Delta Mayor George Harvie is asking the province to support local media hit hard by the economic troubles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his letter to Premier John Horgan, Harvie asks the province to “consider the vital role that local media plays in our communities and our democracy” as the government plans for B.C.’s economic recovery during and after the pandemic.
“Local media, primarily newspapers, have struggled for many years due to the rise of social media and the disintegration of advertising based business models. Unfortunately, these pillars of democracy and community vitality are now suffering even more acutely as a result of the pandemic,” Harvie wrote.
“Local businesses, which are the prime source of revenue for local newspapers, are struggling like never before. Without advertising revenue from these businesses, the essential service provided by local media may not survive this crisis. Without local media, our democratic institutions will be severely weakened — the fourth estate is vital for a vibrant democracy.
“We ask that you include consideration for local media in provincial stimulus and recovery funding.”
On March 25, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is planning to provide financial support to media organizations to keep journalists working and reporting on the COVID-19 crisis.
Later that day, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeult announced the federal government would be spending $30 million on a national advertising campaign focused on COVID-19 awareness, and said the government was closer to implementing tax credits for newspapers announced in the 2019 budget.
The Liberals first unveiled a $595-million, five-year package of help for the news industry in the 2019 budget, promising, among other things, refundable tax credits to cover one-quarter of salaries for journalists at qualifying outlets.
On Friday, April 17, the government released a suite of legislative changes to those measures that, according to News Media Canada CEO John Hinds, should allow for more news outlets to qualify for financial help.
Hinds says the package of changes may also be an indication that the Liberals intend to speed up disbursement of funds to an industry that has seen demand spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, but revenues plunge.
— with files from The Canadian Press