Local news could disappear if Canada doesn’t stand up to tech giants, Winnipeg newspaper publisher says

Days after Canada pledged to make Facebook pay for news content amid an ongoing media battle with tech giants, one newspaper publisher is warning local news could be in trouble if the government doesn’t take bold action.

“Facebook and Google control the digital world,” Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and chair of News Media Canada, told CBC News Network’s John Northcott on Sunday. “They control the vast majority of advertising and they really have made it very difficult for other media to make a living, as you might want to say, online.

“You’re going to get to a point, a drop-off point, where suddenly you have communities without news — without news outlets, newspapers or television stations or radio stations.”

On Wednesday, Facebook announced it is blocking Australians from seeing or sharing news on its platform because of laws in the country proposing to make digital giants pay for journalism.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook regional managing director William Easton said.

WATCH | Newspaper publisher discusses making tech giants pay for news:

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, says local news could be in trouble if the government doesn’t take bold action. 6:09

CBC/Radio-Canada has a content distribution partnership with Facebook and Google that includes services like mobile distribution, data storage and communication tools.

Cox said advertising revenues for news outlets have been slowly declining for years, which puts limits on the journalism they can provide amid dwindling jobs and resources. There’s also danger of misinformation filling the void left in the absence of local news, he said.

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who’s in charge of creating similar legislation in Canada that will be unveiled in the coming months, said Facebook’s actions in Australia won’t deter Ottawa from taking a stand.

“Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Guilbeault said Canada could tap Australia’s model, which requires sites like Facebook and Google to make deals to pay news outlets, or it could agree on a price through binding arbitration.

‘Unless governments act, these companies typically don’t do anything,’ said Bob Cox, who is also chair of News Media Canada. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Whatever path the federal government chooses, Cox said it’s crucial that it takes some kind of stand for anything to change.

“One way or the other, the idea will be that it will force Google and Facebook essentially to negotiate with publishers,” said Cox, who described the current relationship between news outlets and tech giants as “one of a tremendous power imbalance.”

“What we’ve seen around the world is that unless governments act, these companies typically don’t do anything.”

Proliferation of conspiracies

The implications of such inaction is huge, said Jason Hannan, an associate professor in the University of Winnipeg’s department of rhetoric and communications who studies social media and how it shapes public discourse.

He said news organizations have been struggling to survive since the transition from print to digital news — but digital giants like Facebook and Twitter have thrived during that time.

“They get to post, they get to feature news content, and every time we post an article or like or share or comment or so forth, this drives Facebook traffic and activity and they profit from it,” Hannan said.

“And unfortunately, this doesn’t really result in much revenue going to the news organizations whose stories they publish.”

WATCH | Facebook and Australia are in a standoff. Is Canada next?

Facebook blocked news posts for Australian users as the government plans to make technology companies pay for sharing news content. There are concerns something similar could happen to Canadians. 7:37

If nothing is done, Hannan said more news organizations will be confronted with financial situations too dire to keep going and will have to fold. That could degrade democracy, he said.

“The implications are that we will have fewer and fewer qualified and trained journalists providing quality news, and then we will see a proliferation of people with no training in journalism, but plenty of practice in YouTube posting nonsense and conspiracy theories,” Hannan said.

“We will see fewer news articles and more memes and YouTube videos and this will just contribute to the already severe degradation of our public sphere.”

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Newspaper headlines: 'Back in the pub garden' and 'final lockdown' call

The papers look at plans to reopen pubs and schools as Tory MPs press for an end to restrictions.

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Competition Bureau ends probe of Postmedia-Torstar newspaper swap

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The Competition Bureau has closed an investigation into a 2017 newspaper swap between Postmedia Network Canada Corp. and Torstar Corp., concluding that “no further action” is warranted.

The transaction saw the newspaper groups swap 41 community and daily newspapers, 36 of which were subsequently closed.

The Competition Bureau was probing whether Postmedia and Torstar had agreed to close titles and not compete in certain regions as part of the transaction.

“Following a review of the available evidence, the Bureau concluded that no further action was warranted,” the competition watchdog said in a statement on Thursday.To refer a case for prosecution under the criminal conspiracy provisions of the Competition Act, the Bureau must find clear evidence demonstrating that competitors reached an agreement to fix prices, allocate markets, or lessen or eliminate the supply of a product or service.”

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Newspaper headlines: Gunboats in the Channel and Christmas plan warning

It says Royal Navy ships

will have the power to halt, inspect and impound EU fishing boats if they stray into UK waters. “Sometimes only a show of strength will make foreign governments understand you are serious”, says the paper.

