Feds make deal with Google over Online News Act

Special to WC Online

WEST CARLETON – The Liberal government has come to an agreement with Google in the dissemination of news on the world’s largest Internet search engine based on the Online News Act.

“This will benefit the news sector and allow Google to continue to play an important role in giving Canadians access to reliable news content,” Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge released in a statement today (Nov. 29).

The agreement will continue the practice of Canadian news being shared on Google’s platforms. In return, the company would make annual payments to news companies in the range of $100 million.

“Google will have the option to work with a single collective to distribute its contribution to all interested, eligible news businesses based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists engaged by those businesses,” a government release reads. “A sustainable news ecosystem is good for everyone. News and journalism serve to inform communities, drive civic engagement and counter the rise of disinformation. Access to news helps Canadians fully benefit and participate in democratic society. With newsrooms cutting positions or closing entirely, the health of the Canadian news industry has never been more at risk.”

The revelation of a deal comes three weeks before the Online News Act, formerly Bill C-18, goes into effect. The bill received Royal Assent in June and will force digital giants to compensate media outlets for content that is shared or repurposed on their platforms.

“Following extensive discussions, we are pleased the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18, which included the need for a streamlined path to an exemption at a clear commitment threshold,” Google’s president of global affairs Kent Walker released in a statement following the announcement. “While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers.”

Google had threatened to remove news from its search platform in Canada in response to the Trudeau government’s introduction of the bill.

Facebook’s parent company Meta ended its talks with the government last summer and has already stopped distributing Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram.

Companies will fall under the act if they have platforms that receive more than 20 million unique Canadian visitors a month and have a global revenue of more than $1 billion. Facebook and Google are currently the only platforms that qualify.

Ottawa released draft regulations earlier this year that revealed a new exemption in the act allowing the two companies to pay a certain amount to a group of news outlets. The figure was set at $172 million a year for Google, and $62 million a year for Meta.

At the time, Google said it was expecting a figure closer to $100 million, based on what it said was a previous estimate from Canadian Heritage officials.

The exemption was designed to give the tech giants the option to reach a deal with a collective group that would include independent and minority language outlets.

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