Sometimes it’s easy to forget how different the United States and Canada really are underneath some shared surface features — and it’s not just a question of how “about” and “sorry” should be pronounced.
Then something happens that highlights the yawning chasm between the two countries in social attitudes, ideals and governing principles. For example, when Canadian news publishers can seriously propose that the federal government should create a fund to help beleaguered news publishers make the rocky transition from print to digital media.
The proposal, which would probably elicit gales of laughter in the Hobbesian media landscape here, is receiving at least polite consideration in the more socially minded Great White North, where the government has traditionally taken a larger role in supporting journalism.
Newspaper publishers represented by industry organization News Media Canada are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in Ottawa to set aside $350 million, or around $264 million in U.S. currency, to support a “Canadian Journalism Fund.” It would help subsidize the salaries of journalists working in newspaper and online journalism, in order to relieve some of the financial pressure on the news industry.
Specifically, the Fund would chip in 35% of each journalist’s salary, up to a limit of $85,000. News Media Canada says that upper limit is roughly in line with current pay rates as negotiated by newspaper unions.
News Media Canada also points out the Canadian government makes substantial contributions to the Canadian Broadcast Corp., which received $675 million in 2016 and is on track to get $135 million more this year.
The Canadian Media Fund, which also receives official support, funneled $371 million to support television and digital media projects during the last fiscal year.
Some of the funding for the proposed Canadian Journalism Fund would come from the existing budgetary allotment for the Canadian Periodicals Fund, representing magazine publishers, which gets $75 million per year.
The challenges facing Canadian newspaper publishers have been highlighted in recent months by the financial woes of major publishers. For example, this week the National Post announced that it will cease publishing its Monday edition, after its owner, Postmedia, revealed that print advertising revenues plunged 22% in the company’s second financial quarter.
The publisher is also burdened by significant debts, many to U.S. hedge funds, which have saddled it with unfavorable exchange rates, as well as interest payments.