As the fallout from the federal government's Online News Act continues, Facebook parent Meta is terminating a contract with The Canadian Press that saw the digital giant support the hiring of a limited number of emerging journalists at the national newswire service.
The newswire agency was informed Wednesday that Meta will end the contract, which has funded roughly 30 reporting fellowship positions for early-career journalists at CP since the program's inception in 2020.
Canadian Press executive editor Gerry Arnold said that in its letter informing the media company of its decision, Meta clearly linked its termination of the program to Canada's Online News Act, which became law last week.
"We were told the Act has an adverse impact on Meta’s position in Canada to operate some products," Arnold said.
“It’s a business decision by Meta, in light of the changing regulatory environment."
Meta declined to comment Wednesday, but the tech giant has been outspoken about its opposition to the new federal law, formerly known as Bill C-18.
The law requires tech companies such as Meta and Google to negotiate deals compensating media outlets for news content they share or otherwise repurpose on their platforms.
While the intent of the law is to help preserve Canadian journalism at a time when newsrooms are struggling to compete for online advertising dollars, the fallout has been swift.
On Thursday, Google said it would remove links to Canadian news stories from its platforms in retaliation, and Meta has threatened to do the same.
But Janice Neil, associate professor of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University, said she was surprised by the Facebook parent's ending of its partnership with The Canadian Press.
Neil said the fellowship program was important because it provided an on-ramp into the industry for young journalists at a time when reporting jobs are hard to come by.
CP also used the program to hire more BIPOC journalists and others from diverse backgrounds, a move designed to help ensure Canadian newsrooms better reflect the makeup of the society they serve, she added.
"So this (termination of the program) really hurts, in way that's not going to be as visible to the public as removing online links to news stories," Neil said.
"But I think it's a real sucker-punch for the industry."
CP's existing contracts with Meta fellows will be honoured, Arnold said, adding the newswire agency will continue to pursue a variety of revenue sources to support its journalism work.
"We would have preferred to see the program continue, but I don't regard this as a fatal blow," he said.
"At the same time, I want to acknowledge what an amazing contribution the young people we were able to recruit to this program made to The Canadian Press news service. They changed the face of our newsroom."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2023.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press