Minority community press left out of federal budget
The Association de la presse francophone and the Quebec Community Newspapers Association were looking forward to the 2019 Federal Budget with great hope. Since 2016, both have shared their expectations with the government so that newspapers in our official language minority communities (OLMCs) can continue to protect the democratic process and serve the public interest within their respective communities.
The measures proposed in the budget to support Canadian journalism show that the government has not considered the most vulnerable Canadian newspapers that serve OLMCs in Canada’s provinces and territories. The proposed eligibility criteria do not consider the needs and realities of the smallest newspapers in our minority-language communities.
Due to federal government decisions in the past decade, including the withdrawal of federal advertising from minority-language media, most of our newspapers have been forced reduce their journalists. To be considered an OJCA and to be eligible for the tax credit, the media must employ at least two journalists at least 26 hours per week. The media will not be able to access the tax credit if it is already receiving a grant from the Canada Periodical Fund. These criteria disqualify many of our newspapers twice!
However, Part VII of the Official Languages Act requires federal institutions to apply criteria that consider the realities and needs of OLMCs when developing programs and services.
Community media play an essential role in the development and vitality of OLMCs and are often the only source of written information in official languages in a minority situation for an entire province or territory. The report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (June, 2017) and the conclusions of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages’ final report (June, 2017) agree with this.
While the 2018-2023 Action Plan for Official Languages offered us some support to better serve OLMCs in terms of civic journalism, the measures only partially meet the needs of our newspapers, which, despite sustained efforts, are unable to cover the substantial losses of the past ten years.
The status quo is not acceptable; some of our media will not survive. We need solutions to ensure the government respects its obligations under Part VII of the OLA and allows official language minority community newspapers to benefit from the positive measures to support Canadian journalism announced in the budget.
LILY RYAN, Interim President
Quebec Community Newspapers
FRANCIS SONIER, President
Association Press Francophone