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Newspaper headlines: ‘Cabinet backs PM over no-deal Brexit’

The Sun on Sunday says it was a “caustic” call in which the prime minister

said the EU’s “unrealistic demands” had reached their limits.

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Credit Suisse chairman hints at lower bonus payouts: newspaper

FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Credit Suisse Chairman Urs Rohner takes part in a panel discussion at the Swiss International Financial Forum (SIFF) in Rueschlikon, Switzerland November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

December 5, 2020

ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse will take into account the coronavirus pandemic when setting bonuses and the impact is likely to be negative, Chairman Urs Rohner told Schweiz am Wochenende in an interview published on Saturday.

“The pandemic is certainly a factor that will be taken into account when determining the variable compensation,” Rohner told the newspaper.

“Bonuses should reflect performance, and here the pandemic is a factor that plays a role,” he said. “It is obvious that after such a year you will not see record bonuses.”

The chairman, who is leaving Switzerland’s second biggest bank next year after a 12-year term on the board, said the company would have to wait for the 2020 business results before making final decisions.

Rohner will be replaced by outgoing Lloyds Bank Chief Executive António Horta-Osório.

He declined to comment directly on the rumoured merger talks between Credit Suisse and cross-town rival UBS.

Both Rohner and UBS Chairman Axel Weber were reported to support a deal, but talks dropped off after the summer.

“I am not saying that the idea is absurd, quite the opposite,” Rohner said in the interview. “Every chairman, if he understands his role correctly, will think through such a constellation as well as other scenarios from time to time.

“I have done so several times,” he said, although mergers between big banks tended to be very complex and had to deal with regulatory, cultural and timing issues.

“Such factors determine whether a merged company is successful or not,” Rohner said.

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Newspaper headlines: ‘Vaccines for all’, and Patel ‘bullying’ row

For the Times, the prime minister has again expended political capital by standing by a wounded colleague

whom he may yet have to dismiss if further damaging details emerge.

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King Island Courier newspaper publishes its last edition with no-one to take up the ‘pen’

This week’s edition of the King Island Courier was the last.

The weekly newspaper has been in circulation for 37 years, but its editor Kathleen Hunter has decided to stop running the paper.

On the front page of the last edition, Ms Hunter wrote:

“I have produced the King Island Courier for nearly 17 years and now, with nobody to hand the ‘pen’ to, I have made the decision to close the newspaper.

“It has been an honour to support the island’s community groups in their passions and projects for the last two decades.”

Ernie Blackman owns the Grassy Service Station on King Island and said the loss of the paper was devastating for the small community.

“It’s a small population and it’s the way the older people get their news,” he said.

Mr Blackman sold the King Island Courier at his business and said residents loved going in to buy the paper.

“We have a few people that come in every week and get the paper — the editor did a sterling job with it,” he said.

We’ve lost a major asset

At the time of the 2016 census there were just under 1,600 people living on King Island.

King Island mayor Julie Arnold said the newspaper had been the main source of communication for the island during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was such a huge emotional support for our community — we’ve lost a major asset,” she said.

The local newspaper was important for the community says King Island Mayor Juliet Arnold.(Supplied: King Island Council)

Councillor Arnold said she would love for a retired journalist who wants to live on the island to take over the paper.

“Someone who is happy to sit and write and put it together would be ideal,” she said.

The Council said it will now have to look at a new way to communicate with King Islanders.

“There’s a lot of council activity we need to make the island aware of … but at the moment we’re still walking around in shock,” she said.

“We don’t have a plan yet but we will make one over the next few weeks.”

Changing media landscape on island state

Claire Konkes, the head of media at the University of Tasmania, said it had been a tough year for Tasmania’s newspapers.

“I think it is always sad to see a small paper in a regional area close and we have been seeing quite a lot of papers in Tasmania and Australia closing, so it comes as no surprise,” she said.

“All regional communities need their local newspaper.

Four newspapers on a desk
The King Island Courier only had a small circulation but provided a vital community link.(ABC News: Sean Wales)

Ms Konkes said she was hopeful someone could step in and fill the void left by the closure of the masthead.

“What we’ve seen in other places is either journalists or other community members trying to establish newspaper when they disappear,” she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of movement and experimentation. We are seeing some PR and communications businesses buy some local newspapers. 

“Hopefully, someone will step in and try and look after it.”

