OTTAWA – The Liberal government announced Friday it’s starting its $600 million taxpayer bailout of Canadain media.
In the 2019 budget, the government introduced three tax measures to payout Canadian journalism organizations that produce original news content.
“A strong and independent media is essential to the vitality of our democracy,” said Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue.
“I am pleased to deliver on our government’s unprecedented steps to support Canadian journalism organizations while respecting the core principle of journalistic independence.”
But, first, the Liberal government said it has to approve of each media outlet.But, first, the Liberal government said it has to approve of each media outlet. Click To Tweet
Media organizations have to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to obtain the designation of being a “qualified” news outlet for the bailout. The application form will be available on Dec. 23. The federal government says an “Independent Advisory Board” will be created.
“Today, we have reached another milestone in support of Canadian journalism and the vitality of our democracy,” said Steven Guilbeault, Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Today, we have reached another milestone in support of Canadian journalism and the vitality of our democracy,”-Steven Guilbeault, Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage
“A wide variety of independent advice will allow us to have efficient, transparent and fair measures. Our Government will strive to ensure that all Canadians, especially those living in underserved communities, continue to have access to media coverage on topics of public interest that affect them.”
The Conservative government have long accused the Liberals of trying to co-opt the media and setting a dangerous precedent. Ethically, they said the appearance of corruption and favoritism should be avoided because the appearance of a conflict of interest crumbles the public’s trust in the media.
The Harper Conservatives, when in power, wanted to cut CBC’s funding to $1 billion a year.
There have also been fears of the Trudeau bailout affecting media coverage and news outlets tailoring their coverage to suit the panel set up to decide which media outlets qualify for the taxpayer-funded bailout.
Calgary-based freelance journalist Jen Gerson, wrote in the Washington Post in November 2018 that the bailout raises a serious existential concern: Who decides which media organizations qualify?
“In a country with a population the size of California, there simply aren’t that many professional full-time journalists,” said Gerson.”Most of us know each other within one or two degrees; we are every bit as petty, insular and desperate as such a class can possibly be. Any ‘independent’ panel will still be staffed by a collection of unimpeachable, high-minded idealists who will also be a collection of neuroses, personal grudges and professional ideologies. For how much longer will I be able to take the risk of offending my colleagues with my work?”
Gerson, who is is a contributing editor at Maclean’s, the journalist-in-residence at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law and co-host of the Canadian politics podcast OPPO, went on to say that the Canadian media is a dwindling industry dominated by a few concentrated media corporations that are always on the verge of bankruptcy.
“How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea,” added Gerson.
How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea.”-Jen Gerson, Calgary-based journalist
“From what I can see, it will only lead to a national professional standard or credential that will inevitably centralize control over the media in a country where the media is already profoundly consolidated.”
She added, “There is no free market when what counts as journalism is dictated by a professional standards committee responsible for doling out cash.”
An opportunity for stakeholder engagement with the CRA is planned in the coming weeks so journalism organizations and the taxpayers may ask questions or comment. To sign up, email CONSULTG@cra-arc.gc.ca.
The three tax measures for Canadian media outlets are:
1) Canadian journalism labour tax credit, a 25 per cent refundable tax credit on salaries or wages payable in respect of an eligible newsroom employee for periods beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019;
2) Digital news subscription tax credit, a 15 per cent non-refundable personal income tax credit for digital news subscription costs paid by an individual to a qualified Canadian journalism organization, which applies to qualifying amounts paid after 2019 and before 2025; and
3) A new type of qualified donee called a registered journalism organization for not-for-profit journalism organizations, which is in effect as of Jan. 1, 2020.
The Liberal Government proposed tax measures to support journalism in Budget 2019 and the legislation received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.
Updated Dec. 21, 8:07 a.m., 8:42 a.m.
George Brownwell / Alberta Press
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