Today on Facebook I noticed a story about how the Trudeau government is creating “newspapers and websites deemed reliable.” That makes it sound like the government’s creating a serious official list of which papers are trustworthy or not. Except that isn’t what is really happening.
The article in question was by the Post Millennial and it had little information but a link to an article by Blacklocks Reporter blog. So I go to that and read that, and they’re talking about how the Federal Budget Bill C-97 has some funding for journalism. This is good. Local newspapers are losing out on advertisements as everyone advertises online and they lose out on subscriptions as we turn to free online content instead.
The subsidies appear to be (and I’m quoting now from the Blacklock Blog):
1) a 15 percent tax credit to a maximum $75 for subscribers of websites operated by a “qualified Canadian journalism organization”
2) The bill also amends the Income Tax Act to offer lucrative payroll subsidies for news organizations “primarily engaged in the production of original written news content”.
The tax subsidy going to subscribers of news sources should help increase online subscriptions to help newspapers. Since subscribers still get to choose which newspapers to subscribe to, the public will have a huge say in where that money goes. We can buy subscriptions in the newspapers we think are trustworthy. We can skip the others, regardless of if they appear on the list or not.
Granting payroll subsidies for the production of original news content sounds great to me since we see so many news sources rely on publishing a bunch of stuff from their chain newspapers, which have little to do with our local situations. Sure, it is economical for a newspaper to get their journalists to do articles that have wide appear province or nation-wide and can be duplicated in all different newspapers, but we also need the stories that focus on our local situations.
Now the right-wing media sources are trying to encourage people to fear that the government list of qualified sources will be based on partisan choices. They try to make it sound like journalists will all be writing wonderful things about Trudeau in an effort to gain funding. So the big question is, what does it take to get on the list?
You can read the budget here. Use your web browsers “find on page” feature to find how it defines a registered journalism organization. Or you can read a summary here. It sounds very much like the qualifications are that the journalist organization has to be Canadian, report news, and not be one-subject themed (so not a gardening magazine or equivalent). It has to have at least two arms length journalists. It can’t receive too much funding from one donor. It has to be an actual organization.
It is okay to have definitions of what counts as journalism or not. We have definitions for charities. We have definitions for all different things. We can’t offer the funding to absolutely anyone who wants to call themselves a journalist. That makes sense.