Bill C-18: Unpacking Canada’s Media Madness & Mess
I saw this today on a Liberal MP’s Facebook page (irony noted):
I’m a digital media expert, and I will tell you that the Liberal government will sink into oblivion if they stick to defending the madness behind Bill C-18.
Legacy media in Canada is an anchor that threatens to drown them.
The Liberals clearly don’t understand how the internet works to the great benefit of all Canadian creators of content, be they bloggers, news sites or even legacy media. Instead, they are treating the internet (and the companies that make it happen) like it’s a thief in the night, poaching from poor, harmless and hopeless wee little media companies in Canada, quaking in their boots, hoping a hero comes in to rescue them.
The Current Canadian Context
The Canadian media landscape is actually pretty healthy mainly because it’s been well protected by the CRTC and various governments over the last 100 years or so.
Examples of the main legacy companies:
- PostMedia, owned by US venture company Chatham Asset Management, the same company that owns the National Enquirer and who’s primary leader has deep connections to Trump
- The Toronto Star, once thought to be ‘left of center’ now has donors that cater to the far right. Liberalism, not liberal.
- The Globe and Mail, owned by the Thomson family
- Rogers, with the top 2 companies owning it being the American venture companies Blackrock and Vanguard
- Bell, or BCE Inc, with Canada’s banks being the biggest holders
- Quebecor, owned by Pierre Peladeau
- Corus Entertainment, owned by the Shaw family
- Thomson Reuters, owned by the Thomson family (Woodbridge)
- Canadian Press, from which the CBC gets a LOT of its news, owned by TorStar, Power Corp and the Globe
All of them are classic right-wing propaganda outfits, looking for either control of the market or subsidies to bail them out. They hate the CBC for getting public funds (as do most Conservative voters, despite their constant appearance on CBC.ca adding troll-like comments) almost as much as they hate the free market.
You may not think of Bell and Rogers as media companies and only as wallet-vacuums when it comes to cable and cell phone services, but they provide a lot of the media backbone behind organisations like CTV, an array of sports networks, pretty much every AM/FM radio station that’s out there, Crave,
During the Harper years, the Canadian government spent outrageous amounts of money on legacy media companies in the form of advertising (ie. propaganda) promoting everything from their ‘Economic Action Plan’ infrastructure program (most of which used previously allocated Liberal budgets), defence recruiting and loads of other promotions that were ensconced in the Conservative blue colours.
The total media spend by the Harper government during those dark days has never been properly tallied, but likely reached hundreds of millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars. On Google. On Facebook. On other tech sites. I know this for a fact because I helped buy some of those ads.
Canadian Media Hypocrisy
As a sub-note on the Canadian media climate comes an important note about their constant swirling hypocrisy.
Bell Canada – long seen as a key leading voice for the entire sector – asked the CRTC as recently as June 2023 to drop local reporting requirements. This is pretty rich coming from the same company that jumped on the ‘we’re bleeding cash’ bandwagon after Bill C-18 passed. They had the audacity to say that they needed government assistance after 20 years of f&cking with the Canadian media landscape and robbing Canadians who just wanted to connect with each other.
A bailout isn’t needed.
An anti-trust breakup of our Canadian media monopoly infrastructure is what’s needed.
Global Ad Revenue, Legacy vs Tech
Legacy media companies AROUND THE WORLD have experienced the same loss in revenue over the last 30 years because of changes in the marketplace. THAT’S HOW THE MARKET WORKS.
This is not a ‘made in Canada’ issue, but the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and the media companies would like us to believe that it is.
Industry failures are replaced by industry leaders.
Monologue vs Dialogue
We’ve seen a shift on a global scale from traditional media sources like radio, TV and print to digital services like search, social and other digital formats.
This chart isn’t from Canada. It’s from Mary Meeker, an analyst with the US investment bank Morgan Stanley. She is reporting on GLOBAL trends in media spending.
In other words, what’s happening in Canada isn’t unique to Canada.
Critical to the shift is the notion that we’re enjoying no longer being told how to eat our pudding or when to tune in to get the news.
We have options.
We’re using them.
Over the last 20 years, media has shifted conceptually from being a monologue, where we lots of mansplaining and very little content to a dialogue, where all of us can discuss what certain events mean to us.
I admit we’re still in the raw stages where many people are willingly putting themselves into silos or allowing echo chambers to guide their thoughts, but these already existed in different forms before Google and Facebook came along.
How the Internet Works
Given all the lies that we’re seeing all over the place when it comes to media madness, I want to try to set the record straight and explain how the internet works.
Yes, I feel I have to remind everyone of this so that people will finally appreciate how badly they’re being manipulated by legacy media companies.
Sources of Traffic
As the internet became commonplace and people around the world used the internet to access news and other information, a range of tools emerged that consistently delivered traffic to web sites:
The scapegoats of Google and Facebook are critical to building a healthy flow of traffic to any site with anything worth saying.
Click-baiters are not typically elevated in search results because the quality of these ‘stories’ aren’t generally of interest to those engaged in search.
Also, note that there are THOUSANDS of different digital media companies performing services like social media links, search results, basic research (eg. Wikipedia), third-party newsletters and much, much more. For some reason, critics of ‘big tech’ have chosen to be exceedingly lazy and label just Google and Facebook with disparaging labels.
Adding, Not Stealing Traffic
The net (pun intended) result is that any company or organization that offers legitimate and valuable information will be found by the tools described above and generate traffic, not lose traffic.
