A standoff ends. After months of negotiations, Canada and Google have reached an agreement for the Californian company to pay compensation to the country’s media companies in exchange for the dissemination of their content, the federal government announced on Wednesday, November 29.

“Google will provide financial support of 100 million [Canadian] dollars per year [67 million euros], indexed to inflation,” Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge declared in Ottawa, welcoming an arrangement “ history”. However, she clarified that Canada retained “the right to reopen the agreement” if better agreements were negotiated in other countries.

“We are very pleased to have been able to reach an agreement with Google to ensure that journalists, including small local media, will be supported for years to come,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, assuring that the agreement represented “a model for our democracies.” His government initially wanted to obtain $172 million from Google following these negotiations.

A contribution distributed between the media by a collective

Ottawa has opposed Google and Meta in recent months over its Online News Act, which should force major digital groups to conclude commercial agreements with the media for the distribution of their content on their platforms. . The legislation, known as C-18, is not scheduled to take effect until December 19, but Meta and Google – the only two companies subject to it – have already opposed it.

At the beginning of October, Google had mentioned a possible blocking of its search engine for information sites if Canadian law was not amended. For its part, Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) has blocked access to news media content on its platforms in Canada since August 1.

The agreement announced Wednesday provides that Google can “pay its contribution to a collective” which, in turn, will distribute the sum “to all eligible and interested news media” based on the number of full-time jobs in journalism . Google Canada responded briefly on Wednesday, saying it was committed to “sending significant traffic to Canadian publishers.” “We thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, for recognizing our concerns,” said Kent Walker, director of public affairs for the California-based company.

The citizen media defense movement Les Amis, however, fears that the promised sum will not be sufficient to come to the rescue of an environment in crisis. “While this agreement will provide a much-needed injection of funds to the Canadian news media sector, it will not provide Canadian journalism with the level of support we had hoped to see,” responded Agence France-Presse (AFP ) its executive director, Marla Boltman, insisting that “other support tools” be put in place.

A sector in crisis

The new federal legislation was created this year to curb the erosion of the press in Canada to the benefit of large digital companies, to which advertising revenues have migrated. For more than a decade, nearly five hundred Canadian media outlets have closed their doors and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs, according to Ms. St-Onge.

Earlier this month, the TVA group – the main private television news channel in Quebec – for example laid off a third of its staff due to its loss-making situation. Plans for budgetary restrictions are also anticipated at CBC/Radio-Canada, the Canadian public broadcaster.

While the Canadian Association of Journalists welcomes the agreement between Ottawa and Google, it fears that the distribution of the 100 million Canadian dollars could become a real headache. “This exercise will be difficult, I am sure, because all the media are currently in serious financial situation,” its president, Brent Jolly, responded to AFP.

Asked about the agreement reached by Google, the Meta group repeated its position regarding the law. “Unlike search engines, we do not seek to retrieve media articles from the Internet to make them available to our users,” said a spokesperson in a press release, assuring that the only way for them to do so is to comply would be “to block access to media content in Canada.”