Bill C-18, the Online News Act, represents a massive win for News Media Canada, the lobbying arm for news organizations such as Postmedia and Torstar. After obtaining hundreds of millions in taxpayer support with programs such as the Local Journalism Initiative (made permanent in Budget 2022), the Journalism Labour Tax Credit, and the Digital Subscription Tax Credit, the organization set its sights on the Internet platforms. In fact, not content with obtaining payments for reproduction of news content, it lobbied for a far broader approach that even includes payment for links or merely “facilitating access” to news content. The bill has already led to spiked op-eds critical of the government in the papers represented by News Media Canada, with critical commentary an outlier.
So what convinced the government to introduce a bill that adopts such an extreme approach? A look at the registered lobbyist meetings just since the election last September provides a hint. There have been 52 registered meetings with Ministers, MPs, and senior officials or roughly one meeting every four days since election day nearly 8 months ago. This represents an astonishing level of access and may help explain why the concerns of independent media and the broader public are missing from the bill.