The urgency to support our Canadian media: concrete proposals
As everyone knows, even before COVID-19, the Canadian media were already struggling to survive and were starved by the exodus of advertising revenues to the GAFAM’s promised land. You can say that the GAFAM are starving us. Already, a few weeks ago, we learned that 80% of the Canadian government’s digital advertising spending went to GAFAMs.
With the arrival of COVID-19, advertising investments have melted like snow in the sun. For the media, it is a real crossing of the desert.
“Not all of them died, but all were affected,” said Jean De Lafontaine. Jobs are cut in several media and wages are cut for those who hold out. Quebecor, La Presse , Cogeco, the National Cooperative of Independent Information ( Le Soleil, Le Nouvelliste, La Tribune, Le Droit, Le Quotidien, La Voix de l’Est ), the Journal Métro and its many regional publications: all must cut their expenses in an attempt to survive, while ensuring professional and complete information coverage.
More than ever in these already difficult times for the media, and more particularly during this unthinkable crisis that we are experiencing, the media have a vital need for oxygen. They too are on respirators.
While information has never been so abundant and so accessible, the news media today find themselves deprived of most of their traditional sources of income: advertising.
The independent media are “the lungs of democracy”. Regional media are as important to communities as the major national media. They process information in a different way that affects citizens in their community and in their daily lives.
Their survival is crucial not only during this pandemic, but also for the future of democracy in the country. We cannot rely on social media and websites of all kinds to have a fair and objective time, especially at the local and regional level.
Moreover, one has only to observe the consumption of the Canadian media which presents an exceptional growth of their readerships / audiences in this troubled period, in particular RDI and LCN which saw their audiences grow significantly in recent weeks. Other examples, the readership of La Presse + and News has also seen a significant increase in the past two weeks. And this is the case for all Canadian news media. This phenomenon is not only due to the fact that people have more time due to confinement, it is due, of course, to the fact that the population needs to know and have the right time on what local people and the Canadian news media are doing remarkable work on this.
On a weekly basis, 75% of people watch news reports or news programs on television. (Source: Quebec media information – State of the art August 2019 Media Studies Center)
All together, governments, businesses and citizens must collectively support our media and their artisans who inform and entertain us with the values that characterize us and that make us a distinct society. It’s everyone’s business!
So what can we do?
Several possible solutions exist and seem interesting to us. They will of course have to be validated and improved if necessary, but they constitute a starting point and offer the advantage of being fairly easily applicable. We believe that the solutions proposed would arouse the commitment of all stakeholders to support this industry in crisis.
Tax deductible subscription
Any subscription paid to a Canadian publication or news site would become tax deductible as support for this crucial industry. Subscriptions to Tou.tv and Club Illico, for example, should be included in this deduction to counter Netflix in this world. We believe that this measure should apply to all media, be it La Presse , Le Devoir , L’Actualité , Le Journal de Montréal and any other Canadian media company. Citizens could therefore deduct their media investments from their tax report.
Tax relief on advertising
Any advertising investment made in Canadian media would benefit from a tax rebate as a societal expense. For example, for every dollar an advertiser invests in Canadian media, they would be entitled to $ 1.50 in tax deduction. In any case, businesses will also need oxygen at the end of the pandemic to boost their services, recreate jobs, ensure their financial viability and help boost the economy.
GST and QST leave for the media
Any subscription purchased from Canadian media could be exempt from GST and QST;
Any purchase of advertising in Canadian media could also be exempt from GST and QST for a period of one year or more if necessary;
The media could also be exempt from GST and QST on the goods and services they buy for a period of one year or more if necessary.
The crux of the war is advertising revenue. A measure could have a positive impact in the very short term.
There is a directive in Quebec which encourages the various government departments to invest at least 2% of their budget in regional weeklies for legal notices and other public information.
By transforming this directive into an obligation for all departments and crown corporations to invest, for example 50% of their advertising budgets in Quebec media for the next 5 years, it is tens of millions of dollars that we would inject it directly or indirectly into our news media. And this, while allowing the government and crown corporations to effectively reach their target clienteles who are, let’s remind them, in Quebec!
The Canadian government could also impose this type of directive or obligation on its departments, Crown corporations and organizations, which would ensure millions of dollars in additional revenue for our media, thereby enabling them to fulfill their essential mission, while by effectively reaching Canadians.
An emergency media grant
As of today, the local news media need the means to survive and continue to provide us with full, professional, clear and objective coverage of the situation. They too are heroes, as Mr. Legault would say. We must not forget either the entertainment aspect offered by our media and which is even more important in these times of crisis. Possibly the programs offered by Quebec and Ottawa will be enough to cover their short-term needs, but we should make sure before letting them sink.
These are some suggestions that we hope will be constructive. If the survival of the Canadian media is important to you, do not hesitate to support these proposals, improve them and bring new ones.
Together we will defeat the coronavirus and contribute to the survival of our media.