Ex-CRTC Chair Proposes Solution for Google and Meta News Sharing

The ongoing stalemate between the feds, Meta, and Google regarding the implementation of the Online News Act could be resolved easily, says a former chair of the CRTC.

How? By suspending the Act and establishing a fund to which big tech platforms contribute for news outlets, says Konrad von Finckenstein, who served as the head of the CRTC from 2007 to 2012.

Both Meta and Google have announced they will withdraw news from their platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Google Search, in retaliation to Bill C-18, which became law in late June. The law would force these tech giants to reach commercial agreements with news publishers to share revenues from news stories that appear on their platforms.

In response, von Finckenstein suggests the government consider a fund model run by industry stakeholders. Such a solution would alleviate the tech companies’ primary concerns, specifically the requirement to pay for online links and exposure to uncapped liability, reports The National Post.

He argues that “as long as you can establish that you, in effect, got money from Google and Facebook, and you are paying into newspapers and therefore they’re staying viable… I don’t see why Google and Facebook would not do that.”

Von Finckenstein and Peter Menzies, former CRTC vice-chair and previous publisher of the Calgary Herald, have argued that while news outlets benefit from their links being posted on Meta and Google platforms, these tech companies also reap benefits from the data they collect from news content.

According to Menzies, a fund would offer Meta and Google certainty regarding their financial obligations, one of the main concerns they’ve raised about the current bill. He suggests that a reasonable business case could “talk them into” a compromise involving a news fund.

Despite their current stance, both companies and the government likely desire a compromise, says Supriya Dwivedi, director of policy and engagement at McGill University’s Centre for Media, Technology, and Democracy. However, she emphasizes the importance of the government holding its ground, stating that backing down or retracting completely would set a “terrible precedent.”

Time to grab your popcorn folks. It’s big tech against the federal government–who’s going to blink first? In the meantime, news media and smaller publishers affected by Bill C-18 will be impacted by less traffic to their websites, due to the government’s decision.

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