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Federal budget 2018: Cautious optimism for journalists

OTTAWAFeb. 27, 2018 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists is cautiously optimistic at the 2018 federal budget's promised investment in local journalism.

The budget includes mention of a $10-million investment per year over five years to "one or more independent non-governmental organizations that will support local journalism in underserved communities."

This announcement is consistent with some of the measures the CAJ has been requesting for the past several years.

In the fall of 2016, the CAJ testified before the House of Commons' Heritage Committee on the question of expanding non-profit media and making it easier for charitable foundations -- or those who could become charitable organizations -- to financially underpin good journalism.

At the time, we highlighted a small handful of Canadian success stories in this space, and encouraged government to make it easier for non-profit journalism to thrive. Today's budget announcement allows for this.

"We're pleased the government chose to adopt one of the recommendations the CAJ and other media organizations had suggested that could help improve the quantity and quality of local news in Canada," CAJ president Nick Taylor-Vaisey said. "We'll be monitoring the rollout of this promise though, given this government's track record on promising the moon and falling substantially shorter on delivery."

We hope the changes announced in today's federal budget will encourage people to charitably invest in new media in their own communities, with a focus on providing more platforms for all types of local news. For these investments to have the greatest impact they need to be able to work outside of our largest city and be feasible to set up in our smallest communities.

Time and experience tells us this new investment will not lead to overnight success for new media invested in local journalism. Just like other investments in the digital and media space, there will continue to be trial, error and failure.

It's also but a ripple in the ongoing current that sees Canadian businesses -- and governments -- moving their advertising dollars from Canadian-owned media directly to Google and Facebook.

The CAJ continues to encourage federal and provincial governments to consider taxation and other changes that would entice Canadian businesses to invest here by placing their advertising through Canadian-owned media.

As we and many other industry groups have said, Canadian media do not have a content problem. We do not have problems adapting to the ways our audiences prefer to engage with our content. We are being challenged by a revenue problem-- and any support to help media raise more revenues will stabilize our sector to the benefit of all Canadians.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing about 600 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

For further information: CAJ vice-president Terra Tailleur, terra@caj.ca

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