LANG Committee Report
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The Honourable Denis Paradis, P.C., M.P. Chair, Standing Committee on Official Languages House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Paradis,
Pursuant to the House of Commons Standing Order 109, the Government of Canada is pleased to respond to the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages (the Committee), entitled Media in the Digital Age: Reconciling Federal Responsibilities to Official Language Minority Communities with New Trends .
The Government of Canada would like to thank the members of the Committee for their hard work in developing the report, and for the effort put into crafting the recommendations. We are also grateful to those who appeared before the Committee to express their points of view, and to provide evidence and expert advice.
The Government understands that all media are facing unprecedented changes to their business models, and that official language minority community media, by virtue of the context in which they operate are most affected. Their role at the heart of communities is a key factor contributing to community vitality. The Government has carefully considered the recommendations in the report, and will address them across two themes: Support Measures and Incentives (Recommendations 1, 5 and 6); and Policy and Guidance for Government Advertising (Recommendations 2, 3 and 4).
The importance the Government gives to these issues was reiterated in the August 28, 2018 mandate letters to the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.
Support Measures and Incentives
It should be noted that we have just lived through a decade of conservative indifference regarding official languages. A decade that saw no new investments, but cuts.
On March 28, 2018, the Prime Minister and I presented a new Action Plan on official languages. This plan includes an historic investment of $2.7 billion over five years, of which $500 million is new money largely earmarked to support our official language minority communities.
The Action Plan that we released represents the largest investment in official languages in our history. For the first time, this Action Plan includes $14.5 million to support initiatives specific to official minority media across Canada.
This is why, under Pillar 1 of the Action Plan (Strengthening Our Communities), the Government of Canada announced a new Community Media Strategic Support Fund of $10 million over five years for official language minority community media, both newspapers and radio, and $4.5 million over five years for internships in official language minority community radio stations or newspapers, through the Young Canada Works at Building Careers in English and French program.
The Government of Canada is aware of the challenges faced by some minority media, particularly those of community newspapers and radio. Seeing the need for urgent action, over the summer, we have been in close contact with official language minority media representatives to develop the parameters of the new Action Plan initiatives, and to ensure these respond to their needs. The implementation of the Action Plan is a priority outlined in the August 28, 2018, mandate letter to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie. The Committee can be reassured that the Action Plan’s initiatives for official language minority media are being implemented beginning in 2018–2019 as planned.
In addition, the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) provides significant support to official language minority periodicals. Grants awarded under the CPF’s Aid to Publishers component offer recipients, including official language minority community media, the flexibility to direct funding according to their needs, whether it is content production, development of digital platforms, or others. Under the CPF, official language minority community periodicals benefit from additional positive measures, including a requirement to sell a minimum of 2,000 paid copies during the fiscal year as compared to 3,500 for majority language periodicals.
The Collective Initiatives component of the CPF also supports the specific needs of official language minority community newspapers through projects with the Association de la presse francophone (APF) and the Quebec Community Newspapers Association (QCNA), such as a project that aims to support APF and QCNA member newspapers to begin the important digital shift that has been undertaken in the media world in recent years by giving them a platform that will allow access to new sources of revenue adapted to the reality of digital advertising. The CPF will continue to support paid community newspapers and magazines from minority communities in both their digital and print versions. Since the creation of the CPF in 2010, nearly $6.8 million has been allocated to official language minority periodicals. In 2017-2018, $964,020 was distributed to 31 of these periodicals. The Department of Canadian Heritage is working with industry representatives on different options to improve the CPF, as announced in September 2017, when the Creative Canada policy framework was introduced.
Official language minority community media receive funding from other programs of the Department of Canadian Heritage and could benefit from measures contained in Budget 2018, such as the $50 million over five years that will support local journalism in underserved communities.
The August 28, 2018, mandate letter to the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, prioritizes the work to implement Budget 2018 commitments to support local journalism, and develop business models that better facilitate private giving and philanthropic support for trusted, professional non-profit journalism and local news; and working with media organizations to consider how the Government can further support the transition to digital media.
Policy and Guidance for Government Advertising
The Government of Canada has a responsibility to inform Canadians about policies, programs, services and initiatives, and of their rights and responsibilities under the law. Advertising is one method used by government departments to reach Canadians. The Policy on Communications and Federal Identity, updated in May 2016, provides clear guidance to officials on the requirements of government communications activities, including advertising.
Government advertising is undertaken in accordance with requirements and procedures outlined in the communications and federal identity policy instruments. The Government of Canada uses a number of national advertising agencies and a single media planning and buying agency (the Agency of Record, under the responsibility of Public Services and Procurement Canada ) to develop comprehensive advertising campaign strategies and media plans to ensure that advertising campaigns reach their intended audiences in order to achieve their stated objectives. The contract with the Agency of Record clearly states the acts, policies, procedures and standards that the Agency of Record must adhere to including the Official Languages Act, thePolicy on Communications and Federal Identity, theContracting Policy, the Common Services Policy, theCanadian Multiculturalism Act, the Privacy Act, theCanada Elections Act, and the Standard on Web Accessibility.
Public Services and Procurement Canada provides advertising coordination services and technical advice to departments with respect to legislative and policy requirements, including the Official Languages Act. Results from the 2016 Census of Canada indicate the first official language spoken by Canadians is French at 22.8 percent and English at 75.4 percent, and that approximately 2 million Canadians are members of official language minority communities. Consequently, Public Services and Procurement Canada instructed the Agency of Record to adjust planned budgets for national digital media buys to 25 percent French and 75 percent English in 2018, to align with 2016 Census data.
Federal departments are responsible for managing their advertising campaigns, including selecting the media used to reach their target audiences and achieve their campaigns’ objectives. In order to ensure that departments are aware of their responsibilities with respect to the Official Languages Act, the media planning templates developed by Public Services and Procurement Canada specifically mention official language responsibilities in two places. In the Objectives and Strategies section, departments are reminded to “ensure advertising enables the Government of Canada to reach and engage with Canadians effectively and efficiently in the official language of their choice, regardless of where they reside.” When approving their media plans, federal departments are responsible for ensuring their plans comply with official language requirements, including Part VII of the Official Languages Act.
The communications and federal identity policy instruments reflect the Official Languages Act by requiring departments to provide information in both official languages in accordance with relevant sections of the Act. The Government of Canada has requirements and procedures already in place to address official language requirements for government communications products and activities, including advertising. For example:
Finally, the Government will continue its work through the Consultative Committee on Advertising and Official Language Minority Media, a positive measure implemented by PSPC, thereby ensuring that it plays a proactive role in implementing viable solutions.
Once again, the Government would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages for the work they completed and for the opportunity to outline how the Government is taking steps to respond to the needs of official language minority community media.
Please accept our best wishes.
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P. Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P. Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility
The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, P.C., M.P. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
The Honourable Scott Brison, P.C., M.P. President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government