A Toronto Star executive and former staffer for Justin Trudeau says if the government doesn’t force Big Tech to permanently fund legacy media, news will be taken over by “pseudo-journalists.” 

Toronto Star vice-president of government and public relations Ryan Adam made the comments on a panel with the U.S. group Ethnic Media Services. 

Adam said Google and Meta need to recognize that “the content they’re sharing from news organizations has value,” arguing government must be “compelling them to compensate, permanently, those content creators with revenue generated from the advertising.”

“I strongly encourage the government to move forward and pursue the approach while the industry is on its knees and then I strongly encourage tech leaders to really acknowledge the important role that real fact-based journalism has in a democracy,” he added.

Adam warned that the consequences of not making the Liberals’ Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, a permanent staple of the legacy media industry was for “pseudo-journalists” to flourish. 

“In the absence of real journalism, all we’re going to get moving forward is pseudo-journalists, online experts and folks who don’t go through the rigorous fact-checking that we do in our newsrooms,” said Adam.

Adam worked for the Prime Minister’s Office during Trudeau’s government between 2017 and 2019 and also spoke in favour of Bill C-18 on the panel. Admittedly, he also had reservations about too much government involvement in the media. 

“Full disclosure for me to say that the Toronto Star, before the Online News Act was implemented, already had deals with Google and Meta and Apple and a few other tech platforms. So for us, it was not about newfound revenue but this was about rolling over and consistent revenue,” explained Adam. 

“It is my strong recommendation that the government do as little as possible to stick their fingers into the revenue streams of journalists because government can change, politicians are swayed by a number of different forces so that is not a concrete business model.” 

The Toronto Star was recently catapulted into the international spotlight after X CEO Elon Musk likened the outlet, which receives federal funding, to the historical Soviet propaganda newspaper, Pravda. 

Musk’s comparison came in response to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accusing the newspaper of planning a hit piece about his family. 

Poilievre took to social media to criticize the Star’s purported intentions, labelling its forthcoming story as a “ridiculous attack” concerning something as trivial as his wife’s purchase of a $300 splash pool for his kids.

Despite Adam’s insistence that governments stay out of determining media revenue as much as possible, Torstar CEO John Boynton called on additional subsidies for the newspaper in 2022. In 2019, Torstar received $6.8 million in federal aid and also benefits from Trudeau’s $595 million media bailout which consists of $13,750 payroll rebates per employee.