What buoy for the media?
Tax credits? Journalism Fund? Income tax of the Web giants? A little bit of everything? Regardless of the form that aid will take, the state will have to intervene if it wants the print media to survive, and it will have to do so quickly, said Monday the unions who testified at the parliamentary commission on the future of media.
“The content is not free, pleaded Pascale Saint-Onge, president of the National Federation of Communications, a union affiliated to the CSN. It has been several days since people have been sending the ball back: is it up to the advertisers to pay, is it up to the public to pay, is it to the government? Everyone says no to each of these ideas as if the information should be free. We must stop sending the ball back and everyone must take responsibility. “
“It’s time to act. The Quebec government has all the means to help the print media. […] Everyone agrees on the crisis we are currently experiencing, “said the president of the CSN Jacques Létourneau.
In their brief published Monday, the two unions recall that the written media have lost two thirds of their advertising revenues since the mid-2000s – revenues that have largely migrated to the famous “GAFAs”, the digital giants like Facebook. In 2005, the print media and publishing sector employed approximately 15,000 people in Quebec, down from 7,500 in 2018.
The CSN and the FNC propose, among other measures, to create a tax credit on the media payroll. The unions also want a Journalism Fund to be created from possible taxation of GAFA revenues in Quebec, and that the provincial and municipal governments start buying advertising in newspapers again – since the government and Public companies have also transferred their ads to Facebook, Google et al.
These three ideas (payroll tax credit, taxing GAFAs and the return of government advertising) were taken up by virtually all the speakers who parade Monday before the commission. They were mostly composed of unions, including those of La Presse and the Quebec Federation of Labor, as well as the journalist of La Voix de l’Est Marie-Eve Martel, who published last fall the test Extinction voice: advocacy for the safeguarding of regional information on the difficulties of the regional press.
Collectively, “we have forgotten the value of journalism,” commented the reporter, who saw the Voice of the East’s newsroom melt like snow in the sun over the years.
A problem identified: the free. More “nobody wants to pay for” access to quality regional information, she lamented.
Earlier Monday, Nathalie Roy, Minister of Culture and Communications, was “pleased” with the launch of the work. “I am confident that the resulting report will provide us with a detailed portrait of the issues facing Quebec’s information media industry in the digital age. This lighting will enhance our own work already initiated in order to put in place structuring solutions for the future of information in Quebec. We have the responsibility to act and we will act, “she said in a statement.
For their part, however, opposition MPs Isabelle Melançon (Liberal Party) and Catherine Dorion (Québec solidaire) both deplored the absence of the “GAFAs” of this commission, since it is to their platforms that advertisers have moved advertisements they once placed in traditional media.
M me Dorion is convinced that the time had come “to seek that money into the pockets of big companies in Silicon Valley that make hundreds of millions at home, in Quebec, without paying any tax.”
The whole week
Nearly forty experts and organizations will make representations before the commission until Friday. After the unions and journalists’ associations on Monday and Tuesday, newspaper companies will follow on Wednesday and Thursday, and journalism schools on Friday. Expert testimonials will also be heard throughout the week.
Recall that the commission was announced in March, but took a more urgent turn last week, when the Capital Media Group, which owns The Sun, The Voice of the East, The Law, The Daily, The Nouvelliste and The Tribune , announced that it was under the protection of the Bankruptcy Act. With The Canadian Press
Watch the audition of Marie-Ève Martel: HERE
Consult Marie-Ève Martel’s thesis: HERE
WHAT THEY SAID
“In Quebec, right now, there are about 50 cities and municipalities that have adopted regulations in place that prohibit the capture of images and sound during public meetings. […] There are also sometimes mayors who expel journalists with the argument that they harm decorum. ”
Marie-Ève Martel, journalist at La Voix de l’Est and author of Extinction de voix: advocacy for the safeguarding of regional information
“In the last 5 to 10 years, journalists and all media workers have provided up to 30 percent of their benefits, whether in terms of wages or working conditions. The employees themselves do their part to keep these newspapers and newsrooms open, and unfortunately that is not enough. I think we have to look elsewhere. ”
Pascale St-Onge, President of the National Federation of Communications (FNC-CSN), who spoke about a 1% tax on electronic tools
“This is the nerve of war, a news agency that feeds the media in Quebec in real time 24 hours a day. […] We can not imagine Quebec without The Canadian Press. […] I know that they are part of the media who want help, they have already been excluded from the provincial program, I believe two years ago […] CP is a founding element of democracy in Quebec and English Canada. ”
Patrick White, professor of journalism at UQAM, on the domino effect of the funding crisis on The Canadian Press
“Can we only imagine an election campaign without professional journalists? Can we only imagine if the only sources of news were the press releases of political parties, multinationals and communications prepared by bloggers in their basements? Unfortunately, this is what collectively lurks if we do not put in place measures to help our regional and national news media keep their heads above the water. “