Quebec’s largest radio broadcaster Cogeco Media subsidiary of Cogeco Inc. (TSE:CGO)and media giant Quebecor (TSX: QBR.A, QBR.B), announced they are stopping their advertising on Meta Platforms Inc. (Nasdaq: META) in sight of the Online News Act that the Canadian Congress passed last month.
Bill C-18 forces tech giants such as Google and Meta to give royalties to Canadian news outlets for sharing, posting and previewing their news content. The bill has led news outlets such as the Toronto Star to side with the bill but the tech giants argued their significant traffic and revenue for news publishers.
“Meta’s threats are an attempt to force Canada to abandon a fair negotiating regime with companies whose news content is shared on its platforms,” reads a statement by Cogeco released on Wednesday.
“Despite its public statements, Meta’s main concern is to limit the royalties it will have to pay to companies responsible for making credible news content available.”
Cogeco says the challenge of continuing to provide quality journalism is immense for news and media companies.
“The continued weakening of Canadian news outlets to the benefit of foreign search and social media giants will only exacerbate the challenges related to misinformation.”
Meta is protesting, dodging proper media compensation
Quebecor is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada. The company also said on Wednesday it is withdrawing all advertising by its subsidiaries and business units from Facebook and Instagram.
The media giant says the move by Meta is seen as a protest against the bill and an attempt to dodge compensating media outlets appropriately.
“This high-handed decision is an abuse of Meta’s dominant position, particularly in the Canadian online advertising market, and violates the basic tenets of any society that believes in the importance of reliable, trustworthy news coverage for a healthy democracy,” said Quebecor in a statement.
“Any move by Meta to circumvent Canadian law, block news for its users or discriminate against Canadian media content on its platforms, through its algorithms or otherwise, cannot be tolerated.”
The company also called on businesses, governments and institutions to make clear their disagreement with Meta’s affront to public policy and the news media through their advertising placement choices.
We have decided to take the necessary step of suspending all Government of Canada advertising to Facebook.
We cannot continue paying advertising dollars to Meta while they refuse to pay their fair share to Canadian news organizations.
— Pablo Rodriguez (@pablorodriguez) July 5, 2023
Newsrooms will have necessary resources if Meta and Google restrict access, says Minister
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, also announced the government will stop government advertising on Facebook. Rodriguez also has conveyed his hope that digital behemoths such as Meta will not act on their threats to restrict access to Canadian news on their platforms.
He has, however, guaranteed that should they proceed with such actions, the Liberal government will step in to ensure that newsrooms have the necessary resources to sustain their operations.
Rodriguez has been unwavering in his belief that bill is crucial for the survival of newsrooms that are grappling with the competitive landscape of online advertising revenue.
In response to the legislation, Meta announced its plan to eliminate news from its Facebook and Instagram platforms before the law comes into effect by year’s end.
Google contemplated a similar course of action but postponed the decision following a meeting with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is steadfast in his belief that Google, due to its significant presence in the online advertising market, will be subject to the law. He underscored the importance of maintaining operational newsrooms and providing journalists with the resources they need to perform their duties.
Rodriguez anticipates that Bill C-18, which is modelled after a 2021 Australian law, will pave the way for similar legislation globally. He views the online dominance of Google and Meta as an escalating threat to democracy, particularly as newsrooms continue to contract due to dwindling ad revenue.
Despite these hurdles, Rodriguez remains optimistic about achieving a favorable outcome for all parties involved.