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Quebec offers plan to Assist newspapers while Ottawa does nothing

16 Dec 17
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The francophone newspaper Le Droit was founded in Ottawa in 1913 to agitate against Ontario government laws to restrict French schooling in the state. Former federal cabinet minister Martin Cauchon remembered these origins while describing, in a language in 2015, why he’d only bought Le Droit and five regional Quebec newspapers, in a time when other newspaper publishers were fighting.

In Quebec, all francophone media are tools of language preservation. From that standpoint alone, it isn’t surprising to find the Quebec government in recent days announce two distinct measures to take care of the crisis in print journalism — although the national government has been doing nothing.

On Dec. 4, Marie Montpetit, Quebec’s rookie Culture and Communications Minister, said the state is spending24.4-million more than five years to assist community schools endure and construct their electronic platforms. Another $12-million will go toward enhancing recycling from the newspapers.

On Thursday, Dominique Anglade, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation, said Investissement Québec is making a $10-million loan to Mr. Cauchon’s Groupe Capitales Médias (GCM), as its share in a $26-million investment from the company in the digital side of its publishing. Rival Quebecor Inc. promptly attacked the deal as “flagrant favouritism,” with president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau tweeting darkly about “the Liberal connection.”

Ms. Montpetit, as the minister responsible for “the protection and promotion of the French language,” acted in part to avoid an erosion of francophone cultural distance.

When national Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, who holds a similar speech obligation, introduced her Creative Canada coverage in Montreal on Dec. 8, she had to offer Quebec news publishers was a “bravo” to people making perceptible attempts to go electronic. This was only 11 days after a mass closing of dozens of Canadian newspapers that put 291 people from work.

Ms. Joly received a short list of things to do about the crisis in June in the Liberal-dominated Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The committee recommended a five-year tax credit for capital and labor investments in electronic publishing; an expansion of the Canada Media Fund to include daily papers; and a ban on advertisements on the CBC’s websites. Ms. Joly and her cabinet colleagues would have none of it.

When grilled in the House of Commons on Dec. 6 about why the mass closings hadn’t prodded the government into action, Ms. Joly said she was “working with the business.” The extent and shape of the work stays secret, with no cash or new policy to show for it.

Ms. Joly obtained a harsh reception in her native state for allowing Netflix play tax-free in our yard with no firm commitment to first francophone manufacturing from Quebec. She is now making a similar error in a unique cultural sector, overlooking a very real danger to the francophone milieu when pitching roses from afar to anyone making an attempt online.

She seems not to notice, or to wish to notice, that some of her policies make the situation worse. In her Montreal address, her musings about the danger to newsgathering drifted to a reminder that she is giving an additional $675-million into the CBC. However, as many witnesses told the standing committee, a stronger CBC digital news operation tightens the screws on social media publishers whose sources are decreasing.

Ms. Anglade explained that her portion of the current statements was an investment in Quebec companies, not newsrooms. She was worried about GCM’s 400 workers, she said, and had concluded that the six Quebec centers served by the newspapers (Le Droit is also based in Gatineau) could be worse off if they failed.

She brushed away Mr. Péladeau’s criticism by stating that the exact resources are available to Quebecor or anybody else. “Why not? If they present us with jobs to do with the electronic shift, we’ll consider them on their merits,” she said. Mr. Cauchon said that any suggestion his personal politics could influence or gain his newsrooms — many of which supported the ruling Liberals during the last provincial election — was an “insult” to his journalists.

It is funny to line up that comment with Mr. Cauchon’s elegaic 2015 reference to Le Droit’s roots, as a newspaper made to transmit the views of its initial publishers, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. But times change, and so does journalism. In exactly the same speech, Mr. Cauchon talked of a wall: “Politics is on one side and press is on the other.” There is no reason politicians, such as the Heritage minister, can not do something to maintain Canadian newsgathering powerful, without compromising themselves or people who print.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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