OTTAWA, March 19, 2019—The CAJ welcomes certain details of the government’s $595 million for journalism announced in today’s budget. In particular, the « full independence » of the body determining which journalism outlets are eligible for funding is something the CAJ called for previously and welcomes today. The government will also publish the names of all journalism organizations that receive funding on its website, which is a positive step. However, the government fell short on a number of transparency steps recommended by the CAJ including that the panel defining journalism eligibility have its terms of reference, meeting agendas and minutes be published online.
The requirements set out by the government require that news outlets seeking funding: « must be primarily focused on matters of general interest and reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes, and must not be primarily focused on a particular topic such as industry specific news, sports, recreation, arts, lifestyle or entertainment. »
This definition will eliminate a number of sports and arts focused publications and may eliminate a wide number of newer outlets that have a more narrow coverage focus.
The CAJ is also concerned about the 25 per cent refundable tax credit for journalists’ salaries up to a cap of $55,000 per employee. The $55,000 cap will incentivize news outlets not to pay employees more than that. For unionized outlets, some of which have a starting salary in excess of $55,000, this structure could encourage the breaking of unions.
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. Today’s announcement does nothing to address those concerns.
Finally, today’s announcement outlines $138 million in tax credits for Canadians buying digital news subscriptions but does not exempt the tax at the point of purchase as the CAJ requested. It is not too late to change to this structure, which would reduce the administrative burden for the CRA and media outlets. It would also be more appealing for news readers who will see the benefit of the credit right away, instead of waiting for their annual tax returns.
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.
For further information:
Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president