CJAD’s Aaron Rand was talking to his listeners Friday asking them whether they thought the Quebec provincial government should bail out newspapers in trouble like The Gazette. Many callers recognizing the importance of local news in their lives thought a bail-out was not a bad use of tax dollars.
On Wednesday of last week Lucinda Chodan, Editor-in-Chief of The Gazette made a presentation in front of the Quebec government in stating that the paper did indeed need government money to survive.
There isn’t enough money to bail out all the newspapers and if papers get accustomed to being subsidized, there will be no end to their requirements. It is not a sustainable idea nor an efficient use of the limited resources of the government.
On the other hand, last week The Suburban newspaper and the Quebec Community Newspaper Association made a joint submission to the same Government panel. We told the government that we were not looking for a handout. We have encountered change before, and have survived and thrived. We will again. What we need is for the Government to make good on its promises and not pass new laws that create additional burdens on this industry in its moment of re-organization.
Here are our specifics:
1- Use Newspapers for Advertising
When An election comes the politicians race to the newspapers to make sure the voters notice them. But Government ads, job openings and notices are ok on Facebook and Google? If the government returned its multi million dollar spending to our own papers instead of patronizing these foreign untaxed sources, the newspaper industry would be much stronger……and no bail-outs would be required!
2- Legislation allowing Municipalities To NOT Publish By-laws
Two years ago legislation was passed exempting municipalities from publishing their by-laws in newspapers. This creates a less informed democracy and that leads nowhere good. Some Municipalities continue to publish some of their by-laws, but now they pick and choose, So you think you saw everything, but some by-laws in your community remain unpublished.
No one at the Government panel admitted to checking their own municipal web-site for by-law changes. Do you, ever? This is important information that affects you or your neighbours directly. It should be published in an easily accessible place like your local newspaper for all to see, and to make sure there is a public record that doesn’t get changed at the whim of the municipality. It’s a good safeguard for all. It is a miniscule cost in the budget of the municipalities. It is important revenue to the local newspapers that cover local municipalities…….and no bail-outs would be required!
3- End the Recycle tax on Newspapers
This may have started as a noble idea, but it has gone very wrong. The Idea was to measure those inside the blue box and have them pay. But there are a few grotesque problems.
a. Paper, which is easily recyclable and valuable and gets sold for value, is treated the same as other items in the blue box which have no value or like most plastics which are so mixed they are of no practical value. Newspapers get no credit when the recycled paper is sold.
b. The tax has increased more than 500% since 2010. Imagine any other tax increasing that much. Imagine the tax on your house going up not not 10% or 15% but five times, from say $10,000/year to $50,000/yr – could you afford that? Neither can we.
c. Over the last 4 years our industry has reduced the tonnage by more than 20% — only to be met with an increased cost per ton. Imagine if The Suburban was the only newspaper left publishing. If the law remains unchanged we would be responsible to pay the whole $9 million. The tax is absurd.
d. Anyone producing less than a certain amount doesn’t pay at all – because of administration burdens of collecting – how patently ridiculous. Put the tax at the printer level and everyone gets taxed equally and collection is simple and we can save the $300,000/year being spent on the bureaucracy to chase and police the tonnage reporting.
e. We have no input in managing the recycling costs but we are responsible as they mount nontheless.
f. 65-75% of recycling ends up in the garbage anyway !
Newspapers, which are archived in the National library for posterity should be considered like books and exempted from this tax…. and no bail-outs would be required!
4 – Make Offers to Help Real
There are already well conceived programs available at the Quebec Government and Federal government levels that are designed to help newspapers through this transition period.
Unfortunately, the application process is so very long and complicated and required so much information to be provided that only one of the 30 QCNA papers managed to complete it and submit it by the deadline. And having done so they were invited to submit to round two. And now they are still waiting – 30 months from the original application.
A federal program promised a tax credit for journalists. Great idea and well needed. But CRA says MRQ will administer in Quebec and MRQ says they have no information about the program. The promises are fine, but they must be attainable or……. bail-outs will be required!
It is well within the power of the Quebec government to help the local news industry through its time of transition. It can be done, as demonstrated above, without teaching the newspapers to suck at the teat of the taxpayers’ largesse.
You can help too. Read us. Send us your email so we can show you our web-additions as the come on-line, and mention us when you patronize our advertisers so they hear that their support of local news keeps them surviving and thriving too.