Google reaches $100M deal to meet Online News Act obligations

Google has reached an agreement with the federal government that will see the digital giant contribute $100 million in annual financial support to meet its obligations under the Online News Act.

By far the biggest digital advertising dominator in Canada with an estimated 50% market share, Google had been preparing to exclude Canadian news sites from search engine results, starting Dec. 19 when Bill C-18 comes into force. Under the legislation, by government calculations, Google would have been required to pay an estimated $172 million per year to prop up the media sector, equivalent to about four per cent of company revenues in Canada.

Canadian Heritage Min. Pascale St-Onge

Canadian Heritage Min. Pascale St-Onge said under terms of the framework, Google’s annual contribution will be indexed to inflation, “for a wide range of news businesses across the country, including independent news businesses and those from Indigenous and official-language minority communities.”

“Many doubted that we would be successful, but I was confident that we would find a way to address Google’s concern and make sure Canadians would have access to news in Canada on their platform,” St-Onge told reporters at an afternoon press conference. “This is a historic development. It will establish a fairer commercial relationship between digital platforms and journalism in Canada.”

It’s unclear exactly how the money will be distributed, with a statement from Canadian Heritage indicating Google will have the option “to work with a single collective to distribute its contribution to all interested eligible news businesses based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists engaged by those businesses.”

“What we agreed on with Google is the monetary value of compensation they will be giving to the news sector, however they are still offering different services to our news outlets and they will keep on doing that…we are leaving that part of the discussion for the collective and Google to have,” said St-Onge.

The Google News Showcase program, which previously negotiated agreements covering over 150 Canadian news publications, has valued its annual referral traffic to Canadian news outlets (linking more than 3.6B times) at $250 million CAD.

St-Onge noted that under terms of the agreement, Canada reserves the right to re-open negotiation if there are better agreements struck elsewhere in the world.

Asked if the negotiations had shed any light on how a deal could be reached with Meta, which has been blocking links to Canadian news on Instagram and Facebook since Aug. 1, St-Onge said the agreement shows Bill C-18 works.

“This shows that this legislation works, that it’s equitable, and now it’s on Facebook to explain why they’re leaving their platform to disinformation and misinformation, instead of sustaining our new system and participating in the viability of news sector,” said St-Onge.

CAB ‘relieved’

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) expressed relief that Canadians and its member media organizations would be spared from further news blocking tactics.

“We are glad to know that Canadians will be able to continue to access news through Google,” said CAB President Kevin Desjardins, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to engage with the Government to ensure an equitable funding model for Canadian newsrooms.” Going forward, we hope this establishes the right precedent for other digital platforms that make use of Canadian news content. Our democracy depends on innovative solutions to ensure the longevity of our essential news businesses.


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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessenhttps://broadcastdialogue.com
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email - corrections@broadcastdialogue.com

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