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‘The news industry’s bumpy ride is far from over’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This week, Hub readers engaged in topics ranging from how Hamas is viewed by Palestinians, what Canada can do to update its supply management mentality, the lack of trust in Canadian news media, balancing the budget, and what skyrocketing MAiD deaths tell us about Canadian society.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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Palestinian support for Hamas appears to be growing

Monday, November 27, 2023

“Nothing Israel could do would satisfy those whose only intent was to destroy the Jews.”

Richard Courtemanche

Canada’s supply management mentality is holding us back

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

“Those of us who raise beef and grow crops have wondered for years why certain sectors of agriculture require supply management and the accompanying supports. The elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board was a very contentious move generating severe opposition. However, the opportunities for new crops and markets have been incredible for those who’ve embraced the change and the challenge! The question regarding agriculture, healthcare, etc. is ‘Who is benefiting from and fighting to maintain these current systems?’ There are alternatives and innovative approaches that deserve consideration and implementation.”

B Kirschenman

“More market control is not necessarily good or bad, but it does need to be a healthy market.

Government intervention in markets needs to be effective (efficiently achieve explicit goals that benefit the whole of society). Obviously, there is a tension between protecting industry (jobs and taxes…AND regional votes) and protecting consumers (prices). If supply management is protecting likely entrenched and sluggish incumbents at a greater overall cost to the citizenry, then sure, let’s have less supply management and more dynamism!

The case for both options should be independently, dispassionately, and ruthlessly made in each of the various affected industries.”

Rob

The news industry’s biggest problem isn’t financing—it is trust

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

“This was a good article. I don’t use social media and don’t think I am missing anything. Journalists need to get back to the five W’s. A news story needs to relay the facts and not sensationalize. It should not contain emotion. An opinion piece should be clearly labeled as such. The two should not mix in one article. Headline writers need to read the story and not over hype. I have read stories in mainstream media where the headline has little to do with the story. It was just to grab my attention.

I would like to see a code of journalism and a list of approved media outlets developed, but I do have concerns over who would approve such outlets. We already have had issues with this. Institutional bias exists for both political extremes.”

Alice Barr

“As they struggle to regain market share and, most importantly, public trust, the news industry’s bumpy ride is far from over.”

RJKWells

“While I use social media I didn’t grow up in the social media age. So perhaps I lack some appreciation of the impact of it on younger audiences. But I can’t buy the claim that lack of trust in Canadian news media is simply a product of ‘guilt by association.’ The quality of news coverage has been going downhill for years and this trend pre-dates social media and the widespread adoption of the internet.

The social media format may well drive news quality to a degree (shorter articles easily consumed). There is some truth to Marshall McLuhan’s conclusion that ‘The medium is the message.’ But social media didn’t force legacy media to adopt biased reporting as a norm. It doesn’t force the CBC (for example) to not cover stories that don’t support their narrative. And if their news industry leaves social media their own platform, that won’t change the internet-driven dynamic or their own quality issues.

Bias is a matter of human nature. The aim for all of us is—and a critical component of journalism was—to acknowledge and guard against one’s own bias. Don’t just critically examine your opponent’s position, critically examine your own. I consistently find it both amusing and frustrating when members of the media talk about the evils of social media. Their lack of self-awareness is stunning.

Currently Canadian media writ large functions from a principle inspired by Marx’s take on philosophy—in this case, ‘the point is not to merely report on the world but to change it’. If the Canadian legacy news media wants to be taken seriously, they should behave like responsible news organizations and not activists or partisans. If that were the case people might be more willing to pay for it.”

Gord Edwards

One straightforward way to balance the budget? Cut seniors benefits

Thursday, November 30, 2023

“As a senior facing an OAS clawback, I’m ok with it. I would just as soon contribute toward my own health-care costs beyond private insurance, or have some assurance the savings would actually contribute toward deficit reduction, but since that isn’t going to happen, I will accede to the cut with some reservations.

At the other end of the spectrum is the GIS supplement. I recognize its necessity, and purported fairness, but I happen to know three or four people who collect it. Two of them for certain did everything humanly possible to avoid having a job all of their lives. Anything short of high crime to not have a job. Of course, they draw the maximum GIS benefit since their CPP pays little because they didn’t work much. One of them does see some humour in this benefit; he may see even more humour at the idea that my OAS is reduced and his benefit increased, which also could happen.”

Dave T

Skyrocketing MAiD deaths represent a profound societal failure

Friday, December 1, 2023

“The numbers are a stark reminder that this issue goes beyond the story of individuals. We need the data to better understand the reasons why they are choosing something so drastic and so permanent.

