TORONTO, Feb 4: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government will not move to license media amid growing controversy surrounding the recommendations listed in a report on the overhaul of communication laws.
“We will not impose licensing on press agencies. We will not regulate their content either,” Trudeau said on Monday during Question Period.
Trudeau also said his government believes in a free and independent press.
The Prime Minister’s statement is an abrupt about-face following Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s comments on Sunday in which he told a Canadian outlet that his ministry would pursue licensing for media outlets operating in Canada.
On Monday, Guilbeault, himself, backtracked on his earlier statement, saying that news agencies would be exempt from the media licensing requirement.
The contention stems from a report, “Canada’s communications future: Time to act,” in which a telecommunications panel made a number of recommendations for broad sweeping changes to Canada’s communications rules. Recommendations, including the licensing of media and requiring international outlets to fund Canadian content, have drawn the ire of Canada’s opposition and many in the media.
Official opposition leader Andrew Scheer said that the proposed changes are Orwellian, with “1984” being intended as a cautionary tale for democratic societies and not an “instruction manual” for the current government.
Others see the proposed changes as a continuation of the $450 million “media bailout” announced in September. Then the Liberal government pledged that qualified Canadian journalism organizations (QCJO) ? the requirements to obtain such a designation are still unknown ? would be able to apply for a 25% tax credit on up to $41,300 of each eligible employee’s salary, a maximum $10,300 subsidy per worker.
The opposition and a number of outlets denounced the move as amounting to bribery and said that such “stimulus” will hurt the objectivity of Canadian journalism.