MONTRÉAL, Sept. 28, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - A majority of newspaper publishers in Québec today announced they have formed a coalition to demand that the government establish a funding program to assist them in pursuing the shift to digital, which has become necessary with the multiplication of media platforms.
The Coalition pour la pérennité de la presse d'information au Québec (coalition to ensure the long-term survival of print news media in Québec) comprises the daily Le Devoir, Groupe Capitales Médias, Hebdos Québeci and TC Transcontinental. It represents 146 newspapersii from which nearly six million Quebecers—or close to 80 % of the population—get their news every week. The coalition's mandate is twofold: to raise public awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy local print news media, and to secure temporary government assistance to help those media continue the shift to digital.
"The members of the Coalition call upon the Government of Québec to grant 'cultural exception' to the province's print news industry," says Brian Myles, spokesperson for the Coalition and Director of Le Devoir. "Our dailies and weeklies are vital to preserving a diversity of media voices, enriching debate, and accompanying communities of readers in their daily lives."
Adds Claude Gagnon, the Coalition's co-spokesperson and President and CEO of Groupe Capitales Médias: "The industry is in the midst of a profound re-examination of its business model. This is not a problem regarding the quality of news and information in our newspapers. In the past few years, our media outlets have all seen their overall readership grow, because of the multiplication of platforms."
The Coalition members are speaking with one voice today because they are all confronted with the same challenges. Industry revenues are in decline, in part because of flight of advertising money toward social media platforms, which are controlled by a handful of U.S. giants. Digital ad revenues amount to $878 million in Québeciii , but those benefits largely elude publishers here.
"Today we are being forced to invest in development of digital platforms, while at the same time managing a profound transformation in our industry," Mr. Myles adds. "In the age of digital, the distinctions between print and electronic media no longer hold. Our presence extends to print, the Web, tablets and smartphones. We should have access to programs similar to those benefitting the film and TV industries, to protect the thousands of quality jobs that we provide for people here at home."
To help the print media through this critical period, the Coalition is asking the Government of Québec to rapidly set up a five-year temporary financial assistance program for the province's newspapers. The details of the request are as follows:
- Program and/or refundable tax credit covering 40 % of the production cost of news and information content (journalists' salaries, payroll for newspaper typesetting and layout, reporting expenses).
- Program and/or refundable tax credit covering 50 % of investments in digital; i.e., procurement and maintenance of specialized software, creation of applications, and user training.
- Exemption from the contribution payable under the Environment Quality Act, which requires that newspapers help finance the cost of municipal curbside recycling services; the yearly amount charged to publishers has increased by 1075 %iv since 2006.
- Abolition of the sales taxes (GST and TVQ) on newspapers sold.
- A significant increase in the government budget for advertising placements in Québec newspapers, which do not receive their fair share of such advertising investments.
There is widespread agreement that newspapers, both dailies and weeklies, play a unifying role in the lives of citizens in Québec municipalities and in its regions. Not only have they completely fulfilled that role historically, but today, many of these print media outlets represent the last bulwark against the isolation of the communities they serve. People consume the content of their local newspapers to inform and educate themselves. Their newspapers are vectors for freedom of expression, indispensable forums for public debate, and essential wellsprings of democratic vitality in the places they live. They are also agents of social and economic progress. With the Québec government currently engaged in the revision of its cultural policy, now is the time to acknowledge the importance of newspapers in the chain of cultural content delivery: these media outlets are the link between creators and their audiences.
Several countries around the world support their print media, because they fully recognize the importance of newspapers to the plurality and diversity of ideas in a healthy democracy. Finland, Norway, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and United States all have print media assistance programs, totalling some $2 billion annually.
i Hebdos Québec represents 31 independent French-language weeklies in Québec, with a combined weekly adult readership of 1,493,000.
ii 137 weeklies and eight dailies, including Métro/Metro.
iii Source: Guide annuel des médias Infopresse, data for 2015.
iv Source: RecycleMédias. Between 2006 and 2016, the tariff levied has risen from $8 to $94 per tonne of newsprint marketed by newspaper owners.
SOURCE Hebdos Québec
For further information: Interview requests: Brian Myles, 514 262-2860, Director, Le Devoir