Meta’s Canadian news ban ‘assault on local journalism,’ says Nunavut publisher

Last week, tech giant Meta announced that links posted by Canadian news outlets would no longer be seen by people in Canada. That will have a big impact in the north where news outlets are already struggling, says the publisher of the Nunatsiaq News. (The Associated Press)

Tech giant’s move ‘definitely will have an impact’ in North, says Nunatsiaq News publisher Michael Roberts

Nunavut’s main newspaper says Meta’s decision to remove Canadian content from its platforms will have a significant impact in the territory.

Last week, the social media giant announced it was ending news availability on its platforms in Canada. The company said the move means links posted by Canadian news outlets would no longer be seen by people in Canada. There is no change to international users, according to Meta.

The move was in response to the federal government’s passing of Bill C-18 in June, which requires big tech giants like Google and Meta to pay media outlets for news content they share or otherwise repurpose on their platforms.

Nunatsiaq News publisher Michael Roberts said there was a “fair amount of exposure” from Facebook, driving between 15 to 20 per cent of the traffic on the newspaper’s website.

“It definitely will have an impact. However, it’s also up to our readers in the community to support us during this, really, frontal assault on local journalism,” Roberts said. He hopes their readers seek out the newspaper’s content through other avenues.

“By doing that, [our readers] will lessen the impact this has on our level of journalism and our business model.”

‘A crisis situation’ for northern newspapers

Roberts said advertising revenue funds 95 per cent of Nunatsiaq News, which is primarily based on web traffic.

But he said over the years, advertising dollars have been siphoned away by social media companies like Meta.

“What happens is organizations like businesses, the government of Nunavut, the government of Canada, have gradually been transferring their advertising dollars to social media, which now takes 80 per cent of the available dollars that are in the marketplace,” Roberts said.

“So that starves local journalism and leads to layoffs and closures of newspapers. In the North, you can see newspapers getting into trouble and being bought out by chains instead of staying independent. It’s definitely a crisis situation.”

Northern News Service Limited — which operates Nunavut News and Kivalliq News — did not respond to CBC’s request for an interview, nor did APTN.

Through a spokesperson, CBC North declined an interview request for this story, and would not provide statistics on how Facebook drove traffic to its website. Still-accessible public posts from CBC Nunavut’s Facebook page show 1,400 people on average viewed the page’s Igalaaq livestream over the last eight episodes.

On the merits of Bill C-18, Roberts found the bill was “fine as it stands,” and “good enough,” even though it may not be perfect, he said.

“Obviously it’s had a severe reaction from Meta in particular. But as we saw in Australia, this may largely be a negotiating tactic,” Roberts said.

“I’m all in favour of the federal government drawing a line in the sand, and I think the standoff that’s happened is not really all about Canada. It’s about us setting a precedent for all of the other jurisdictions who are having the same problems as we’re having.”

‘Can’t get your news on the go’

Outside Iqaluit’s busy post office on a weekday morning, not many passersby were keen on chatting about the impact of Meta’s decision.

Most who declined CBC’s request for an interview on the topic said they didn’t know about the decision. Others said they didn’t use Facebook at all.

“I go on Google every day and I look for news, anything I can find,” said Roger Planiden, who said he gets all of his news from social media.

“When I get up first thing in the morning, I just open my phone and I’m scrolling and looking at news.”

Planiden said he wasn’t sure what to do now, saying he’ll have to find other avenues but hadn’t really explored it yet.

“Honestly, I think it’s going to have a negative impact. I think a lot of Canadians use their social media platform to find out information.”

Justin Clark, the only other person who agreed to speak with CBC, said he gets his news through Instagram.

“You can’t get your news on the go [anymore],” Clark said on the impact of Meta’s decision.

“You have to go in and launch other apps and watch livestreams and stuff. But for me to sit down in front of the TV and take time like that, I’m not into it. Our time is limited, and time is money.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: New media company puts Canada’s Dene Indigenous narratives first, founder says, CBC News

Russia: Russian media pushing “business-as-usual” narrative in Arctic despite sanctions, say media researchers, Eye on the Arctic

Nick Murray, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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