An independent content creator highlighted the devastating impact of Bill C-18 on smaller media companies in a recent committee meeting discussing the legislation which was meant to save failing legacy news companies. 

Brandon Gonez, CEO of Gonez Media Inc. and a former broadcaster for Bell Media and Corus Entertainment, spoke before the House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee on February 15th.

Gonez painted a grim picture of the challenges faced by digital-first media entities like his own, suggesting that the legislation has pushed them to the brink of collapse.

“When Bill C-18 came about, we were severely impacted. We lost our pages on Meta-owned platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, which were literally the platforms we built our business model on,” said Gonez.  

“Our revenue impact was a more than 40% loss. We were at risk of literally doing the exact same thing that legacy media companies had done to our staff.”

One of the most pressing concerns raised by Gonez was the assurance made by Pablo Rodriguez, the heritage minister at the time, promising that media companies affected by the block would be adequately compensated. However, as Gonez lamented, this promise has not been fulfilled.

“One of the issues I have in particular is that the heritage minister at the time was quoted as saying that media companies affected by this block would be made whole. We have not been made whole. In fact, we have had to be agile, to innovate and to find new ways to sustain our business and our model,” explained Gonez. 

The repercussions of Bill C-18 extend beyond financial strain. Gonez warned of an impending crisis within the media ecosystem, with smaller companies teetering on the edge of closure. 

“When I talk to my peers, whose companies are a lot smaller, I hear they are at the brink of closing their doors,” said Gonez. 

“Meaning we are going to be left with an ecosystem of companies that are living only because of government funding.”

Bill C-18, passed amid controversy, aims to compel social media giants like Google and Meta to pay news publishers for the presence of their content on their platforms. However, critics argue that the legislation grants the government excessive control over online news dissemination. 

Meta’s response to the bill was swift, with the company blocking news links on Facebook and Instagram for users in Canada last year.

Despite the urgency demonstrated by the Liberal government in pushing through Bill C-18, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission recently released a timeline indicating that deals with big tech companies may not be reached until 2026.