One of the Liberal government’s key funds for ailing legacy media companies is set to expire at the end of March and news organizations are panicking over a lack of clarity on whether the fund will be renewed by Ottawa. 

The Local Journalism Initiative was introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019 to offer up $50 million in funding over five years.

Funds for eligible media companies are supposed to be used to hire journalists to report on local stories. 

According to News Media Canada, a group that has lobbied the federal government to step in to save the legacy media, there have been over 400 journalists hired under the program. 

All of them could be out of work if the fund doesn’t get renewed, the organization is warning. 

“Frankly, there are no other current federal funding initiatives that can replace it. It is a world-class program that other countries are looking at,” News Media Canada CEO Paul Deegan told CBC News.

Despite appeals from the legacy media to extend the fund, the Liberal government has not yet announced what the initiative’s future might be. 

“If I were to be asking for anything, it would be clear, more timely information that allows publishers to make informed decisions on what we know is going to happen,” said legacy media advocate and Press Forward chair, Jeanette Ageson. 

Despite receiving taxpayer funding, some legacy media companies have halted local journalism. 

In 2022, Saltwire Network, one of Atlantic Canada’s major legacy media companies, stopped home deliveries of physical newspapers to certain rural communities in northern Nova Scotia.

Saltwire Network has received funds from the Local Journalism Initiative. 

In a March 2021 article, Saltwire Network’s senior managing editor, Steve Bartlett, acknowledged the significance of federally-financed local journalism initiative in covering remote regions, suggesting the company was committed to addressing “news deserts” in remote parts of Eastern Canada.