COVID

Why Paying Off the Media is Wrong

The first line in a story found only in the independent media said it all: “Publishers who take federal press subsidies should demonstrate ‘fair balance’ in content.” (Peter Julian MP June 2, 2020 – Standing Committee on Finance, as reported by Blacklock’s Reporter)

Recently, an opinion piece masquerading as news showed up with the weekly flyers in Arnprior and Renfrew. This opinion piece went to print with no comment or verification allowed by their intended targets, the voters of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, or their Opposition Member of Parliament, Cheryl Gallant.

That the article was allowed to be published by TORSTAR, the parent company of the local flyer distributors, is more a reflection of the deteriorating state of responsible journalism, than the extreme rhetoric expressed by their employee.

The money-losing Toronto Star/TORSTAR Corporation, and its subsidiaries under the Metroland umbrella, include the Arnprior Chronicle-Guide and the Renfrew Mercury.

In 2019 the Liberal Party amended the Income Tax Act to pay certain newspapers a payroll rebate of up to $13,750 per newsroom employee. This was done under a $595 million bailout, made long before the pandemic. Applications are vetted by the Canada Revenue Agency. Twenty-nine unidentified publishers to date have applied for payroll rebates. The Canada Revenue Agency awarding the subsidies has cited confidentiality in refusing to name recipients.

A 2019 document titled “Guidance On The Income Tax Measures To Support Journalism,” the Canada Revenue Agency said Liberal Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier will have any final veto over which newspapers qualify for aid.

Cabinet has approved yet another bailout for newspapers, the second in a year. It is only for publishers endorsed by the Canada Revenue Agency, though regulations exclude small, locally owned and managed weeklies such as the Eganville Leader and the Valley Gazette from Barry’s Bay, in favour of large, money-losing big city media corporations.

As a money-losing company, Torstar Corporation, and as a “federally-approved newspaper,” also qualifies for an estimated $18 million in COVID-19 pandemic grants. The cap of $10,164 per employee was recently lifted to 75% of an employee’s wage, in addition to the $13,750 per employee payout. That is a minimum payout of $23,914 each (that we know of), for promoting the governing Liberals.

Should money-losing media be subsidized by taxpayers? Exercise your remaining freedom of speech and let me know.

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