Undermining the neutrality of newspapers
Last year the Trudeau Liberal government promised a bail-out to the Canadian newspaper industry, and its recent federal budget has accordingly delivered to the tune of $595 million over five years.
The policy announcement has been criticized from the beginning, but there is devil in the details as well. By becoming more dependent upon the government of the day for monetary support, news organizations are likely to give more deferential news coverage to governments or to their broad political worldviews.
Canada already has government-funded media in the form of the CBC, but the new bailout proposes to encourage the rest of media to share the same biases inherent to public broadcasting. That undermines media diversity and competitiveness rather than strengthening it.
Budgetary details reveal that the bailout will take the form of a wage subsidy for journalists and charitable tax credits. But sole proprietorships will not be eligible for support, and some of the subsidies could potentially be pocketed by already-wealthy newsroom executives.
Canadian newspapers are struggling to adapt and reinvent themselves in the face of the competitiveness of the modern digital era. But bailing out Canada’s traditional establishment newspapers is merely propping up a dying business model, and the Liberal policy will plausibly compromise journalistic integrity.