The Canadian government may impose fees on Google and Facebook as a part of a strategy to help the country's struggling media industry. This measure was recently proposed by the Public Policy Forum (PPF), a think tank hired by Ottawa to come up with ideas on how to prevent additional layoffs of journalists and closures of print outlets as news businesses in Canada continue to struggle. Since the PPF started discussing the issue last year, its members repeatedly debated the idea of imposing fees on Internet giants, enacting tax changes, and improving copyright protection mechanisms to help save traditional media. The Ontario-based think tank is expected to file its final report on the matter on January 26th, but details on its final recommendations and policy suggestions remain unknown.
However, as shown by summaries of three PPF sessions from June and another report made to the Canadian Heritage Department last year, the organization believes Canada should start imposing fees on digital news distributors who rarely create original content but take customers from struggling media companies in the country. Apart from news aggregators like Facebook and Google, the PPF also singled out Netflix as a potential target for its hypothetical fees as the Californian firm is a popular foreign producer of content in Canada. In addition to international companies, the PPF also considered sanctioning domestic news aggregators like National Newswatch.
Edward Greenspon, a former print journalist and the acting president of the PPF told CBC that session summaries mentioned above only detail one side of the issue, implying — but not confirming — that the organization's final recommendations to the Canadian government will be less one-sided. Ottawa is currently under significant pressure to find a solution for saving local reporting and domestic news outlets as advertising budgets are gradually moving away from traditional media companies among increased competition from digital outlets and news aggregators, most of which are foreign-owned. Apart from academics and Internet companies, all of the recent PPF sessions were attended by numerous representatives of the Canadian print media industry. It remains to be seen what policy changes the organization will suggest and whether the Canadian government will accept them.