The Online News Act
News outlets play a vital role in maintaining a healthy democracy. News and journalism serve to inform communities, drive civic engagement, and counter the rise of disinformation. Our news industry fosters an informed citizenry by providing them with critical information that helps them fully benefit and participate in democratic society.
Most Canadians now get their news online. In 2022, online advertising revenues in Canada were $14 billion, with two platforms receiving roughly 80 percent of these revenues. While digital platforms earn billions in online advertising, more news outlets shutter each year, due in large part to a loss of advertising revenue.
The Online News Act aims to ensure that dominant platforms compensate news businesses when their content is made available on their services.
The Act creates a bargaining framework to ensure that platforms compensate news businesses fairly. It encourages platforms to reach voluntary commercial agreements with a range of news businesses.
If parties are not able to come to fair agreements independently, they would have to proceed to a mediated mandatory bargaining process. If, after mediation, the parties are still unable to reach an agreement, each party would submit a final offer, and an arbitral panel would choose one of the two offers.
The Act received royal assent on June 22, 2023. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is responsible for overseeing the bargaining framework under the Act.
The Government has proposed regulations to implement the Act. The proposed regulations outline which platforms fall under the Act and the timeframe for platforms to self-notify to the CRTC. They also provide additional direction to the CRTC about how platforms can obtain an exemption from the mandatory bargaining and final offer arbitration provisions of the Act.
To earn an exemption, platforms must demonstrate to the CRTC that they have entered into agreements that make a sufficient investment in supporting the production of Canadian news and that adequately cover the diversity of communities in Canada.
Among other things, the proposed regulations:
- Require platforms to conduct an open call process to solicit news businesses
- Establish a minimum threshold that platforms would have to meet to contribute to the sustainability of the Canadian news marketplace
- Prescribe what constitutes a fair agreement
- Provide safeguards to protect journalistic independence
- Support the participation of collectives representing independent local, Indigenous and official language minority community news outlets
The CRTC will, separately, make its own regulations to administer the Act. These CRTC regulations will further define the mandatory bargaining process, the code of conduct to support fairness and transparency, rules on undue preference or discrimination, and the eligibility of news businesses to participate in the framework.
The Online News Act will come into effect in its entirety no later than December 19, 2023, 180 days after the Act received royal assent.
Department of Canadian Heritage Consultations on the proposed regulations
Proposed regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette Part I on September 2, 2023 for public consultation.
The Department of Canadian Heritage invites stakeholders, interested groups, and Canadians to share their thoughts on “Regulations Respecting the Application of the Online News Act, the Duty to Notify and the Request for Exemptions” and on the Regulatory Impact Assessment Statement (RIAS) that describes the draft regulations and how they were developed.
The consultation will run from September 2 to October 2, 2023.
To learn more about how to submit your feedback, please visit the Canada Gazette website.
- At the end of the consultation period, Canadian Heritage will assess the comments provided and prepare a final set of regulations for Governor in Council approval.
- Following this approval, the final regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette Part II and will come into force on the date prescribed by the regulations.
- News release: Government of Canada outlines proposed regulations for the Online News Act
- Backgrounder: The Online News Act: Next Steps
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