The ABC requested an interview with Ms Hunter but she declined.

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Wayne Bennett, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Payne Haas fight, Game two, sin bin, newspaper headlines, Paul Kent, reaction

Fox League’s Paul Kent has savaged Queensland coach Wayne Bennett after the master coach took aim at newspaper headlines for causing the fight that lead to Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Payne Haas to be sin binned.

The Blues claimed a 34-10 victory over the Maroons to send the series to a decider but tempers flared in the 56th minute when Fa’asuamaleaui and Haas were marched for 10 minutes each after throwing punches.

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The Courier Mail’s back page pointed to the pair’s bad blood dating back to the Under-18’s State of Origin match three years ago with the now-20-year-old

The story said Fa‘asuamaleaui “verbally goaded Haas, challenging NSW’s biggest forward to run directly at him” in the duel, but later when Haas ran across field, the Queensland forward unloaded sledges.

“Tiny went hunting for Haas that night at Homebush and he sat him on his arse,” said Fa‘asuamaleaui’s manager Simon Mammino.

“Payne was the big dog at schoolboy level so Tino took him on — that’s the competitor he is.“

While there is bad blood between the pair, Bennett blamed the story for pushing the pair over the edge.

“I’d be concerned, it’s not what we want,” Bennett said. “I’ve worked with you guys for a long period of time so I know you’ll take no responsibility for it but that was a headline in Brisbane today, and wherever it came from, it was a headline in the paper, I didn’t read it all.

“They’re young men, they’re 20 years of age, both of them and headlines like that throws fuel onto the fire. I knew deep down there would be a blue here tonight between the pair of them and you won’t take responsibility for it but if that’s not a headline today, I don’t think that’s going to happen tonight.”

Daly Cherry-Evans looked like he took aim at Fa’asuamaleaui post-game but said you have to “back your players”.

A journalist went back to Bennett to clarify that he was blaming a headline in the newspaper and the Maroons coach doubled down.

“They both would have read the paper today and it stirs the emotion in them,” he said. “That’s my point. They’ve got to be responsible for their actions and I accept that as well, but you’re talking about 20-year-olds here.

“That fight didn’t come out of nowhere tonight, it was brewing this morning and I don’t know about the background as well. It’s easier to criticise them and they have to take responsibility for it but it’s the type of headline that young men just don’t handle and they didn’t handle it well either of them.”

Bennett said he didn’t speak to Fa’asuamaleaui before the game and said he “hoped it would blow over”.

The story Bennett was pointing to was a feud that was sparked three years ago when the pair were in Under-18 Origin as 17-year-olds with the pair trading verbal pleasantries.

But The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent was having none of it.

“Just ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, Wayne is kidding himself,” he said. “This is a rivalry between these two kids who are 20-years-old. Wayne started to go the right way, they’re young men, they get carried away.

“The fact is it goes back to when they were schoolboys. They didn’t read something in the paper to realise they don’t like the other bloke. To suggest that they’ve read this story today …

“We continually get told from within camp that I didn’t see the story, I don’t read the papers. That’s half the problem with Origin, you’ve got to go around and find these stories outside of what’s going on between the teams because no one talks any more. So Peter Badel’s gone and found this story about these two guys who since schoolboys haven’t liked each other and have always gone after each other. To suggest this is the reason for this, it’s ridiculous.”

Michael Ennis said Fa’asuamaleaui beelining for Haas “suggests there’s some history there, that these two don’t like each other and that there’s a feud there”.

He said he thought it was fine.

But Kent continued.

“When there’s a bit of history between blokes, Benny Elias and Steve Walters, Paul Harrogan and Mark Carroll always went for each other when they played club football. You go back to the Greg Dowling and Blocker Roach days, they found each other. That happens, that’s why Origin was good. That’s why we celebrated it.

“He’s kidding himself. Wayne’s the number one supporter of this. He just doesn’t like the media now so he wants to get it off his chest. He’s kidding himself.”

He added: “We finally have a story that’s not about someone’s sick grandmother. It’s not bad for the game.

Cooper Cronk added that he thought it was “coaching card 101”.

“The headlines will be this for the next couple of days,” he said. “And his side’s just conceded six tries. For me, he’s got more issues than headlines causing problems.”

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SA MP Fraser Ellis defends spending taxpayers’ money on his family’s newspaper business

South Australian country Liberal MP Fraser Ellis says he is entitled to spend thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on a business owned by his family, amid questions over whether he has a potential conflict of interest.

