OTTAWA – Five things to know about the federal government’s move to have the Public Policy Forum review government policies related to the news media:
1. The independent Public Policy Forum review revolves around three questions: Does the deteriorating state of traditional media put at risk the civic function of journalism and thus the health of democracy? If so, are new digitally based news media filling the gap? If not, is there a role for public policy to help maintain a healthy flow of news and information, and how could it be done least intrusively?
2. Many western countries are struggling with the same issues, and significant legal and public policy battles have taken place in Germany, France and Britain, among others. U.S. copyright law allows up to 300 words to be copied online without paying the publisher or author but many European jurisdictions are still battling this out.
3. Postmedia bought out Quebecor’s 175 English-language newspaper holdings in late 2014 for $316 million to create a newspaper empire that essentially controlled all but a handful of the country’s English dailies. Postmedia laid off 90 newsroom staff at various publications in January this year as it consolidated operations under a heavy debt load. But a looming debt restructuring has credit ratings agency Moodys downgrading Postmedia, while the company says it remains committed to cutting another $80 million in costs by mid-2017. “That poses another imperative to have figured things out a bit” by next year, says Ed Greenspon of the Public Policy Forum.
4. In 2013, Google agreed to pay 60 million euros ($86 million Cdn) to help boost the Internet presence of French newspapers, who had been locked in a legal dispute with Google over copyright. Similar disputes continue, and Germany has its own word for ancillary copyright law that was passed in 2013: Leistungsschutzrecht. This February, Google won a legal fight with some 40 German publishers over its right to publish snippets of articles, without payment, in things like Google Search. Also in February, Google announced the winners of its 150 million euro ($216 million Cdn) Digital News Initiative fund in collaboration with 160 European news publishers.
5. Last month, the public British Broadcasting Corporation agreed to a $15-million Cdn deal to pay for 150 local reporters employed by local news organizations to cover municipal politics and provide their reports, including video and audio, to all local news media websites. “They will enhance local journalism, ensure greater accountability of people in public life and enable BBC audiences and newspaper readers to get better coverage of what’s really happening in their communities,” said the BBC’s director of news and current affairs.