Explainer: Google secures $100 million deal with federal government for Bill C-18

The bill came into full effect on Dec. 19, with print and digital media sharing a majority of the funding

Art by @RESLUS

Art by @RESLUS

Due to the threat of Google following Meta’s lead in pulling Canadian news from its platform, the federal government reached a deal on Bill C-18 three weeks before the regulations came into effect. 

Bill C-18, or The Online News Act, aims to ensure that dominant digital platforms compensate news organizations who profit from having Canadian news available through their services. 

The regulations state that qualifying platforms must have an average of 20 million or more unique monthly Canadian visitors, and earn a total global revenue of $1 billion or more annually. 

Google and Meta are the only two companies required to comply under the same. 

Google’s deal with Ottawa will see the tech giant paying $100 million per year to Canadian news organizations, indexed to inflation. However, this is $72 million less than what the government asked for when negotiations started with Google one year ago, a figure Google had originally countered at that time. 

“What we set with The Online News Act is … a more fair and more balanced commercial relationship between digital platforms and with our news outlets here in Canada,” said Pascale St-Onge, minister of Canadian heritage and sponsor of Bill C-18, in an interview with the CBC

Additionally, Google has committed to revisit the agreement should news outlets in other countries be offered a better deal, signifying its willingness to be fair in the treatment of news outlets globally. 

Google’s $100 million deal is being heralded as a win by the federal government, while others have been more critical, saying this is only going to make up for revenue lost when Meta pulled Canadian news from its platforms indefinitely back in August as a result of the bill.

“It’s basically damage control,” said Chantal Hérbert, Toronto Star national affairs writer, in a CBC broadcast

“There is very little evidence that Meta suffered from banning Canadian news … but there is plenty of evidence that Canadian media organizations suffered from it.” 

Google, for their part, is happy the federal government has addressed concerns with the agreement. 

“We are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18,” wrote Kent Walker, president of global affairs at Google, in a press release

The bill came into full effect on Dec. 19, and it was announced a few days prior how Google’s $100 million media fund will be distributed, which is based on the number of full-time journalists a news organization employed in the previous calendar year, producing original news content. 

Government officials specified that the CBC/Radio-Canada’s portion is capped at 7 per cent, or $7 million per year, and other Canadian broadcasters will split 30 per cent. The remaining 63 per cent of the fund will be shared between print and digital media. 

The distribution of funds comply with the Exemption order of the act which expresses criteria such as ensuring independent local news businesses and Indigenous news outlets benefit, and that “they involve a range of news outlets … that provide services to all markets and diverse populations, including local and regional markets in every province and territory, anglophone and francophone communities, and Black and other racialized communities.” 

Many of these conditions were also recommended by stakeholders through their engagement with the federal government last year. 

As for Meta, right now they have no plans to revisit Bill C-18 or add Canadian news back onto its platforms as long as The Online News Act remains in law, and do not intend to strike a similar deal with the Canadian government.