Heritage minister accused of doing ‘nothing’ for newspapers after Torstar-Postmedia deal by Alex Ballingall
Nov 28, 2017
Source: Toronto Star
Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly came under fire Tuesday when opposition MPs accused her of failing to protect Canada’s struggling print news industry, one day after a deal between two media companies involving 41 newspapers resulted in the closure of almost three dozen publications.
New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney challenged Joly during question period to explain how she can “sit back and do nothing” while people in the newspaper industry lose their jobs.
“The heritage minister has been talking the talk about the news industry crisis. She had options, yet did nothing to prevent this disaster,” Blaney charged.
Joly responded that her thoughts are with workers who lost their jobs and that it’s up to Torstar and Postmedia to explain their decisions.
The exchange came hours after Joly took a swing at Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp., the Star’s parent company, for signing the deal. The companies announced Monday morning that they had struck a deal over a series of local newspapers and commuter dailies in a business deal aimed to increase efficiency and focus on key regions.
Torstar said it would keep publishing the Welland Tribune, Peterborough Examiner, Niagara Falls Review and St. Catharines Standard, while Postmedia will maintain the Exeter Times-Advocate and Exeter Weekender.
Joly, who on Monday lamented the loss of jobs and pledged to support media companies transitioning from print to digital, took to Twitter Tuesday morning to trash the deal.
The decision to “shut down these community papers on the same day is cynical and disappointing,” the minister said.
Joly’s disapproval comes two months after the government did not include new spending to support newspapers in its updated cultural policy. Joly said at the time that Canada would not “bail out industry models that are no longer viable,” and instead would support “innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.”
The federal government had been urged for months to make tax changes or provide direct support to Canadian media businesses that are struggling with dwindling ad revenues and competition from American digital giants like Facebook and Google.
The Public Policy Forum published a report in January that described the precipitous fall of revenues for traditional media companies that has led to job cuts and closures across the country.
The report recommended the creation of a new, $100-million fund to support digital innovation, local news media and Indigenous reporting. The report said the government could raise $400 million per year, which could go to the proposed fund, by taxing the digital ad revenues of Google and Facebook.
A coalition of newspaper publishers also asked Ottawa in June to create a $350-million fund to help Canada’s struggling print and online media industry.