The Liberal government has contracted a think tank called the Public Policy Group to research the possibility of providing subsidies or other considerations to the collapsing news industry.
CANADALAND accepted an invitation to participate in the research project by attending a roundtable discussion between media owners. We were also asked to provide a written statement articulating our position on the proposals discussed. Here’s what we sent them:
Dear Public Policy Forum,
At the request of Taylor Owen, the following is a statement of our position on the possibility of public policy intervention in the Canadian news industry.
I am the publisher of CANADALAND, a small digital news organization that specializes in podcasts. Podcasts drive our revenue. We sell advertising on our podcasts, and we direct listeners to our crowdfunding page largely through our podcasts.
We produce the most popular Canadian podcasts for Canadian listeners. Our shows are focused exclusively on Canadian topics, with an emphasis on media, policy, culture, and public life. We do original and investigative reporting and have broken many national news stories in the few years we’ve been around.
Increasingly, we have competition: the Globe and Mail just launched a podcast. The CBC has many and sells ads to the same companies we do. Maclean’s, The Toronto Star, The National Post, The Walrus: all of them have dabbled in podcasts or are currently publishing competing podcasts.
We welcome the competition. Canadian advertisers are still largely in the dark about the medium and there are plenty of listeners to go around. New entrants could evolve the medium and help establish podcasts as an industry in Canada, as it is now in the US and abroad. Many legacy media podcasts, most notably the CBC’s, pre-date our launch, and we rose above them by virtue of our content. On an even playing field, we are winning.
What we do not welcome is government subsidies for our competitors. Too often in Canada, tax breaks, funding and other programs intended to help small startups and innovators like ourselves get hijacked by legacy players. It’s a trivial matter for a newspaper to launch a digital lab or project for the sole purpose of tapping these funds, leveraging their brand and status to take the lion’s share of the subsidies. At this point, with their efforts underwritten by the government, our competitors could conceivably undercut us on advertising rates and push our revenues down to the point where we would no longer be profitable. We run our organization on a budget lower than the annual salary of one top Postmedia or CBC executive. As sustainable as we are, we are also vulnerable to market interference.
In short, we are asking that no subsidies or considerations of any kind be made available to Canada’s legacy news organizations.
We support the removal of obstacles preventing philanthropic organizations from practicing journalism.
We support a review of the CBC’s mandate and support a prohibition of advertising on CBC’s podcasts and other digital content.
We take no position on the creation of subsidies directed exclusively to benefit legitimately independent small digital media companies.
I will point out that we do not ask for or expect subsidies for CANADALAND.