Toronto/IBNS: The Canadian government has inked a deal over the Online News Act with tech giant Google that needs the latter to pay $100 million annually to publishers, and to allow access to Canadian news content on its platform.
Following Google’s threat to block news on its platform, Implementation of Bill C-18 on Wednesday was announced as the “historic development” by Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge.
“We have found a path forward to answer Google’s questions about their process and the Act. Google wanted certainty about the amount of compensation it would have to pay to Canadian news outlets,” St-Onge was reported saying backed by Liberal MPs in the House of Commons foyer.
“Many doubted that we would be successful, but I was confident…that Canadians would have access to news in Canada on their platform,” she said.
This financial support, said the federal government, will be indexed to inflation and rolled out to “a wide range of news businesses across the country, including independent news businesses and those from Indigenous and official-language minority communities.”
This would also facilitate Google to work with a single collective to distribute this money to all interested eligible news businesses, based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists they employ.
Details about the finalized regulatory adjustments the federal government will reportedly be making with Canadian Heritage are not being released until they are approved by the Treasury Board prior to the Act coming into effect.
Canada reserves the right to reopen the regulations if better agreements are struck in other countries, St-Onge said and added that for now the present agreement “will establish a fairer commercial relationship between digital platforms and in journalism and Canada.”
“Following extensive discussions, we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18, which included the need for a streamlined path to an exemption at a clear commitment threshold,” President of Global Affairs at Google Kent Walker said in a statement.
“While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers,” Walker said.
When the Bill C-18, or the Online News Act was passed in June, Both Google and Meta decided to block Canadian news from their platforms rather than compensating media organizations.
Despite political and public pressure to reverse course, Meta continues to block content from Canadian news platforms on Facebook and Instagram.
“Unlike search engines, we do not proactively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds…only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada,” a Meta spokesperson said in an email statement.
Google had also indicated in advance of this deal that he would follow Meta’s lead and remove links to Canadian stories from its Search and other products subject to legislation coming into effect on Dec. 19.
According to media reports, the final regulations will also address Google’s concern by clarifying that Google’s now-secured payment is about helping publishers and not for linking to news.
Alongside this deal, Google will continue to make programs such as training and business development tools available and will carry on with its support for non-profit journalism projects.
Canadian Heritage said it would ensure that the country's news businesses will continue to be treated agreeably with their global peers.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
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