Media crisis | Legault reopens the door to government ads on Facebook

(Quebec) While deploring job losses at BCE and dangling an aid plan for regional media, François Legault reopens the door to the purchase of government advertisements on Facebook.

At a press briefing in Quebec, the Prime Minister pleaded Thursday that the social media of the American company Meta (owner of Facebook), which blocks content from Canadian news media in response to federal law C-18, were become essential to reach approximately 10% of the population.

“We realized that there are certain clienteles, therefore certain Quebec citizens, [pour qui] the only way to reach them is through Facebook. It remains a minority of advertising, we are talking about less than 10%, but it is true for the government of Quebec [et] this is true for [Coalition avenir Québec] “, said Mr. Legault.

Following this logic, will the Quebec government restart its advertising placements on the digital giant’s platforms? “We are open to that,” he replied.

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“When we want to advertise in public health, it is important to reach everyone if there is 10% of the population that we can only reach on Facebook,” explained the Prime Minister.

An overdue aid plan

This turnaround comes as the crisis shaking Quebec media hits a new player on Thursday. For the second time in seven months, Bell Media employees are hit by cuts as the company cuts 9% of its workforce.

“I think of the families who are affected. My thoughts are with these employees. Now, Mathieu Lacombe works mainly on support for the media in the region,” reacted François Legault.

Earlier this week, the Coalition Avenir Québec also defended its choice to buy advertising on Facebook, while Mr. Legault accused Québec solidaire, during the last by-election in Jean-Talon, of lacking solidarity with the media in purchasing advertising on Meta sites. The CAQ has also clarified that it will not spend more than 10% of its advertising budget on these platforms.

Meta has been blocking news since the 1ster August in retaliation for the adoption of federal Bill C-18. The legislative text aims to force web giants to pay compensation to news media for the publication of their content, by negotiating revenue sharing agreements.

A “business decision,” says Girard

For Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard, BCE’s cuts are a “business decision” and the company must explain itself.


The Minister of Finance, Eric Girard.

“These are very important figures. I think it’s a business decision, it’s up to BCE to explain, but it’s certain that our thoughts are with the workers and it’s very important that the company helps these people to relocate and helps them with compensation for the transition period,” he said.

In the morning of Thursday, the opposition parties once again pressed Quebec to announce its global aid plan for the media, while cuts have been increasing for months, both in the electronics sector, like radios and televisions, as well as in the written press.

“It takes a complete plan. Obviously, the two levels of government must come up with something strong,” said the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), Marc Tanguay.

“There has been an acceleration in recent years of the crumbling of the media sector. […] We need strong and structuring measures,” added the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire (QS), Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

“For our democracy, we need journalists who question elected officials throughout Quebec. All the more reason, with what happened at Bell, to have a plan from the Quebec government for the media. […] It takes concrete measures,” said Pascal Bérubé of the Parti Québécois (PQ).

Mr. Girard refused to indicate whether his next budget, which will be tabled in March, will include measures to help this sector of the industry. For his part, the Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe, did not indicate when he would table the aid program he promised.

“We are working on that,” he said while remaining cautious about the situation at BCE since he does not yet have “the details” on the cutbacks.

With Tommy Chouinard, The Press

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