Who is Media Action Plan?
Media Action Plan is an alliance of Unifor locals representing journalists and media workers in TV, newspapers, online news, and film. Unifor represents about 12,000 members in the media sector, and more than 300,000 in over 20 major economic sectors across the country. The Chair of the Unifor Media Sector is Jake Moore who works at Bell ExpressVu in Toronto. The Director is Howard Law from Unifor staff. The chair of the Media Action Plan committee is Tanya Luciani, who works for Rogers Media in Vancouver.
News is everywhere, so why is there a crisis in Canadian journalism and local news?
The Internet has given us countless more news sources, mostly for free. But it’s also devastated the ability of news organizations to pay their bills. For decades, advertising dollars paid 80% to 90% of the costs of covering news and investigative journalism, covering news and investigative journalism, with high profits left over for media owners. Readers and viewers paid little or nothing.
But the Internet changed that by siphoning off those advertising dollars. Google and Facebook now rake in about 80% of those digital dollars. There just isn’t enough advertising left over to pay the bills for making Canadian news, especially local news.
Despite adapting to online publishing, newspaper companies and their newsrooms are now half the size they were a decade ago. Television news is struggling too and has been largely unprofitable since 2014.
What’s happening in “Canadian content” film making?
Canada has a vibrant film industry….making hit American movies and Canadian productions. and Canadian productions
But getting genuine Canadian stories told in film is difficult. The American film industry is ten times the size and wealth of our’s. Hit American movies and shows attract the top talent and the big money. To close this competitive gap, the federal Broadcasting Act administered by the CRTC requires Canadian TV companies to spend millions buying or making good Canadian content.
Unfortunately, the Broadcasting Act pre-dates the Internet. Today the advertising dollars that Canadian TV companies used to rely upon to pay for Canadian productions are going to Google and Facebook. At the same time, Netflix, Amazon, CBS Alliance and a whole host of new American streaming TV services are grabbing Canadian market share without being required by the CRTC to make or finance Canadian films.
Politicians say they understand this. Nevertheless in 2017, the federal Minister of Heritage Melanie Joly announced that the Netflix exemptions would continue because Netflix Canada promised her they would budget $100 million annually until 2022 to make movies here.
However the signed documents revealing if Netflix is spending any more money in Canada than previously, or how much of it will be spent making Canadian films instead of American movies, are shrouded by Cabinet secrecy and immune from Access to Information laws. The globally dominant Netflix still doesn’t collect sales tax from its Canadian customers and accordingly enjoys a competitive advantage over Canadian cable and streaming TV companies.
What does Media Action Plan think the solution is?
For news journalism, Media Action Plan says the federal government should take the lead in changing tax policy to make up for news organizations’ loss of advertising dollars.
Those tax changes could include extending the corporate tax exemption in section 19 of the Income Tax Act —- currently allowed for advertising in Canadian print and TV—- to online media.
Other changes might include allowing philanthropic endowments of journalism, as US tax rules allow. Or, the government could encourage Canadians to pay for their news by granting a tax credit on news subscriptions.
For TV news, the large TV companies are profitable because of Hit TV shows, but they lose money on local news. MAP nevertheless believes that the CRTC should enact tougher licence conditions on the networks’ local news stations so that important community coverage continues.
What does MAP think the solution for Canadian content is?
The number one priority is to end the free lunch for Netflix and other American streaming services that are taking Canadian market share away from Canadian TV companies while not collecting sales tax or making Canadian films.
Isn’t the CBC responsible for Canadian content?
The publicly supported CBC plays an indispensable role in providing national, regional and local news, while broadcasting Canadian stories.
However the CBC is a $1.1 billion per year public enterprise compared to the collective $18 billion programming aired by Canadian TV companies. The CBC faces the same challenges on diminished advertising revenue as Canadian TV companies and cannot be expected to fill the gap in a challenged TV industry.