As the federal government gears up to deliver $595 million in media subsidies over five years, some want to ensure that this money remains in Canada.
Margaret Ormrod, a resident of St. Albert, Alberta, initiated a petition noting that Canada’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia Network, is mostly owned by U.S. hedge funds.
Postmedia owns 15 of Canada’s 21 largest daily newspapers, including the Vancouver Sun, Province, and National Post.
“Federal enquiries going back 50 years warned Canadians about the dangers of growing media ownership concentration, including Reports of the Special Senate Committee on Mass Media (1970), the Royal Commission on Newspapers (1981), the Senate Committee on News Media (2006), and the Heritage Committee on Media and Local Communities (2017),” the petition states. “All these reports urged measures to check concentration and then newspaper-television ‘convergence,’ but few were taken.”
After 4,147 people signed the petition, Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry presented it to Parliament on June 17.
As she did this, she read aloud what the petitioners are demanding: “We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to use our tax dollars to foster a more pluralistic Canadian news media by providing subsidies only to Canadian-owned publications, as a free and diverse press is essential to a healthy democracy.”
Fry chaired the Commons heritage committee when its 2017 report, Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape, was published.
Its fourth recommendation was that the Canadian government amend sections of the Income Tax Act to allow deductions of digital advertising on Canadian platforms.
This news story was first published in The Georgia Straight on June 19, 2020.