facebook error by Jeremy Yerse https://flic.kr/p/4LwdJ6 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

facebook error by Jeremy Yerse https://flic.kr/p/4LwdJ6 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The Government’s Epic Bill C-18 Miscalculation on Mandating Payments for Links

Meta executives faced another round of criticism at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday, yet beyond the usual outrage emanating from MPs that have labelled critics as racist or dismissed online news outlets at not news, was the growing realization that the company’s plan to block news sharing in Canada if Bill C-18 passes in its current form may not be a bluff. Meta has adopted a consistent position for months that the bill creates the prospect of unlimited liability for linking to news articles, the vast majority of which are posted by the media companies themselves. Paying for those links is viewed as uneconomic and untenable by the company, which would rather exit news sharing altogether in Canada rather than cough up millions of dollars for links.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has been asked about the prospect of blocked news sharing for months, but has been unable to provide a cogent response, relying instead on canned talking points about his disappointment with Meta turning to the “Australian playbook”. But that response won’t work if Bill C-18 becomes law and news sharing disappears on Facebook and Instagram in Canada. 

Indeed, the harm caused by the government’s miscalculation that it could force massive payments for links will extend beyond a failed law that will fall far short of meeting the government’s estimated benefits. The lost value from the disappearance of free links alone will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, the existing deals with Canadian media outlets will be placed at risk as the company’s exit from news sharing is likely to also accelerate an end to the support programs and private deals. Smaller and independent media outlets, who often depend upon social media to build their audiences, will bear a disproportionately larger brunt of the harm. In fact, if Google follows the Meta approach, there will be terminated deals, no “digital news intermediaries” in Canada, no new revenues, and Bill C-18 will not apply to anyone. 

To be clear, News Media Canada, the lead lobbying group for the news sector, must shoulder some of the blame. Many of its largest members already have deals with Google and/or Facebook. Yet it was the greed of hoping for bigger deals based on link payments – not new revenues for smaller publishers, many of whom did not want this legislation – that led to the group to bet that the government could force the Internet platforms to pay for linking. Ironically, had the government and lobbyists supported the “journalism fund model”, the Internet companies likely would have gone along with the plan and the Rodriguez could be trumpeting renewed support for journalism in Canada. 

Instead, he now finds himself on a path toward overseeing the worst possible outcome for all concerned: reduced revenues for news outlets, less news exposure for Canadians, and a global reputation as a government that undermines fundamental notions of the free flow of information online by supporting mandated payments for links (not to mention the recently adopted Liberal party resolution that places press independence at risk). The net effect will to be set back the government’s effort to support the news sector by at least five years as the lost revenues in terminated deals and missing links will likely exceed the total value of the government funding and labour tax credits. 


  1. The scary thing is not even how a teeny tiny percentage of people with a BIG follower list is making decisions for you, the scary thing is how everyone bleats and goes along with it. “Hands off my kids!” slogan from a bridge is considered a criminal hate crime in BC at least. Where are the lawyers for our sane side?

  2. Nadine Faris says:

    Just want to thank Michael Geist for helping me stay Intelligently Informed over the years. THANK YOU🤓😁

  3. Ian Linkletter says:

    Links are free speech, and should be free.

  4. The interesting phrase “…that led to the group (News Media Group) to bet that the government could force the Internet platforms to pay for…” leads to the question: “Why would anyone bet their prosperity on the ability of THIS government to deliver anything?”

    It’s actually a GOOD thing this government is fundamentally incapable of delivering any of their promises: If they did, Canada would be ruined economically and torn apart by the division and strife this government has fomented.

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  6. I keep hearing how badly news organizations are doing, so I looked at the financial information filed with the CRTC. Here’s the results:

    Private conventional broadcasters (CTV, Global, City) for 2017 had revenue of $1.6 B, a pre-tax loss of $154 M and spent $367 M on news. For 2021, revenue was $1.4 B, pre-tax loss of $148 M , and news spending of $388 M. In addition, for 2021, they received $43 M of BDU funds for local news. These funds are not included in revenue.

    Revenue for news is not broken out, however, CTV and Global air 6 hours of news, including morning news, per week day. Applying 25% of the revenue to news means in 2017 news made $33 M and in 2021 news made $5 M ($350-388+43).

    The CBC for 2017 had revenue of $944 M, a pre-tax loss of $24 M and spent $102 M on news. For 2021 it had revenue of $1,061 M, a pre-tax profit of $67 M and spent $115 M on news.

    CTV news network (owned by Bell) for 2017 had revenue of $31 M, pre-tax profit of $19 M and a staff of 68. For 2021 it had revenue of $29 M, a pre-tax profit of $17 M and a staff of 70.

    CP24 (also owned by Bell) for 2017 had revenue of $41 M, a pre-tax profit of $16 M and a staff of 88. For 2021 it had revenue of $58 M, a pre-tax profit of $27 M and a staff of 80.

    CBC Newsworld for 2017 had revenue of $85 M, a pre-tax profit of $0 M and a staff of 447. For 2021 it had revenue of $75 M and pre-tax loss of $6 M and a staff off 426.

  7. What do I take from the figure above (tried posting as 1 post, but it disappeared into the ether)?

    Private conventional TV is hurting, it lost money every year from 2017 to 2021. Cord-cutting, streaming services, specialty services, and social media means fewer viewers and less advertising revenue. News is less profitable but is not the cause of the losses.

    The CBC is not hurting.

    CP24 and CTV News are doing fine. In fact, CP24 may have figured out how to do business in the current environment.

    CBC Newsworld is essentially a breakeven business, much like the CBC. It appears to be incredibly overstaffed when compared to CP24 and CTV News.

  8. One last point. Of the $115 M the CBC spent on news $49 M was for English news and $66 M for French news.

  9. I run a small independent network of news stations. 99.9 per cent of traffic to our news website is from Google and Facebook. If they kick us off we’re done and there will be layoffs.

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  11. Because it took me some time to peruse all of the comments, I found the post to be extremely intriguing. It was very helpful to me, and I’m confident to everyone else here as well!

  12. Given where this is all heading, I’m not sure Rodriguez isn’t actually an anti-Canadian-news plant into the Liberal party intended on completely ruining the news business in Canada. Not sure who would be interested in doing that (maybe foreign news organizations — trying to drive the competing Canadian news businesses out of business), but ultimately if somebody wanted to ruin the news business in Canada, they could not do any better than Rodriguez’ current plan.

    Way to go Rodriguez! You figured out the most effective way to quickly ruin the Canadian news industry.

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  14. Dean Ferby says:

    While the intention behind the bill may have been to ensure fair compensation for content creators, the miscalculation in mandating payments for links demonstrates a lack of comprehensive Website Analysis. It is crucial to consider the multifaceted nature of the internet, where hyperlinks serve as essential pathways for information dissemination.

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