Bill C-18 Fallout: Meta Terminates Journalism Fellowship Contract with The Canadian Press

In the wake of the passing of Canada’s Online News Act or Bill C-18, Meta Platforms (Nasdaq: META) has decided to terminate its contract with The Canadian Press (CP) on top of its decision to remove news from Facebook and Instagram by the end of the year.

The contract with Canadian Press supported the hiring of emerging journalists, funding 30 reporting fellowship positions since it was established in 2020. According to the newswire agency’s executive editor Gerry Arnold, they were informed of Meta’s decision on Wednesday.

“We were told the Act has an adverse impact on Meta’s position in Canada to operate some products,” he said. “It’s a business decision by Meta, in light of the changing regulatory environment.”

The Online News Act requires tech giants like Meta and Alphabet‘s (Nasdaq: GOOGL) Google to negotiate deals compensating media outlets for the use of their news content on their platforms. Meta, which has adamantly opposed the new legislation, has stood by its decision to block Canadian news from its platforms. 

On Tuesday spokesperson Rachel Curran told Power & Politics host David Cochrane that the company is “proceeding towards ending the availability of news permanently in Canada” and will not negotiate. 

Bill C-18 is based on similar legislation passed in Australia, and Meta, which was still known as Facebook at the time, blocked news sharing on its platform in the country but only temporarily as the company and the government eventually reached a deal. 

Curran said that it won’t be the same for Canada.

“Our trajectory is set. There is no way to negotiate out of the framework of this bill,” she said on Tuesday.

While this came as no surprise as Meta had warned about it since before the law was passed, the termination of the partnership between Meta and Canadian Press was. Bill C-18 was intended to preserve Canadian journalism as newsrooms around the world are struggling with plummeting earnings from online advertising.

“So this really hurts, in a way that’s not going to be as visible to the public as removing online links to news stories,” Janice Neil, associate professor of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University told the Canadian Press.

She emphasized that the fellowship program has been a significant “on-ramp into the industry for young journalists” at a period when finding reporting jobs has become more difficult. 

The program was also instrumental in making sure that Canadian newsrooms reflected the society they were serving, hiring more BIPOC journalists and others from diverse backgrounds.

“But I think it’s a real sucker punch for the industry.”

Arnold confirmed that existing contracts with Meta fellows would still be honored. He expressed disappointment over the end of the program but remained optimistic, stating that CP would continue seeking alternative revenue sources to support its journalism work. 

“Intimidation tactics”

Google on Thursday also announced that it will remove Canadian news content from its platforms after negotiations with the federal government failed to resolve the tech company’s concerns about the legislation.

Hamilton Mountain MP Lisa Hepfner, who is also a former journalist and part of the heritage committee that worked on Bill C-18, said that the federal government should not cave to Meta and Google’s “intimidation tactics.” 

“We can’t let Facebook and Google rule the country,” the MP said. “We can’t let them decide what they will and will not contribute to. We have to decide that news is important to our democracy, and we will stand strong and we will defend it.” 

Hepfner said that other countries, including the US and the UK, are also considering implementing similar regulations and are keeping a close eye on how it all plays out in Canada, being only the second after Australia to force tech giants to compensate news publishers for their content.

“This is making Facebook and Google very nervous.” 

She also dismissed Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s claims that “the Trudeau government is deliberately getting in the way of what people can see and share online,” saying that it’s “ludicrous and rage forming” as all the new legislation does is “create an obligation to Facebook and Google to negotiate independently with news organizations. Government is completely out of it.”

Information for this story was found via CTV News, CBC News, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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