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Heritage minister tells media union leaders he’s committed to helping news industry

Two media union leaders received assurances from Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault that he will do what he can to help the news industry weather a financial crisis worsened by the pandemic.

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon and Kim Trynacity, president of the CBC branch of the union’s largest Local, the Canadian Media Guild, laid out the case for urgent funding for news companies and special help for the public broadcaster in a 40-minute Zoom meeting.

“It was a pleasure speaking with Minister Guilbeault. He fully understands the crisis facing the news industry and has committed to doing all he can to help,” O’Hanlon said.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the minister, to seeing funds begin to flow to news companies this summer, action to address precarious workers and greater diversity at the CBC, and legislation to make Facebook and Google share advertising revenue with Canadian content providers.”

O’Hanlon said Guilbeault was asked to speed up access to the $595-million journalism support fund because “we desperately need money to begin flowing to news companies this summer to avert more layoffs and cost-cutting.”

O’Hanlon said he also told the minister “we need specific, quick help for The Canadian Press, especially during the pandemic, given its vital role supplying trusted, unbiased news to media across the country.”

Guilbeault repeated that he supports legislation to force tech giants such as Facebook and Google to share revenue with content providers and emphasized that what he will propose, likely this fall, is not a tax.

Trynacity sought targeted funding for the CBC to make at least 50 per cent of its temporary and precarious workers permanent, full-time staff. This would vastly increase the percentage of racialized workers and other under-represented groups, help repair the workplace culture at the CBC and make the national broadcaster more representative of the communities it serves and reports on.

The minister was also asked to ensure the CBC fully restores local TV newscasts, improves local news coverage, and to make any funding contingent on no job cuts.

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