The media associations trusted with overseeing the Liberal government’s $50 million subsidy for local journalists are unable to provide the exact amount dozens of legacy media outlets received under the taxpayer-funded program.
Among the mainstream media outlets participating in the subsidized hiring program are Canada’s National Observer, the Chronicle Herald, the Narwhal, the Tyee and Nunatsiaq News.
Last week, officials with the Department of Canadian Heritage told True North they did not keep records of the salaries, positions or outlets of the journalists hired on the public’s dime under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). Instead, the government tasked seven “administrator organizations” to select who would be receiving the subsidy intended for hiring local journalists and paying freelance reporters.
The organizations are News Media Canada, Association de la presse francophone, Quebec Community Newspapers Association, the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec.
To track down how much each outlet exactly received as part of these grants to fund journalists at the expense of taxpayers, True North reached out to the above groups.
None of these administrator organizations was able to provide a complete list that included the outlet, positions created, and amount paid.
News Media Canada LJI Director Tina Ongkekok pointed to the group’s website which features a guide of “2021 Host News Organizations.” The list includes the names of the outlets and the created positions, but makes no mention how much each received in funding.
Following further inquiries about whether News Media Canada keeps records of the aforementioned information, Ongkeko suggested True North contact the dozens of outlets themselves.
“The list includes the project titles and media outlets, as well as a link to the outlet’s website. You’re welcome to follow up with the outlets directly—LJI content is required to be identified as such in the byline,” Ongenko told True North.
Additionally, although the program has been in operation since at least 2018, News Media Canada did not respond to further questions about funding recipients from past years.
Similarly, True North was also directed by the Community Radio Fund of Canada to a list of radio stations that received funding through the LJI. While the list names the 28 stations which received public funds, there is virtually no information about how much was distributed and what kind of positions were hired on the public dime.
Further attempts to receive more detailed information from the Community Radio Fund of Canada about the exact amount distributed in subsidies went unanswered.