Google and the federal government have reached an agreement in their dispute over the Online News Act, sources tell Radio-Canada and CBC News.
The agreement would see Canadian news continue to be shared on Google’s platforms in return for the company making annual payments to news companies in the range of $100 million, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told CBC News.
The federal government and Google agreed on the regulatory framework earlier this week, a government source familiar with the talks told Radio-Canada.
The federal government had estimated earlier this year that Google’s compensation should amount to about $172 million. Google estimated the value at $100 million.
“Having taken this first step with Google is important,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“It is one more solution to ensure the viability of the media and restore a balance between commercial platforms.”
Along with the financial demands, Google had expressed concerns about what spokesperson Shay Purdy called “critical structural issues” with the Online News Act, also called Bill C-18.
The company said it would not have a mandatory negotiation model imposed on it for talks with Canadian media organizations, preferring to deal with a single point of contact.
The new regulations will allow Google to negotiate with a single group that would represent all media, allowing the company to limit its arbitration risk.
The rules will be added to the C-18 legislative framework, which must be unveiled by mid-December.
Google would still be required to negotiate with the media and sign an agreement. The digital giant could also add additional service contributions, which have yet to be specified.
Google had threatened to block Canadian news content on its platforms as a result of the legislation. But unlike Meta, which ended its talks with the government last summer and stopped distributing Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram, Google has not blocked news in Canada.
A discount deal?
Faced with Google’s threat to stop distributing Canadian news, the government seems to have softened its position.
But the government source argues that an agreement constitutes a victory and a net gain for Canadian media. The framework for a single negotiation is likely to serve as an example for other countries, the source added.
Bill C-18 applies to digital platforms with 20 million unique monthly users and annual revenues of $1 billion. Only Meta and Google meet those criteria.
Meta’s talks with the government have not resumed.
As a news organization, the CBC would potentially see a financial benefit under C-18, which includes a requirement for the CBC to provide an annual report on any compensation for news it receives from digital operators.