In the leadup to the 2019 election, the Trudeau government announced a $595 million bailout in taxpayer funds for legacy news outlets.
In the early days of COVID-19, the Trudeau government also created an emergency relief fund which gave over $60 million to Canadian news outlets. On top of these enormous bailouts, the Ministry of Heritage announced an additional $30 million “Recovery Fund” shortly before the 2021 Canadian election.
Last week, the Trudeau government renewed its pledge to subsidize failing news outlets: “The government is committed to supporting the long-term viability of the Canadian news sector including through various tax measures and programs”, said David Larose, a spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage.
As the current $595 bailout will be expiring on March 31, 2024, the liberal government is looking to provide long-term financial aid to failing news outlets.
Bill C-18, the Online News Act, would grant permanent aid and special status to legacy news outlets as it would allow news corporations to be exempt from antitrust laws “in claiming a portion of advertising revenues generated by stories shared through social media platforms like Google and Facebook”, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
The Department of Canadian Heritage acknowledged that the largest beneficiary of this new law would be the state-sponsored outlet CBC, which is also entirely taxpayer-funded.
In recent years, experts have warned that the Trudeau government’s interventions in the media industry has generated a dependency for news outlets on government aid, especially coming from left-wing political parties who vow to keep the funding flowing.
This dependency has largely shifted the bias of news outlets towards an often more favorable coverage of left-wing politicians and the Trudeau government, on whom the journalists’ salaries now depend.
By failing to let market dynamics intervene into the news industry, the Canadian government is subsidizing outlets that are losing viewership because their biases are growing more apparent.
This phenomenon also explains in part the rise of independent media throughout Canada, as an increasingly large audience is seeking outlets that are independent from government funding, and can therefore pose a critical eye on the government’s actions.