Trudeau says falling news revenues and tech giants will be discussed at G7 summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the issue of declining news revenues amid domination by tech giants will be discussed at the G7 leaders’ summit in France later this week.

The subject resurfaced when Groupe Capitales Medias, a cash-strapped French-language newspaper chain, filed for creditor protection Monday.

The same day, the Quebec government announced a $5-million loan from Investissement Quebec to the media company, whose daily newspapers include Le Droit of Gatineau-Ottawa and Quebec City’s Le Soleil.

Trudeau said Tuesday the situation requires more than a “one-off solution.”

“We need one that the international community will adhere to,” the prime minister told reporters in Trois-Rivieres, Que.

“Everyone has to pay their share,” he said, referring to digital companies that have often managed to sidestep tax rules applied to legacy media.

“This is a question we will certainly be discussing this weekend at the G7, where the international community is looking at how to make sure it’s fair for the whole system.”

However, Trudeau reiterated that his government was not mulling a tax hike on taxpayers.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently imposed a landmark tax on tech companies like Google and Facebook that is designed to stop multinationals from avoiding taxes by setting up European headquarters in low-tax European Union countries. The companies have lured advertising revenues away from traditional news outlets.

Currently, companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Airbnb and Uber pay very little tax on their significant business in countries like France.

The three per cent tax that went into force last month mainly concerns companies that use consumer data to sell online advertising.

The Trump administration has said the tax is discriminatory against U.S. business.

In Sherbrooke, Que., where Trudeau was slated to appear at a candidate’s nomination event, local resident Gaston Lachance said that news media can be viewed as a public service and may warrant financial support.

“Newspapers provide a service to the population in the sense that they furnish the intellectual food to make clear decisions,” said Lachance, 64.

Colette Bergeron, who works at Sherbrooke city hall, said she feels bad for any employees who would lose their jobs in the event of a closure, but noted she relies more on television news than the local paper, La Tribune, which is owned by Groupe Capitales Medias.

“It’s like a waste of money,” she said of potential government aide, “but it would also save jobs.”

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