Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault praised the actions of the Australian government after it vowed to make social media giants pay for Australian news shared on their platforms. 

“We remain committed towards ensuring a comprehensive, more equitable digital regulatory framework here in Canada. That includes making sure that Canadian news organizations continue to inform and empower our communities,” tweeted Guilbeault on Wednesday. 

“As for Facebook’s action, the Canadian government stands with our Australian partners and denounces any form of threats.”

The proposed law would force Facebook and Google to pay royalties for local news sourced in Australia, even when shared by users and not the companies themselves.

In response to the Australian government’s proposed legislation, Facebook announced it would respond by blocking news sharing altogether in Australia.

Mainstream media companies in Canada like the CBC and the Toronto Star have also been lobbying the government to further regulate the industry and legislate laws that would protect their content. 

In February, several representatives of Canadian mainstream media organizations co-signed an open letter calling on the Liberals to toughen copyright laws to prevent others from reporting on and aggregating their news coverage on alternative platforms. 

Under the Trudeau government, mainstream media and local media outlets were granted a $595 million media bailout at the taxpayer’s expense. 

Among those designated to distribute the federal bailout money were media executives themselves. 

Recent reports show that companies who had executives on the Local Journalism Initiative panel were awarded a portion of the fund. 

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, FP Newspaper Inc. received $4.5 million in public funds from the federal government despite the fact that senior member and publisher of Winnipeg Free Press Bob Cox was on the aforementioned panel. 

Recent financial statements show that federal funding made up 38% of the company’s revenue in the second quarter of 2020. 

Minister Guilbeault has even gone so far as suggesting that Canadian media companies must register with the government and become licensed if they wish to operate within Canada. 

“If you’re a distributor of content in Canada and obviously if you’re a very small media organization the requirement probably wouldn’t be the same if you’re Facebook, or Google. There would have to be some proportionality embedded into this,” Guilbeault said in February.

“We would ask that they have a licence, yes.” 

Guilbeault later retracted his comments after a wide public backlash.

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