Publishers want Facebook, Google to share ad revenues amid COVID-19 declines


OTTAWA -- Publishers that represent a majority of Canadian newspapers have penned an open letter to the federal government urging immediate action to make digital giants like Facebook and Google share their advertising revenues with Canadian media companies.

The letter, which appeared in an ad published in newspapers across the country today, says the situation is urgent, with media companies suffering huge declines in advertising revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The publishers point to action taken recently in Australia where the country's treasurer has announced mandatory measures to force digital companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to pay news media for use of their content.

The measures were to be completed by November, but are now being fast-tracked due to steep declines in advertising dollars caused by COVID-19 -- declines that have forced many newspapers to stop printing.

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and one of the signatories of the letter, says newspaper ad revenues in Canada have fallen by at least 50 per cent, which has made the newspaper industry unviable.

He says the wage subsidy that forms part of the Liberals' multi-billion dollar pandemic emergency aid package will help, but he says Canada can and should follow Australia's example and create a level playing field for the media industry by making digital giants share the ad revenue they make from content created by Canadian journalists shared on their platforms.

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