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March 1, 2018, 11:07 a.m.
LINK: www.cjr.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   March 1, 2018

In the United States, Facebook is providing (a little) support ($3 million, 3 months, 13 newsrooms) to local news. In Canada, it’s the government doing it. The Liberal government’s budget proposes $50 million (USD $39 million) over 5 years for the support of local journalism. The two relevant paragraphs from the Canadian budget:

To ensure trusted, local perspectives as well as accountability in local communities, the Government proposes to provide $50 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to one or more independent non-governmental organizations that will support local journalism in underserved communities. The organizations will have full responsibility to administer the funds, respecting the independence of the press.

Further, consistent with the advice laid out in the Public Policy Forum’s report on news in the digital age, over the next year the Government will be exploring new models that enable private giving and philanthropic support for trusted, professional, non-profit journalism and local news. This could include new ways for Canadian newspapers to innovate and be recognized to receive charitable status for not-for profit provision of journalism, reflecting the public interest that they serve.

But News Media Canada, the trade organization for print and digital media, said the $50 million isn’t enough. It had requested $350 million a year. “To put the amount announced in the budget in context, $10 million/year is the cost of running a newsroom in one mid-sized Canadian daily newspaper,” the organization said in a statement. “Having to spread that amount of money over Canada’s 3,700 municipalities will mean that there will not be sufficient funding to support real investment in journalism and local news.”

Columbia Journalism Review rounded up reactions from various Canadian publishers, who are (among other things) worried that the money will go to long-beleaguered national newspaper chain Postmedia (which keeps cutting jobs as it takes on debt), hopeful that it will go to digital news organizations (which are not explicitly mentioned in the budget), and interested in possible tax changes to nonprofit rules that would make it easier for nonprofit news organizations to raise money and accept donations.

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