The open call process associated with the Online News Act

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Open call process

As required under the Online News Act Application and Exemption Regulations, Google has posted an open call on its website. Interested news businesses can submit an application through the Google site before April 30, 2024.

When responding to the open call, news businesses will have to attest to their eligibility based on the criteria in Section 27 of the Online News Act. They should also verify that the news outlets for which they wish to receive compensation meet the criteria described in Section 31(2) of the Act.

The Online News Act distinguishes between news businesses and news outlets. A company (the news business) might run several local newspapers (the news outlets). In some cases, the news business may run a single news outlet.


To participate in the framework, both the news business and the news outlet must be eligible.

News businesses

Section 27 of the Online News Act says that a news business is eligible if it meets one of the following criteria (please see the Online News Act for the definitive version):

  1. If the news business is a qualified Canadian journalism organization (QCJO) as defined in the Income Tax Act, or is licensed under the Broadcasting Act as a campus station, community station, or native station, OR
  2. If the news business regularly employs two or more journalists in Canada, operates in Canada, produces news of general interest (e.g. not industry-specific news), and is either a member of a recognized journalistic association or follows its own code of ethics and standards of professional conduct, OR
  3. If the news business operates an Indigenous news outlet and produces news content of general interest, which can include matters pertaining to the rights of Indigenous peoples.

So, for example, an organization may not have obtained QCJO status as in (1) above, but it may fulfill (2) above, and would therefore be eligible to participate in the bargaining framework.

News outlets

Section 31(2) of the Act says that a news outlet is eligible if it meets all the following eligibility criteria:

  1. It produces news primarily for the Canadian news marketplace;
  2. It is focused on matters of general interest and reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes;
  3. It is not focused on a particular topic such as industry-specific news, sports, recreation, arts, lifestyle or entertainment; and
  4. It is not intended to promote the interests, or report on the activities, of an organization, an association or its members.

A news business may run several outlets, not all of which would be eligible to participate in the bargaining framework.

For instance, let’s say an individual owns and operates a local news website in a small town in Manitoba that covers town politics and other news of interest in the community. The owner writes stories for the publication along with one local employee who is a full-time journalist. The employer also earns a salary for their work on the publication, allowing the news business to fulfill the criterion of regularly employing two journalists. The articles the two employees write adhere to the Ethics Guidelines published by the Canadian Association of Journalists. These characteristics together would allow the news business to meet criterion (2) of Section 27, and the news business would be eligible to participate in the bargaining framework.

However, if the same Manitoba publisher also operated a website (an outlet) that was focused primarily on industry developments in the renewable energy sector, that particular outlet would not be eligible to participate in the framework. The news business could still participate, but only on behalf of the first outlet (the local news website). Any full-time equivalent (FTE) journalists considered for the purposes of compensation (see below) could only be counted for the first outlet.


The amount of compensation per journalist will depend upon the total number of eligible applicants to Google’s open call process. Of the $100 million single agreement option in the regulations, $30 million will go to private and community broadcasters, and $7 million will go to the CBC / Radio-Canada. The group that administers this single agreement may also deduct a reasonable administrative fee. The remainder will go to other (non-broadcast) news businesses.

According to Section 10.2 of the Regulations (Equitable distribution), the amount of compensation each business receives will be related to the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees engaged in producing original news content that is intended to be made available online.

For example, if a news business has two employees each of which spends 70% of their time engaged in the production of original news content (as opposed to, for instance, activities like marketing or business development), this would count as 1.4 FTEs.

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