Documents obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information (FOI) reveal the Member for Narungga spent $6,701 on advertising with the Yorke Peninsula Country Times (YPCT) newspaper in two months this year.

The most prominent local newspaper covering most of Mr Ellis’s electorate on Yorke Peninsula is owned by members of his family including his father, Michael Ellis, who is the managing director.

In his annual parliamentary declaration of interests, the Liberal backbencher has declared himself a “general beneficiary” of the Yorke Peninsula Country Times Pty Ltd for the Michael Ellis Family Trust.

The newspaper is also listed on his declaration under “other substantial interests”.

The Yorke Peninsula Country Times has been in the Ellis family for four generations.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

In the 2019-20 financial year, the backbencher spent $26,955 on advertising using his taxpayer-funded Global Allowance — more than any other Lower House MP in the same period.

It is not clear how much of that was spent with the YPCT.

It is common for regional MPs in larger electorates to spend more money on advertising in regional newspapers and with smaller media organisations.

Fraser Ellis said the payments in question covered advertising for a four-month period.

Passes ‘no pub test anywhere’

The taxpayer money comes from the Global Allowance fund, which is given to each MP to help cover electorate office costs.

Rules state that “each Member is individually accountable for his or her use of entitlements”.

“In accessing the Global Allowance entitlement, Members must be willing to defend their decisions against both public and parliamentary scrutiny.”

Mr Ellis declined to answer the ABC’s questions on how much taxpayer money he had spent with the YPCT since becoming an MP.

A document with columns of bills paid to various media organisations, including the Yorke Peninsula Country Times
An FOI request revealed the breakdown of advertising expenses during the last quarter of last year by Fraser Ellis.(Supplied: SA Department of Treasury and Finance)

“I am completely transparent in all my dealings with the newspaper,” Mr Ellis said.

He denied making money from the paper.

“I have a beneficial interest in the family trust at the discretion of the trustee, which I do not control, and I do not receive an income from the trust. I have no financial interest in the newspaper business itself.”

He said he had been a member of the family trust since he was seven years old and spoke about his connection to the paper in his maiden parliamentary speech.

Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said the lack of detail about the spending was concerning.

A man wearing a suit next to a window with blinds
Stephen Mullighan says there needs to be more transparency.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

“It’s up to Steven Marshall and Fraser Ellis to demonstrate to taxpayers that there is no conflict of interest here,” Mr Mullighan said.

Mr Ellis said the payments made to the newspaper for advertising purposes were within the rules.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said Mr Ellis had told him he had continued the same advertising arrangement as his predecessor, Liberal MP Steven Griffiths.

“The Yorke Peninsula Country Times is the major media outlet for the Yorke Peninsula and it would be unreasonable to argue that a local MP could not communicate with his constituents in the same way as previous local MPs for the area,” Mr Lucas said.

He did not answer questions on what steps Mr Ellis had taken to address the potential conflict of interest with his office or the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF).

Questions on what checks and balances were made by DTF and Parliament to adequately manage potential conflicts of interest when spending public money were also not answered.

No code of conduct

The rules governing potential conflicts of interest in South Australia involving the expenditure of public money are not always clear.

MPs are required by law to disclose their pecuniary interests on their register each year.

Fraser John Ellis's list of interests as tabled in parliament, which includes that of his family's newspaper.
MPs have to declare their financial and other significant interests, which Fraser Ellis has done.(Supplied: Parliament of South Australia)

But unlike ministers and public servants, MPs are not bound by a code of conduct detailing definitions or consequences around managing potential or actual conflicts of interest.

“Ministers should avoid situations in which their private interests conflict, have the potential to conflict or appear to conflict with their public duty,” the ministerial code of conduct states.

“A conflict of interest does not only encompass actual or direct conflicts of interest between a minister’s public duty and private interests. A potential or perceived conflict of interest may also constitute a conflict of interest.”

In a report published days before his retirement as Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC), Bruce Lander criticised Parliament for repeatedly failing to adopt a code of conduct as other state parliaments had done.

“The current arrangement fails to inspire confidence,” Mr Lander wrote.

The Opposition said it supported a code of conduct for MPs.

“We have seen some vague assurances from the Attorney-General and the Government that they were looking at this, that they were looking to bring something forward,” Mr Mullighan said.

“If that doesn’t materialise then we will have to give serious consideration to whether we need to bring something together before the Parliament and try and restore public confidence in the behaviour of Members of Parliament.”

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