Toronto Star given massive sole source contract for the City of Mississauga

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Published February 16, 2024 at 9:31 am

City of Mississauga single-source media advertising deal.

Mississauga and other municipalities are pushing the provincial government to change its rules so they can advertise required public notices in more than just a single local media outlet.

Under Ontario’s Municipal Act and several other provincial statutes, the City of Mississauga and other municipalities currently must sign a deal with only one local media company through which they have “statutorily required public notices” appear, via paid advertising, in print newspaper form.

The print newspaper requirement leaves digital-only media companies in Canada’s seventh-largest city like insauga.com and others out of consideration, preventing many of their readers from seeing public notices from the city.

Such public notices are required for “a variety of different purposes and issues that have an impact on the lives of Mississauga residents and businesses,” city manager and CAO Shari Lichterman wrote in a report presented to councillors at a late January meeting.

The city struck a five-year deal with Metroland Media Group (The Mississauga News) in 2021, but last September that local publication ceased its print newspaper production and moved to a digital-only model.

Mississauga officials subsequently terminated that contract and began exploring ways “to reduce and, where legislatively possible, eliminate the need to provide a print statutory public notice to residents,” Lichterman said in her report.

“However, the city’s obligation to issue public notices in print form continues to exist under several provincial statutes,” she added.

As such, the city has pursued a one-year, single-source agreement with the Toronto Star in order to comply with Ontario law while at the same time looking at other options, “including advocacy to the provincial government for legislative changes” that would allow the city more freedom in choosing its advertising vehicles.

Recognizing a diverse media landscape, both locally and universally, that is largely digital and not print production in nature, city council is now looking to free Mississauga from any statutory obligation to sign a deal with only one source of local advertising.

On behalf of council, acting Mayor Joe Horneck will send a formal letter to the province “advocating for the review and revision of current statutes to permit the publishing of required public notices in digital and other alternative forms to print newspaper,” the city manager wrote in her report.

Speaking to the matter at a general committee meeting on Jan. 24, Ward 1 Coun. Stephen Dasko suggested it’s time the city be allowed to spread the wealth not only in terms of how it spends its advertising dollars for public notices, but in an effort to reach more people and a more diverse population.

“We’ve heard, I’m sure all of us, from other media sources whether it’s The Pointer, insauga.com or (others)…are there opportunities for them to be able to post some of these (public notice ads) digitally?” Dasko said, addressing his colleagues on council. “Can we put that ask forward (to the province)?”

Lichterman said that in addition to the mayor’s letter to the province, she and CAOs in other municipalities will bend the provincial government’s ear on the media advertising matter.

“It does seem like the province is well aware of it and looking for input on how we can make changes that will work for communities,” she told councillors. “So, that is definitely in the works.”

Under its current single-source media contract, the city has set aside no more than $175,000 per year for the advertising of statutory public notices.

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