There are MILLIONS of sites, businesses and other people that have benefited from this model while chipping away at the small handful of people that used to hold the reins to goods and services around the globe.
Putting aside the discussion about mass consumerism and its impact on the globe, the value to every citizen on the planet has been generally improved upon by the development of the internet and subsequent services that emerged from this massive change in technology.
This includes legacy media companies.
Legacy media companies have failed to harness this new source of traffic. They use paywalls to block readers from seeing what they want you to see.
Paywalls have been proven to be an ineffective way to generate revenue, although loyal traditional folks don’t mind shelling out a few bucks a month to the companies above, despite the fact that all they have to do is go to archive.ph with the URL they want to read and read it for free.
I hate paywalls because they give the impression (pun not intended) that NEWS is something that can be OWNED and monetized.
It’s a disgusting concept when you really think about it.
The Greater Value of Digital Media
The Value to You
Again, here’s where I’m going to thrown down the ‘I’m an expert’ statement and remind everyone what we GET from digital media.
- A lot of free services (eg. Gmail, GDrive, social chatting, photo backups)
- Shopping selection and timely deliveries
Of course, with digital media, YOU are the product. Your data is sold to everyone that wants to buy it for targeting ads and selling more stuff.
This is how the market works.
The Value to ALL of Us
It’s hard to estimate the economic value of companies like: Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Spotify, Shopify, Microsoft, Amazon and hundreds of other massive tech companies with large footprints in Canada.
I happy to guess that tens of thousands of Canadians enjoy working for these companies, generating billions of dollars in tax value, employment income and residual spending across other sectors.
Why do legacy media companies insist on messing with this?
Do we really want to shut that down to protect the dividend payout for PostMedia or the Globe and Mail?
Moreso, Canadian journalists have bravely stepped up to fill the gap left by legacy media. Organizations like The National Observer, Canadaland, The Breach and many others create hard-hitting investigative journalism while our legacy media companies giving space for Con trolls to continue to whine about Justin Trudeau going to a movie with his son.
The Australian ‘Solution’
Australia was the first country to be bullied by legacy media into writing idiotic legislation that would counter the competitive aspects of search and social media giants.
Legacy media companies in Canada were drooling at the prospect of extracting the same tax on search and social media companies.
They failed when the tech companies told them to go fuck themselves.
Now they’re whining and throwing hissy fits (with the Liberals helping in this department) about how unfair BIG TECH is.
Who Wins With Bill C-18?
Bill C-18 represents a great Gordian knot of lies and deceit that will only ensnare the Liberals.
- If they didn’t proceed, PostMedia and others would have slashed local resources, blaming the Liberals and accusing them that they don’t care about local media
- They would have done this anyways, under the pretense of cost-reduction
- Proceeding with Bill C-18 and getting tech to pay legacy: win for legacy
- Proceeding with Bill C-18 and large tech companies bail: win for legacy
So … don’t you see?
Regardless of the situation, legacy media wins as a result of the stupidity of Bill C-18.
What Can The Liberals Do?
With Bill C-18 passed and now law, the Liberals have effectively turned every media voice in Canada – sympathetic or otherwise – against them.
I’m worried that they won’t be able to do anything and will likely hand over government to the Poilievre ‘everything is broken because we broke it in the first place’ politicians.
Honestly, I don’t have a lot of suggestions other than to tell the Liberals to stop lying to Canadians, explain the situation they’ve created and back out of Bill C-18 as quickly as possible.
And stop worrying about legacy media. They need us more than we need them.
What Can Canadians Do?
We need to stop believing the lies that originate with the likes of PostMedia and other companies that fear the future.
The future was here 20 years ago and they’ve failed to adapt.
Canadians can start by better understanding the media landscape in Canada, but by also understanding how media in general works to manipulate you into thinking you’re being entertained while the world burns around us.
Read about Bill C-18 from a legal expert that has shown a high level of integrity with all of the discussions related to this contentious bill. Michael Geist (Ottawa University law professor) has been blogging about this issue for a LONG time and it’s a fantastic starting point that helps cut through the lies.
Sign up for Noam Chomsky’s Master Class on Independent Thinking and the Media’s Invisible Powers. If that doesn’t turn you on, don’t take my word for how the internet works: register for a Google Certificate in Digital Marketing and e-commerce. Discover how they’re actually not the bad guys in this whole conversation and how companies like Google are actually trying to find ways to make our lives better.
Next, go to a site like Progressive bloggers.ca. Bookmark it. Visit it often. There’s a tonne of great bloggers and writers there covering mostly political issues, but also a wide array of local, provincial and national concerns.
Even though I cringe at most of the click-baity stories that the CBC runs on a regular basis, the CBC is YOURS and if you choose to ignore it, that’s on you. Go to CBC.ca/news. Sign up for their newsletters and download the ‘Listen’ app.
If you’re looking to expand your array of news sources, sign up for newsletters and help fund some of the following sites and non-legacy media companies:
- Canadian Dimension
- The Tyee
- The Breach
- Maple Media
- Canada’s National Observer
Do yourself a favour – sign up for all of their newsletters and if you’re feeling flush, chip in to their Patreon sites or pay them directly for a subscription.
The Liberals need to stop lying to Canadians about what Bill C-18 is all about and consider revoking it before they lose their right to govern Canada.
It’s that simple.