Star Wars, the movie: Google fights back
TORONTO – “Out of the blue”, Google and the tech giants are pushing back against Government initiatives to redress the imbalances created by the global digital empires among national and local communications enterprises.
Google announced, on February 5th, that it would eliminate 12,000 jobs in Canada. It did not say where or when. Meta/Facebook had previously threatened to block access to its platforms.
Their concern? Two pieces of legislation: Bill C-11 and Bill C-18, the Online Streaming Act, Online News Act, and Digital Charter Implementation Act. The tech giants view both as inimical to their economic interests. They want the government to “back off”.
Canada is not alone in this high-takes poker game. Several countries, including, but not limited to, Australia, France and Italy, have made initiatives or taken measures to mitigate what some among their citizenry view as predatory practices in the field of creativity, advertising and journalism.
That may sound excessive to some. It is not for us to moralize, only to point out that the matters are sufficiently grievous that governments bemoan the techniques of moving income offshore to avoid paying taxes, sucking the advertising dollars out of the country and outsourcing the design work. These are also the life blood of Journalism and critical analysis for public debate.
Canada is in the process of adopting the Australian model as a solution: essentially compelling the Tech Giants to negotiate with qualified journalism enterprises to remunerate them with 25% of their editorial costs – to be determined according to set criteria. It is a slow process that may lead to Government decision, via its agency, the CRTC, at the end of nine (9) months.
The French have so far opted for commercial redress in European – $500 million in “unpaid taxes”. The Italians have initiated a model in Italy, and for the European Parliament, that calls for up to 70% reimbursement for news production and reproduction, over a ninety-day (90 day) period.
Google, Meta/Facebook etc. may argue for a hands-off approach but they are not entrusted with the need to safeguard or promote the public’s well-being. Governments are.
Legislation like Bill C-18 serves the needs of Canadians and bolsters government policy objectives associated with nation-building and with strengthening the fundamentals through which we share common values or build material and political goals that benefit all.
Generally, good governments try to expand opportunities associated with positive outcomes in this regard and to mitigate the challenges society meets, as it transforms from one era of cultural communications to the next.
The rapid growth and expansion of digital technologies is one such challenge. It has become a matter of public concern virtually everywhere around the globe.
The Minister for Canadian Heritage and his colleague, the Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry agree. In a nine-page letter to the [new] Chair of the CRTC, dated Feb. 3, they note that these challenges can “undermine our culture, entrench inequality and unfairness in society and jeopardize democracy”.
They are talking about communications, freedom of speech, transparency, economic and political viability. More particularly, they express apprehension that the digital monoliths may be arrogating the creative and financial resources that small and medium sized communications enterprises like the members of the NEPMCC (National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada) rely on for survival.
It is not a small issue. Left unchecked, Giant Tech may spell the end of multilingual, multiethnic Press and Media. The ethnocultural, multilingual communities (as well as geographical communities) to which NEPMCC members reach out with news and analysis appropriate to their integration process may face a short lifespan.
Yet, as per the last census in 2021, that segment of the population which self identifies as neither Aboriginal/First Nations, Anglo or French comprises just under 25% of the total population. It is the only one growing, numerically.
Politically, they are indispensable to the country’s growth and development.