In its Fall Economic Statement released today, Canada’s government announced plans for three initiatives to support Canadian journalism, which together would cost $595 million over the next five years:

Non-profit news organizations would be able to receive donations and issue official donation receipts

  • for non-profit journalism organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians
  • which would allow donors to benefit from tax incentives for charitable giving
  • these organizations would also be eligible to receive funding from registered charities

There would be a refundable tax credit to support original news content creation, including local news (in effect January 1)

  • would support labour costs associated with producing original news content
  • “will generally be available” to both non-profit and for-profit news organizations
  • an independent panel from the “journalism community” will define eligibility for the tax credit

• A temporary, non-refundable tax credit to support subscriptions to Canadian digital news media

  • 15% tax credit for “qualifying subscribers of eligible digital news media”

In its 2018 budget, released in February, the federal government said it would go about “exploring new models” for giving financial support to journalism in Canada, in response to concerns that the quality and quantity of news (especially local news) would suffer without government intervention.

The federal Liberals say they have moved forward with two principles in mind:

  • “Be arms-length and independent of the government” by creating an independent panel of journalists to define journalism standards, professional journalism, and determine which outlets are eligible for proposed programs
  • “Be focused on the creation of original news content”

Previously, the government announced $50 million over five years to support local journalism in underserved communities. Some of that funding will go to not-for-profit news organizations, which will receive government support to create open-source news under a Creative Commons licence. The aim is to improve local news coverage by allowing local outlets to access the content for free. That program begins in 2019.

Additional details will be provided in next year’s budget.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, Torstar informed staff that all but one of its remaining Toronto-based StarMetro employees would be laid off by the end of the year. The move affects 13 staff.