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Media union welcomes federal aid for media industry, but ‘devil is in the detail’

CWA Canada, the country’s only all-media union, welcomes the federal government’s announcement of financial help for the media industry, but cautions that the devil will be in the detail.

Today’s announcement in the fall economic statement promises $595 million in tax credits and other incentives over five years, including a refundable tax credit for “labour costs associated with producing original news content.”

Full details won’t be available until the next budget after the government consults with an “independent” panel from the journalism community.

“We’re certainly pleased to see this badly needed help coming,” CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said. “But we will need to see the details before we can fully endorse the package. We don’t want to see the money being used by companies like Postmedia to pay off their hedge fund masters or to further line the pockets of top executives, and we have told the government that.”

In a shocking and shameless move, Postmedia, which has cut over 3,000 jobs in the last decade, had the gall to give CEO Paul Godfrey and other top executives a raise of 30% last year – all the while paying tens of millions of dollars a year to their hedge and vulture fund debt-holders.

The union is happy to see that non-profit media organizations will soon be eligible to apply for charitable status. Funding for local civic journalism and charitable status for non-profit news organizations were two of CWA Canada’s key recommendations to the government.

The union also once again urges the government to take further action and strengthen the Competition Act and regulations to prevent concentration of ownership.

Local news coverage has been decimated across the country in recent years as Postmedia and other companies have slashed jobs and closed publications. Some communities, such as Guelph, Ont., and Moose Jaw, Sask., have been left with no daily newspaper.

Most recently, Postmedia and Torstar announced a swap of 41 newspapers, most of which were shut down to eliminate competition, putting almost 300 people out of work.

“The loss of local journalists is a serious threat to our democracy,” O’Hanlon said. “It means fewer journalists reporting on the stories that matter to communities — and leaves almost no one to hold local politicians and powerful interests to account in many places.”

CWA Canada represents more than 6,000 media workers at newspapers and other companies coast to coast, including the CBC, The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Halifax Chronicle Herald, and Victoria Times Colonist.

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) is a union local comprised of over 5000 media workers at APTN, The Canadian Press, CBC/Radio-Canada, Thomson Reuters, TFO, TVO, Vice Media, and ZoomerMedia, among other media organizations.

CMG members work across all available media platforms and we are linked to the larger labour movement through the Canadian component (CWA/SCA Canada) of our wider international union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), as well as the Canadian Labour Congress.


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