Unifor applauds CRTC for supporting local news

June 4, 2024


TORONTO—Unifor applauds the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s announcement today of new supports for local Canadian news, in conjunction with its regulatory plan to modernize Canada’s broadcasting framework.
“Unifor has been advocating for American streamers to pay their fair share to the Canadian broadcasting system for over 15 years,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“Foreign streamers have been competing directly with Canadian broadcasters, and they should have the same responsibilities and obligations to support local news and Canadian storytelling.”

In the announcement, the CRTC is requiring online streaming services to contribute 5% of their Canadian revenues to support the Canadian broadcasting system, with 1.5% of those revenues to go to the Independent Local News Fund (ILNF). These obligations will start in the 2024-2025 broadcast year and will provide an estimated $200 million per year in new funding, which includes approximately $60 million for the ILNF.

The funding will go to areas in the Canadian broadcasting system in dire need of support, such as local news on radio and television, French-language content, Indigenous content, and content created by and for equity-deserving communities, official language minority communities, and Canadians of diverse backgrounds.

While this new funding is great news for independent television stations in Canada, Unifor is concerned that the vertically-integrated news outlets that are also struggling, will not receive adequate support from this new funding, and Unifor hopes this will be addressed in subsequent proceedings.

The Online Streaming Act (formerly Bill C-11) is a modernization of the Broadcasting Act to bring foreign internet streamers (e.g. Netflix) into Canada’s regulatory system. Canadian broadcasters have long had to support Canadian content and to support local news, and the Online Streaming Act will aim to level the playing field between Canadian broadcasters and digital streamers.

Allowing foreign digital streaming services direct access to the Canadian market has upended the traditional funding model that supported broadcast TV for decades, which has contributed to the decline of support for local news.

Meanwhile, news deserts are growing in Canada, even though local news is essential to our democracy.

Bell Media, Rogers Media, Corus Media all had layoffs in 2023, with Bell Media leading the way with 1,300 jobs eliminated last June. Many local communities are without any local news, relying on regionalized news from Canada’s major centres.

Unifor lost over 120 broadcast media members in 2023, and this year, the union has already seen 163 jobs eliminated.

“In an age of disinformation, Canadians will depend on trusted news sources more than ever. The decline of local television news is not simply a function of a change in television viewing habits, it is a result of systematic failure to regulate and properly fund and support it,” said Unifor Media Director Randy Kitt.

“There may be a reluctance from foreign streamers to cooperate with these initiatives, but they have a responsibility to Canadians to contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system in a meaningful way, since they profit from it. It is essential the Commission and the government have a strong resolve against these American streaming giants.”

Unifor represents more than 10,000 media workers, including 5,000 members in the broadcast and film industries.