Newspaper publishers, union call on feds to set up $350-million journalism fund

Click to play video: 'Declining news industry gives rise to fake news, less democratic accountability'
Declining news industry gives rise to fake news, less democratic accountability
WATCH: Declining news industry gives rise to fake news, less democratic accountability – Jan 29, 2017

Canadian journalism is ailing, and it needs to be resuscitated urgently if the country’s news media landscape is to survive and thrive.

That’s the message being conveyed to the federal government by News Media Canada, an association representing over 800 news outlets from coast to coast, in its proposal for a Canadian Journalism Fund.

“The industry has come together in an unprecedented way to support Canadians’ continued access to real news,” said Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada’s board.

READ MORE: Most Canadians say they have trust in traditional news media: Ipsos poll

“Across the industry, we are working on longer-term solutions to sustain the critical function of Canadian journalism – keeping as many feet on the streets of our local communities, on the steps of town halls, at annual meetings, in courtrooms, and on the playing fields.

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“We are calling upon government to continue its support of one of our Charter rights – freedom of the press – whose very existence is threatened.”

The fund would include $75 million from the existing Canadian Periodical Fund, a $175-million Canadian Civic News component – targeted towards news outlets that “regularly and significantly provide original coverage of Canadian civic news” – and a $90-million Business Innovation pool to assist publications transitioning into the digital realm.

WATCH: A war with journalists is a threat to democracy

Click to play video: 'A war with journalists is a threat to democracy'
A war with journalists is a threat to democracy

News Media Canada says its demands are reasonable considering the Trudeau government’s support for other media.

It cites the $135-million annual increase to the CBC‘s budget, the CRTC‘s impending $90-million injection to support local television, and the federal government’s $134-million contribution towards Canadian television and digital projects last year.

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The fund could be financed from “general government revenues,” wireless spectrum sales or a tax on digital ad sales by companies that aren’t investing in editorial operations, the group says.

READ MORE: Parliamentary panel ponders digital fund to support ailing community newspapers

Unifor, the union representing 12,000 Canadian journalists and media workers, threw its support behind the proposal.

“Canadian journalism needs this fund to help bear the costs of reporting the news, costs that are increasingly not supported by advertising sales because of Google and Facebook,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias.

Indeed a major report from the Public Policy Forum, released earlier this year, suggested a sales tax on the likes of Google and Facebook, to help finance the struggling news industry.

READ MORE: $400M in taxes needed to help fund Canadian journalism: report

The Canadian Journalism Fund proposal comes a day after the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released a report calling on the government to help build a sustainable model to assist Canadian journalism.

Recommendations included tax credits for print media outlets struggling to transition to the digital world, stricter controls against the concentration of media ownership, and increased funding for local news outlets.

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