John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada (formerly Newspapers Canada) reads an email from PayPal at his office in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Hinds called it “scary” after PayPal froze his organization’s payments account over a weekly newspaper story about a Syrian refugee family in Manitoba. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada (formerly Newspapers Canada) reads an email from PayPal at his office in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Hinds called it “scary” after PayPal froze his organization’s payments account over a weekly newspaper story about a Syrian refugee family in Manitoba. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

LETTER: It’s time for Canadian politicians to ‘level the digital playing field’ for news

‘Google and Facebook… control the onramp to the internet highway in Canada’

We have a very serious situation in this country, and we are delighted to hear that Minister of Heritage Stephen Guilbault said on Monday that the government is preparing legislation to force tech giants to fairly compensate content creators.

Google and Facebook, two of the richest companies in history, control the onramp to the internet highway in Canada. They decide what we as a sovereign nation see and don’t see in the news. To make matters worse, they use the news produced by Canadians and don’t pay for it.

Meanwhile, all Canadian news media companies, big and small, are suffering for two reasons:

First, they don’t get paid for their content by Facebook and Google; and

Second, Facebook and Google take over 80 per cent of all Canadian digital advertising industry revenue. These massive American companies receive virtually all of the revenue and don’t pay for content. Movie content doesn’t work that way in Canada. Music content doesn’t work that way. TV show content doesn’t work that way. So why is news content treated differently?

We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when real news companies disappear, and social media platforms distribute divisive, fake news.

We need to support healthy, independent, diverse news companies as the backbone of our democracy.

This is urgent. It’s a fact that news companies across Canada are struggling while COVID-19 impacts are accelerating the decline. Journalism jobs are disappearing.

That means real news keeps disappearing and hate and fake news will fill in the void. Let’s not let this happen in Canada.

But there is good news. Australia has figured out the solution. They created a law that forces the tech companies to pay fairly for news content. This costs the taxpayer absolutely nothing.

We encourage all Members of Parliament to move quickly. Canada needs your leadership.

John Hinds is the President and CEO of News Media Canada