Life today has moved from something that once was so precious to something that is so casually seen as disposable. We must tread carefully. There is more to the story and the statistics help to better understand what that is.

To read, as an example, that government, unable or unwilling to serve veterans whom we once called upon to serve us in our time of need, is offering them the option of MAiD in their time of need, without even exploring other options, is disturbing. It also tells me that this goes beyond personal choices for those going through unbearable pain and suffering.

The measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable. The numbers indicate that we must do a better job, especially on something from which there can be no return.”

RJKWells

“I share many concerns with the author. I do not think that death should be preferable because of a poor level of care or social support. I agree that we have serious societal problems when it comes to how we deal with people who need care generally, especially long-term care, and maybe end-of-life care most of all.

But imposing more restrictions on medically assisted dying does not solve these problems, it only robs the people suffering most from them of a choice.

I think eliminating that choice is a bullet that someone who is against ending one’s own life can bite when making their argument. But the bullet should be bitten, rather than conflating arguments about access to MAiD with concerns about the lack of choice.”

Janet Bufton

Michael Geist: Government salvages C-18 with Google deal—but it’s hardly an example of good policy

Commentary

This week, the government announced that it reached agreement with Google on a deal that will ensure that news links are not blocked on the search engine and that the company pays $100 million to support the news sector in Canada. To be clear, this is good news for all given that the alternative was bad for news outlets, the government, Canadians, and Google. Indeed, over the past few months in discussions with representatives of media outlets, the consistent refrain I heard was that there had to be a deal. The harm from Facebook and Instagram blocking news links was taking a significant toll with lost revenues, lost traffic, and lost deals, meaning that something had to be salvaged from Bill C-18.

It turns out the way to salvage the Bill was essentially to start over by tossing aside most of the core elements in it in favour of a single payment by Google negotiated by the government on behalf of the news sector. What is left is a $100 million payment into what amounts to a fund to be managed by the news sector itself. Google has agreed to pay $100 million to a single collective (there will be a battle over which collective will represent the news sector) and the collective tasked with allocating the money based in large measure on forthcoming regulations.

The broadcast sector will remain the big winner. (Initial speculation that the CBC might be excluded from the agreement was quashed yesterday by Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale Saint Onge during her parliamentary committee appearance.) Allocating the majority of the money to broadcasters presumably helps explain why the government announced a $129 million bailout that expands the available money in the labour journalism tax credit, for which only print and digital publications (known as Qualified Canadian Journalism Organizations) are eligible.

While this is a far better outcome than the blocked links, this is hardly an example of good government policy. First, the loss of Meta from the system not only dropped the estimated benefits of Bill C-18 by $50 million, but the lost links and deals mean that there are actual losses that run into the tens of millions of dollars. Indeed, it was only a few months ago that the government said it estimated Google’s contribution alone at $170 million. There was some sense that the extra $70 million was designed to offset the Meta losses, but that was something Google unsurprisingly was unwilling to cover.

Second, the Google deal is largely what was available over a year ago. The government told the Heritage Committee its estimates were $150 million in revenue, divided two-thirds to Google and one-third to Meta. Google later indicated it was comfortable with the government’s estimates, but preferred a single-payer fund model that provided cost certainty. That is ultimately precisely what Google obtained, suggesting that months of uncertainty, reduced investment, and risks to Canadian news outlets could have been avoided.

Third, the reality is that Bill C-18 is now barely at break-even. Google’s $100 million is not all new money. The company was already paying millions in deals for its Google Showcase program with many Canadian news outlets. Those deals will now be cancelled with the single payment replacing the other contributions. There is obviously some new money—particularly for broadcasters—but it isn’t the full $100 million, and it must be offset by the losses sustained by the exit of Meta.

Fourth, the government was ultimately able to strike the deal largely by changing the law, albeit through yet-to-be-released regulations. After claiming for months that it would not get involved in negotiations and specifying in considerable detail what any deals between platforms and media companies needed to look like, the government dropped all of that and simply negotiated the best deal it could get on behalf of Canadian news outlets. The risks to the independence of the press are significant, though the fact that the law no longer functions as advertised might well open the door to trying to negotiate something with Meta that brings news links back to Canada.

I’ve been asked several times in recent days if the Canadian approach will be a model for other countries. While I suspect that many may be tempted by the prospect of new money for media, the Canadian experience will more likely be a cautionary tale of how government and industry ignored the obvious risks of its legislative approach and were ultimately left desperate for a deal to salvage something for a sector that is enormously important to a free and open democracy.

This column originally appeared on michaelgeist.ca.