Friends of Canadian Broadcasting wants foreign digital advertising to be an election issue

With the election underway, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has joined the debate with a series of radio ads calling for Ottawa to stop giving special treatment to social media giants at the expense of Canadian outlets.

Running in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, the spots offer a humorous imagining of news that comes only from social media companies, rather than professional journalistic outlets (all three English spots below).

“There is no such thing as democracy without journalism, and Canadian journalism is dying,” said Friends of Canadian Broadcasting executive director Daniel Bernhard, in a release.

“We are trying to inform voters that this is not a natural death: Ottawa makes the problem worse with billions in subsidies and exemptions for foreign internet media companies—the same corporations that are driving professional and reliable journalism outfits into the ground.”

For example, Friends is calling on the next government to close the tax loophole that makes advertising on foreign digital media tax deductible, while buying an ad in traditional foreign media is not.

“If Ottawa were to close the internet advertising tax loophole, Canadian companies could still buy all the ads they want from foreign publishers like Facebook. But these would be treated like all other foreign advertising, and they would not be tax deductible,” wrote Bernhard in Toronto Star column earlier this year.

“We estimate this move would repatriate about $600 million that is currently going south for Canadian media that tell the truth, follow the rules, and contribute to our society.” Friends now pegs the potential savings at $500 million. Both the NDP and Green Party have pledged to close the loophole.

“Right now, the federal government allows Facebook, Google, Netflix and other foreign online media companies to write the rules,” said Bernhard in the release announcing the radio campaign. “This is our house. We should call the shots. Any party that wants to form government should show they know how to act like one.”

Long a champion of the CBC, Friends also has a petition calling for Ottawa to increase funding to the public broadcaster to $50 per Canadian.

“CBC exists to inform, enlighten, and entertain, but after 30 years of cuts it’s practically on life support,” it reads. “The BBC receives $100 per person per year! Norway’s public broadcaster gets $162 per year. CBC? A measly $34.”

David Brown