Papers pitch for hand-out

A 146-strong newspaper coalition in Québec has demanded its provincial government spend tax dollars to finance the industry’s transition to digital publishing.

It is seeking a five-year deal that would include a refundable tax credit covering 50 per cent of investments in digital technologies, plus 40 per cent of the production cost of news, including coverage of journalists’ salaries.

The group represents papers such as Le Devoir, Groupe Capitales Médias, and TC Transcontinental, which are read by six million, or 80 per cent, of Québec’s population.

Other demands feature the abolition of sales taxes on newspapers and exemption from the Environment Quality Act, which requires newspapers to help finance recycling services.

An increase in government spending on advertising is another demand.

Brian Myles, coalition spokesperson and director of Le Devoir, said the group wanted the Québec government “to grant ‘cultural exception’ to the province’s print news industry”.

“Our dailies and weeklies are vital to preserving a diversity of media voices, enriching debate, and accompanying communities of readers in their daily lives,” he said.

“We are being forced to invest in development of digital platforms, while at the same time manage a profound transformation.

“In the age of digital, the distinctions between print and electronic media no longer hold. Our presence extends to print, the web, tablets and smartphones.

“We should have access to programs similar to those benefitting the film and TV industries, to protect the thousands of quality jobs that we provide.”

The coalition claims a total $US2 billion annually is spent by Finland, Norway, Sweden, France, the UK and United States on print media assistance programs.

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