“Has Ottawa given up on saving the patient? This looks a lot like palliative care that will allow Canadian journalism to die in less pain,” says Daniel Bernhard, executive director and spokesperson of the watchdog group FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting.
“If the government was serious about protecting truthful, trustworthy, Canadian journalism,” Bernhard added, “they would stop showering democracy-killing companies like Facebook with billions of dollars in tax breaks and regulatory exemptions.”
FRIENDS’ research has found that Google and Facebook now control nearly 80% of the digital advertising market in Canada, a market which has historically financed credible, Canadian journalism that secures Canada’s democracy.
“Today was Facebook’s first good day in months,” says Bernhard, noting that these measures do nothing to address Google and Facebook’s dominance in the advertising market.
Since the 1960s, companies advertising with foreign media have paid tax penalties for doing so, but Ottawa has neglected to close a loophole that exempts internet advertising from these provisions. The result is $1.3 billion in annual tax breaks for companies that advertise with Google and Facebook, against the spirit of Canadian law.
“It’s bad enough that disgraced companies like Facebook are polluting Canadian democracy,” says Bernhard, “Ottawa is helping them to do so at the direct expense of Canadian media outlets, eroding our last line of defence against fake news and foreign interference in Canadian democracy.”
Analysis by FRIENDS shows that Ottawa spends nearly twice as much to finance subsidies and exemptions for internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Netflix than it spends on the CBC. “If these are Ottawa’s priorities, Canadian democracy faces a bleak future,” says Bernhard, adding that “Canada seems unwilling to apply the law to the big tech companies. Why are we helping the richest companies on Earth to get even richer while they undermine Canada’s way of life?”
FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming and is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.