(Black Press Media files)

(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

Cariboo Art Beat artists Tiffany Jorgensen, left, Brittany Murphy, with her daughter Ruby, 3, and Sarah Sigurdson have created a Santa painting for photo opportunities that will be placed outside their studio on Oliver Street below Caribou Ski. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake artists create Santa painting for Christmas photo ops

Cariboo Art Beat hopes it will fill a void caused by COVID-19 restrictions

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

The Bella Coola area also received a large dump of snow as seen here Friday, Nov. 27, but by the afternoon it had started to rain there. (submitted photo)
Update: More than 900 Bella Coola customers without power, expected to last overnight

Highway 20 remains closed between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola Friday, Nov. 27

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Ruby Squinas photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Newly elected Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson participated in a virtual oath ceremony with the BC Liberal Caucus on Friday, Nov. 27. Here he poses for a photograph with Kate Ryan-Lloyd, clerk of the legislature. (Screen image taken of YouTube live stream)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA participates in BC Liberal Caucus virtual oath ceremony

First-time MLA Lorne Doerkson will represent the region

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, B.C. couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Most Read