that will have to pay
Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, holds a press conference regarding the introduction of Bill C-18, the Online News Act, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced legislation on Tuesday that would make digital giants compensate Canadian media outlets for reusing their news content.

Here are some more details on how it will work.

Which news organizations will benefit?

The regime will apply to media outlets designated as a qualified Canadian journalism organization under the Income Tax Act or that regularly employ two or more journalists in Canada and operate in the country. That means their content is edited and designed here.

Will it apply to all digital platforms?

No. It only applies to digital companies that allow news content to be accessed and shared on their platforms and have a “significant bargaining imbalance” with news businesses.

That imbalance will be determined by criteria that include the size of the platform measured by global revenue and whether it has a prominent position within its market. Google and Facebook, owned by the company now known as Meta, are two of the platforms that would qualify.

What if news organizations want to privately strike deals with platforms?

The proposed legislation would allow news businesses to negotiate individual deals with digital platforms, or to team up to increase their collective bargaining power. But if a deal cannot be reached, the parties would have to move to arbitration.

How will arbitration work?

If an agreement cannot be reached after six months of negotiations, the parties must proceed to final-offer arbitration. Each party would submit an offer, and the arbitrators would choose one.

The panel of three arbitrators would be independent from the federal government, chosen in advance and acceptable to both sides. The decision of the panel would be considered binding.

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Are there any guidelines for what kind of deals are acceptable?

Yes. They must provide fair compensation to the news business for news content on digital platforms. A portion of the compensation must be used to support the production of local, regional and national news content. They must not lead to corporate influence undermining freedom of expression and journalistic independence.

They must also contribute to the sustainability of independent local news, and involve media reflecting Canada’s diversity of languages, racialized groups and Indigenous communities.

Who will oversee all of this?

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be the regulator. It will have the power to exempt digital platforms from mandatory bargaining and arbitration if conditions for a private deal are met.

The CRTC will facilitate mandatory bargaining if a news outlet requests it, and will ensure the process is transparent. It will engage an independent auditor to annually review the negotiated deals and assess their impact. The regulator will also investigate complaints and monitor for non-compliance.

Are there any penalties for tech companies that don’t comply?

Yes. The CRTC could impose penalties on platforms of up to $15 million per day if they repeatedly fail to comply.

Meta funds a fellowship that supports journalism positions at The Canadian Press.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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