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Canadian government reaches C-18 online news deal with Google: sources

The Canadian government will be announcing Wednesday that it has reached a deal with Google over the Online News Act known as C-18, CTV News has confirmed.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge is slated to unveil the details of the deal during a 1:30 p.m. ET press conference on Parliament Hill. It is expected that the agreement will see the tech giant continue to share Canadian news content, and in return Google will make annual payments to news companies in the range of $100 million. 

Bill C-18, or the Online News Act, lays out a framework that would require digital giants Google and Meta to develop agreements with Canadian news sites to provide them with compensation for hosting their journalistic content on their platforms.

When the bill passed in June, Both Google and Meta had taken the position that rather than compensating media organizations, they’d be blocking Canadian news from their platforms.

Meta made good on this threat this summer, and that company continues to block content from Canadian news platforms on Facebook and Instagram, despite political and public pressure to reverse course.

Google had indicated that barring adjustments to the proposed federal regulations underpinning the new rules, the search giant would be following suit and removing links to Canadian stories from its Search and other products when the legislation comes into effect, on Dec. 19. 

The tech giant had voiced concern about “serious structural issues with C-18 that regrettably were not dealt with during the legislative process,” and has called the bill a “link tax” that “breaks the way the web and search engines have worked for more than 30 years,” and may expose them to “uncapped financial liability.”

Earlier this year the federal government had put an estimated price tag on how much Google would have to spend – $172 million – in annual compensation to meet the proposed exemption criteria. 

St-Onge took over the contentious file from her predecessor and the bill’s sponsor Pablo Rodriguez following a July cabinet shuffle, seeing her take the lead in recent months on the online news negotiations with platforms. 

This is a breaking news story, check back for updates…

With files from CTV News’ Judy Trinh and Vassy Kapelos 

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