Heritage Minister to unveil Canadian media strategy in September by Ryan Thorpe

Jul 5, 2017

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly had no answer for whether the federal government will increase funding to the news industry during a press conference Wednesday at The Forks.

News Media Canada called on Joly and the federal government last month to increase funding to the Canadian Periodical Fund from $75 million to $350 million annually.

"We launched public consultations a year ago to study the question," said Joly, while attending a countdown event for the Canada Summer Games.

"There was an important memorandum and study that was done. We’re still looking into the impacts of these findings and I’ll be presenting my vision about the entertainment and media industry at the end of September."

The Canadian Periodical Fund helps finance non-daily newspapers, print magazines and digital periodicals.

The call for a funding increase came on June 16 in order to modernize the existing periodical fund and help address the financial crisis the news industry is facing.

"We are calling upon the government to continue its support of one of our Charter rights — freedom of the press — whose very existence is threatened," Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, said in a previous statement.

News Media Canada represents more than 800 publications across the country. Formerly known as Newspapers Canada, it was created in 2016 through a merger of the Canadian Newspaper Association and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.

When asked to respond to Cox’s comment, Joly said the federal government believes in and supports the important role journalism plays in a democracy.

"That’s why the federal government has always been involved in supporting CBC/Radio-Canada and also periodicals through the periodical fund. But also we believe in the importance of respecting the independence of the press."

Joly stressed any concrete proposals in regards to funding would be made during her presentation at the end of September.

"I think there is a bit of a dichotomy in the minister’s statement," said John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada.

"I think it’s obvious that the federal funding of the CBC has never had any influence on the independence of the CBC as a news outlet. I don’t think we’ve ever heard complaints about funding meaning political interference."

Hinds said it is great the federal government is engaged and concerned with the issue, but that time is of the essence.

© Winnipeg Free Press