A resolution to bring public notices back to the newspapers
The announcement of the financial difficulties of Groupe Capitales Médias, which placed itself on Monday under the protection of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Act, is shaking communities. The Mayor of West Bolton, Jacques Drolet, took the bull by the horns to move his colleagues in Brome-Missisquoi, including those who removed public notices from print media.
C ome municipalities of Brome-Missisquoi took advantage of the freedoms provided by the Act 122 to remove their public opinion of local media in the past year and a half. This is the case of Farnham, Bromont and Sutton. The RCM Brome-Missisquoi itself had voted in this direction, but continued to publish its public notices in the weeklies The Guide and The Future and rivers and its advertising in La Voix de l’Est, supports its director general, Robert Swamps.
Mr. Drolet proposed a resolution to support local and regional traditional media on Tuesday evening at the monthly meeting of the council of mayors of the MRC.
In the preamble, the resolution recognizes the journalistic work to inform the public and puts it in black and white that social media gain pecuniary benefits by relaying information produced by press companies, to the detriment of these.
It was resolved to signify the support of the cities to the local media, to ask the municipalities and businesses of Brome-Missisquoi to support the local media, and to ask the governments of Canada and Quebec to tax the advertising revenues of the operators. of social media while creating a special fund with these sums to help the local media.
The resolution also asks the Federation of Quebec Municipalities and the Union of Quebec Municipalities to urge their members to adopt such a resolution.
“The resolution has been ratified by all the mayors,” says Jacques Drolet in an interview. Municipalities are being asked to reconsider their approach for all public notices. ”
He explains that a greater proportion of the population consults public notices when they are published in a newspaper than in a section of a municipal website.
If the digital avenue for the publication of such notices can save pennies to municipalities, it is hurting the newspapers that see part of their budget amputated.
“What happened with your newspaper (La Voix de l’Est), you can call it a wake up call. [The daily newspaper] is important to protect democracy. It’s not something new. I have been talking about it in my municipality for a long time. We have not stopped doing our public notice to protect our local newspapers, which are very fragile. ”
West Bolton publishes its reviews in weeklies, but turns to The Voice of the East when the announcement is of greater scope, adds Drolet. He also stressed the importance of the media to cover local initiatives, such as the collective project for the revitalization of agriculture.
The resolution “gave rise to a long debate on the need to help newspapers in the region,” says Robert Desmarais, “to absolutely safeguard professional journalistic work. The ways of doing things were also discussed.
For example, elected officials discussed the direction to take with municipalities and businesses. Finally, they decided to give free rein to the latter to choose the way forward.
According to Mr. Desmarais, many were in favor of bringing public notices back to the newspapers, while others were not comfortable demanding that municipalities return to their old practices. “Everyone has a responsibility to find a way to support the media,” he says.
Studying the options
The cities of Bromont and Farnham decided to withdraw public notices from local and regional newspapers in 2018. Their mayors nevertheless voted in favor of Mayor Drolet’s resolution.
“I supported the resolution and I would like the City of Bromont to do its part,” confirms the Mayor of Bromont, Louis Villeneuve, who will submit the resolution to his colleagues on the council shortly to decide on public notices.
“The challenge is to enable professional journalists to do their job and inform the public based on facts. We are living a crisis. We have an opportunity not to escape. If we miss this, it is dangerous for our democracy. This is a very important file. ”
However, there is no guarantee that these municipalities are going backwards since the entire municipal council must decide on the subject.
“When we removed [the notices], we decided to continue to take advertising pages with local newspapers,” said Farnham Mayor Patrick Melchior. With what was said, it is certain and sure that it will be on the table because I believe it. I have been a vocal advocate for local media, I think it is our mouthpiece for municipalities. ”
“It is not the national media that will come when we will have things to say. Yesterday (Tuesday), I spoke a lot of interdependence between newspapers and cities. I think we have to look at it. Now, the decision that will be made, I do not know. But I can tell you that we are concerned with the question. It’s a safe bet that we will want to be part of the solution. ”
Mr. Melchior argues that the future of the media is everyone’s business and that all levels of government, businesses and citizens must participate to ensure the survival of newspapers. “It’s the responsibility of municipalities, but also of businesses and governments. It should not become a story of anyone, it would be dramatic. ”
“I am very pleased that the resolution has called on senior governments to seek money in the pockets of Facebook and Google of this world,” added Mr. Villeneuve.
The mayor of Sutton, the third municipality to have withdrawn public notices from newspapers this year, was not available to comment on Wednesday.