[Opinion] There is still a need for government support for the media

The signs of improvement that have emerged in recent months can give hope for an imminent exit from the crisis to the media. But it will still be a long way to go, because technological, financial and political obstacles remain. In order to create a new balance, governments will have to maintain their support for local media and the regulation of web giants.

The media crisis is by no means a passing phenomenon. It crystallized with the creation of the web in the early ’90s, without really taking the scale of the coming changes.

At the time, the media world was concerned about the focus of journalism. Conrad Black owned half of the daily newspapers in Canada.

in 2000, the sunAnd right And daily Moves to Power Corporation that already owns Journalism and three regional newspapers. Quebecor at the same time bought Videotron, on the blockchain that was TVA.

Many feared the unification of information sources and the loss of diversity of viewpoints. Governments refused to intervene.

Since the establishment of the Center for Media Studies (CEM) in 1992, Florian Sauvago has been differentiated. He believed that the Web could contribute to the diversity of information sources by giving us access to the best sources of information on the planet.

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This was true, but the local media still had to find their place on the web. duty He was one of the first, if not the first, to have a website. Newspapers that did this believed that they could increase their audience and increase their revenue. did not last.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the real rise of social networks began. The competition they offer to the so-called traditional media in the advertising market is causing an imbalance in the media ecosystem.

The Economic and Social Council (CEM) has followed the evolution of the crisis with studies on news consumption habits and trust in the media. The Fixtures Inventory, updated annually by researcher Daniel Gero, allows damage to be measured.

In 2003, advertising revenue received by “non-media” digital platforms, such as Google, Facebook, etc., was marginal.

Their growth was fast. In 2020, they received $1,473 million in advertising revenue in Quebec. During the same period, media revenue in Quebec declined from $1,640 million to $1,038 million.

When advertising is the only source of revenue, as in the case of free newspapers, radio or television, or the main source, as in daily newspapers and magazines, the “basics” of these businesses have just changed. This was followed by financial losses, spending cuts and staff cuts.

Injuries occurred. The number of weekly newspapers decreased from 200 to 113, magazines were closed, and regional dailies suspended their weekday print publications.

The number of journalists in Quebec fell by 10% between 2006 and 2016, or 420 fewer positions, according to Statistics Canada, which has yet to release this data for 2021. The phenomenon has continued, as Daniel Gero notes in an inventory published this year by CEM. From 2016 to 2021, he observed a decrease in media salaries ranging from 12% in Radio Canada to 47% in newspapers.

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However, this crisis is not the end of the story. The degree of resilience and fighting spirit shown by the media here is remarkable. There has been a boom.

We continue to talk about traditional media, but the playoffs are no longer in place. dutyAnd JournalismCN2i Group’s regional dailies have become digital media.

Information production methods have evolved. News consumption patterns have changed, and the rise of social media has reinforced misinformation. Reaching young audiences is a challenge. New forms of work are entering the daily lives of journalists with big data and artificial intelligence.

This shift in the media ecosystem and its evolution towards digital is at the heart of CEM research. The symposium will bring together researchers and information workers on May 11-12.

The crisis has made everyone aware of the fragility of this ecosystem and its impact on the functioning of democratic institutions, both at the local and national levels.

The governments of Quebec and Canada have responded by implementing support measures aimed at preserving and creating jobs for journalists and accelerating the transition to digital.

These procedures contained bleeding and allowed for some success. media like duty Make recruitment. He doubled the size of the editing room. Journalism She just announced a net profit of $20 million, with which she created a reserve fund for the future. Bell Media has created a real newsroom for its Noovo channel.

This news is reassuring. We can believe that a new equilibrium is emerging. However, the battle was not won. The advertising exodus to digital technologies continues, which supports the growth of the power of the web giants.

Government support programs will expire within the next two years. One way or another, they should continue, just like the efforts to regulate the big digital platforms that Ottawa just started with Bill C-18.

Information is a public good as is education, health and culture. It is an essential service to democracy. You must be able to rely on strong media policies.

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