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CRTC initiates public consultations for Online News Act

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has initiated public consultations regarding the Online News Act, which mandates that social media platforms compensate news organizations when news content is shared on the platform.

The Act was introduced in June 2023, and the CRTC has requested feedback on the regulatory framework, which was released on December 15, 2023.

“The CRTC is seeking input on how to establish the bargaining process and address complaints of unfair treatment,” stated a government news release said.

The consultation period will conclude on April 12, according to the CRTC. Moreover, another public consultation is expected later in 2024 concerning the code of conduct for negotiations between news organizations and social media platforms.

According to the government, comments collected during the current consultation will be made public, along with the identities of individuals.

“The personal information requested is necessary for participant identification and management of the public process,” the CRTC’s website explained. “It will be published on our website to allow applicants to copy parties when submitting their replies, enable parties to respond to one another, and ensure fairness and transparency for all participants.”

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The Online News Act (ONA) requires major tech companies to compensate Canadian media outlets for news content linked on their platforms.

On August 1, 2023, Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, commenced blocking Canadian news content on its platforms, criticizing ONA as legislation that fails to consider how their platforms operate, user preferences, and the value they provide to news publishers.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) experienced a decline in website traffic in the third quarter of 2023, which the organization attributes to Meta’s decision to block news content.

A CBC financial report indicates that the English language website saw a decrease from 20.7 million monthly unique views in 2022 to around 16 million in 2023.

“Digital reach for the CBC is below target due to Facebook’s news withdrawal in Canada,” stated the CBC in a report obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

Google, the other company affected by the Act, chose to negotiate a different agreement, agreeing to pay $100 million annually. Of this amount, $7 million is set for CBC/Radio-Canada, $30 million for other broadcasters, and the remainder for newspapers and digital publications.

Companies must have at least two full-time employees to be eligible. Smaller outlets are expected to receive about $17,000 per journalist, as stated by an official from the Canadian Heritage Department during a technical briefing on December 15.

The Canadian Press, Matthew Horwood, and Jennifer Cowan contributed to this report.

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