OTTAWA / July 18, 2019 / CNW — The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is encouraged by several outcomes of the Journalism and Written Media Independent Panel of Experts, though the panel’s final report does fall short on some of our priorities.
The CAJ’s appointed panelist Esther Enkin a former CBC ombudsman, producer and an expert in journalism ethics, said the process was collegial and the CAJ’s proposals contributed substantially to the panel’s deliberations.
“While not everyone in the journalism industry agreed the government’s approach was the best course of action, having an independent panel of media experts make recommendations definitely improved the process,” said CAJ president Karyn Pugliese.
“We believe the recommendations of the panel improved the equity of the proposed measures. It is our position that more can still be done to level the playing field for small outlets and ensure accountability in the process.”
The panel agreed with the CAJ recommendation to broaden the definition of eligible news outlets, which is now more inclusive of online, local and independent news outlets. The report urges government to consider making changes and interventions that will level the playing field for smaller media who don’t benefit from this tax measure.
The CAJ was also successful in securing concessions to ensure the panel itself followed a transparent process. Panelists were not required to sign confidentiality agreements, and notes from the panel meetings are publicly available showing the internal deliberations that led to the final report.
The CAJ requested that the labour-focused tax credit encourage news organizations to re-invest savings into retaining or expanding staff and not incentivize news organizations to use savings to increase executive compensation or reduce debt. The panel made a recommendation toward this goal; however, that recommendation only requests that news outlets avoid “excessive compensation” for executives while receiving public money. It also contains no enforcement mechanism or verification process, which renders this language effectively meaningless.
The panel did not recommend that a full list of organizations applying for funding be posted online. A majority of the panel felt this violated applicants’ privacy. It is the CAJ’s position that when public funding is sought, some privacy must be sacrificed in the public interest. In this case, the CAJ maintains that making public those whose applications are denied would have held the government accountable for its implementation of the tax measures. The panel also did not recommend that explanations be provided publicly for why groups have been denied funding. The CAJ continues to urge the government to take these basic transparency steps. Without transparency this government funding remains at risk of the perception, regardless of the reality, of partisan influence in which outlets receive or do not receive funding.
“The CAJ expresses its deep gratitude to Esther Enkin who volunteered her time to work for the CAJ and its members throughout this process. She took it on knowing it would be a controversial matter and a tough job. She was tireless and represented us perfectly,” said Pugliese.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 700 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.
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Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president