‘A turn­ing point in plight of news­pa­pers’

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - stu­art thom­son Na­tional Post sx­thom­[email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/stu­ar­tx­thom­son

The gov­ern­ment is pledg­ing nearly $600 mil­lion over the next five years to help news or­ga­ni­za­tions strug­gling to adapt to a dig­i­tal age that has dis­rupted tra­di­tional busi­ness mod­els.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau said the gov­ern­ment wants to pro­tect the “vi­tal role that in­de­pen­dent news me­dia play in our democ­racy and in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

The plan in the gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal up­date al­lows non-profit news or­ga­ni­za­tions to ac­cept do­na­tions and is­sue tax re­ceipts to donors. To be el­i­gi­ble, char­i­ta­ble jour­nal­ism oper­a­tions will have to re­lease con­tent for free un­der a cre­ative com­mons li­cence, which the gov­ern­ment hopes will have a knock-on ef­fect for lo­cal news or­ga­ni­za­tions that can post the sto­ries or in­cor­po­rate them into their own jour­nal­ism.

The plan also in­cludes a new re­fund­able tax credit for labour costs at both for­profit and non-profit news or­ga­ni­za­tions. To de­ter­mine el­i­gi­bil­ity for the credit, the gov­ern­ment plans to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent panel drawn from the “news and jour­nal­ism com­mu­nity,” which will also “de­fine and pro­mote core jour­nal­ism stan­dards (and) de­fine pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ism.”

Paul God­frey, the CEO of Post­media, which pub­lishes the Na­tional Post and daily broad­sheets in many of Canada’s largest cities, said that tax credit “could be looked upon as a turn­ing point in the plight of news­pa­pers in Canada.”

“I tip my hat to the prime min­is­ter and the fi­nance min­is­ter. They de­serve a lot of credit,” said God­frey. “Ev­ery­one in jour­nal­ism should be do­ing a vic­tory lap around their build­ing right now.”

Cana­di­ans who sub­scribe to el­i­gi­ble news me­dia will also get a small break on their taxes. The plan in­cludes a tem­po­rary, non-re­fund­able 15 per cent tax credit on sub­scrip­tions.

The mea­sures add up to a to­tal five-year cost of $595 mil­lion and fol­low a five-year $50 mil­lion fund for lo­cal news an­nounced in the 2018 bud­get.

More in­for­ma­tion about the mea­sures will be an­nounced in the 2019 bud­get.

Al­though the gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal up­date of­fers more than 10 times more sup­port for me­dia than the 2018 bud­get, it still falls short of what some me­dia ad­vo­cates had hoped for. News Me­dia Canada pro­posed an an­nual $350 mil­lion fund to sub­si­dize in­di­vid­ual jour­nal­ists at pub­li­ca­tions pro­vid­ing civic or lo­cal news. The fund was de­signed to sup­port lo­cal jour­nal­ism in larger cen­tres, as well as thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ties with weekly news­pa­pers that aren’t reached by the CBC.

John Hinds, the CEO of News Me­dia Canada, also said he was pleased with the an­nounce­ment.

“We’ve been ask­ing for help and they lis­tened to us. I think they de­liv­ered. It’s a sub­stan­tive in­vest­ment," said Hinds.

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