(Quebec) A tax imposed on the American giants of the web has reached consensus among the thirty speakers heard this week at the parliamentary commission that was looking into the future of the media.
One after the other, experts, university professors and, above all, press executives marched in front of the elected officials to find that the media had been seeing their advertising revenues melt for years, in favor of foreign digital platforms known by the acronym GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft).
This is "the crux of the problem" and a tax appears to be the solution to implement at the earliest, repeated Friday in a press briefing the Liberal member of Verdun, spokesperson in culture and communications, Isabelle Melançon.
It intends to put pressure on Prime Minister François Legault to become aware of the urgency of the situation, without waiting for the approval of the federal government and the report to be produced in 2020 by the OECD (Organization for Cooperation and Cooperation). economic development) on this issue.
"We can not be in the pay of Ottawa, as proposed by François Legault. We can take the leadership, but there must be political will, "said the MP, convinced that Quebec could thus bail out the coffers of the media in difficulty.
A report will be tabled by the members of the commission to the government, which has pledged to present an action plan this fall.
"Taxation is not the only solution" to be favored to save the entire media or to mitigate the impact of GAFAM on the financial health of the press, has qualified the Caquist deputy of Beauce-South, Samuel Poulin, a members of the commission charged with listening to the recommendations of the speakers during the last five days. Two more days of hearings are planned for September in two regions (Bas-Saint-Laurent and Abitibi).
Other avenues will be explored, he added, as the government's responsibility when it comes to spreading its advertising budget between traditional and foreign web platforms.
Jean-Hugues Roy, a professor of journalism at UQAM, said that we should go further and force web giants to disclose the data they have about us.
He is also of the opinion that the government should henceforth consider "journalistic contents as cultural products", thus giving access to new sources of funding.
The former director of Le Devoir, now associated with the board of directors of the Université Laval Media Research Center, Bernard Descôteaux, summed up the situation by saying that the media were "on the brink".
This "critical" situation justifies "long-term" state intervention to ensure that Quebeckers have access to quality information sources, it says in its brief, presented jointly with Professor Colette Brin from Laval University.
They recall that information is a public good that must benefit the greatest number of citizens.
"Creating quality content requires means that today are lacking in the media," they write, because of the "rise to power" of the giants of the web.
Like many other stakeholders before them, they proposed to the government to introduce a refundable tax credit on the payroll, which would be intended for the production of journalistic content.
The commission's mandate was to propose measures to ensure the survival of the media, facing an unprecedented financial crisis, and to identify a new business model that is better suited to the digital environment.