Feds plan $30M ads buy to help media
OTTAWA announced Wednesday it is planning a $30-million COVID-19 awareness advertising campaign and moving closer to implementing long-promised tax credits for newspapers as it seeks to support Canada’s struggling media industry during the pandemic.
Yet the measures were deemed by some as insufficient to deal with the pinch newspapers, broadcasters and other media, many struggling even before COVID-19, are now facing as advertising revenues evaporate.
Several media firms have blamed that collapse in revenue for their decision this week to lay off hundreds of journalists and support workers and shift operations by closing or combining publications and ending print editions during the week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previewed the coming support during his daily appearance outside his Ottawa residence, where he emphasized the importance of Canadians having accurate information while thanking journalists for doing their jobs.
“Right now, it is more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information,” Trudeau said. “To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital (work), our government is announcing new measures to support them.”
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault later announced the government plans to spend $30 million on an advertising campaign to raise awareness about COVID-19 — money that he promised would go primarily to Canadian media organizations.
Those include newspapers, magazines, TV stations and online publications, Guilbeault said, “so the revenues generated by this campaign can breathe new life into our media.”
The federal government has spent on average about $39 million per year on advertising since the Liberals came to power in 2016, according to official figures. That represented just more than half what it spent each year between 2010 and 2015 when the Conservatives were in government.
Those increasingly scarce advertising dollars have also shifted more and more away from newspapers, radio and TV toward online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are not Canadian-owned.
“It is essential that Canadians can obtain authoritative, well-sourced and factual information related to COVID-19,” Guilbeault said.
Yet the measures were widely criticized as too little to make a real difference, including by the head of one large newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada that laid off 240 employees — or about 40 per cent of its workforce — on Tuesday and shuttered several of its publications.
“This is not going to help us,” said SaltWire Network president Mark Lever. “Our business, we see two-thirds of our revenue at risk here. I mean it went away overnight with cancellations and businesses shuttered.”