Production and Dissemination of French-Language Digital Content
In Ontario and Canada, the local media are losing audiences and revenue to multinationals with considerably more financial clout that are not subject to the same regulatory obligations. Print media are being particularly hard hit by this hemorrhage. Social media further exacerbate the problem because they have become a major source of information for consumers. In this environment, 244 local Canadian news media companies have closed their doors since 2008.97
The stakes are enormous. The prosperity of the Ontarian Francophonie is at risk.
Not only that, but advertising in Ontario Francophone media by government departments and agencies has generated many complaints ever since the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner was established. These complaints are about the failure to comply with Ontario‘s French Language Services Act and the Communications in French Directive and Guidelines. The growing number of complaints in recent years shows that the problem is now systemic. The Commissioner can therefore not consider them to be isolated cases.
This is what led to the publication of the Commissioner‘s investigation report A Directive Without Direction, in 2018.98
The local media crisis is being felt across Canada. About 90% of Canadian online advertising revenue is being exported to foreign platforms and sites, two-thirds of which is going to American digital platforms like Google, YouTube and Facebook.99 Not only that, but advertisers are shifting a growing portion of their advertising budgets to digital media, at the expense of traditional Canadian media, whose advertising revenue, except for outdoor advertising companies, is plummeting. The media that have been the hardest hit are daily and weekly (community) newspapers, and Canadian magazines.100
|Media||Rate between 2011-2016|
|Weeklies (community newspapers)||-27.8|
The crisis is even more serious for media and community newspapers for Francophones in minority settings. They are more vulnerable than the mass media to a decline in advertising revenue and to the erosion of their readership. Their financial instability is further aggravated by the significant decline in government spending on advertising in Ontario’s Francophone media.
Their readership is further eroded because adult Francophones in Ontario turn mainly to English-language cultural media.101 They have access to a wide range of content and can make themselves readily understood by their unilingual Anglophone friends on their social networks. By 2011, 39% of Franco-Ontarians over the age of 18 regularly used English, and 25% made equal use of English and French on social media.102 Since then, the penetration rate of mobile devices has continued to grow, particularly among young people, who are very active on social networks like Snapchat and Instagram, and major consumers of content (e.g., YouTube). It is therefore only to be expected that Franco-Ontarian consumption of English-language media should have risen since 2011.
All of the factors mentioned in this section will contribute significantly to weakening Ontario’s Francophone communities unless steps are taken to counter them. French language media and content are indeed essential to identity-building and to the growth of minority-language communities.
[translation] The presence of media activates and reactivates a community‘s vitality. The stronger it is, the more the people in the minority, whether Francophones or Anglophones, believe in the vitality of their community, the more they are willing to support efforts to preserve it, and the more they believe in the importance of using their language in everyday life.103
- Lindgren, April, How Ottawa should spend its $50 million to support local news, Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, 13 Avril 2018. Available online at http://ryersonjournalism.ca/tag/local-news-map/
- Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, A Directive without Direction: Challenges of Advertising in the Francophone media of Ontario. April 2018. Available online at https://csfontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/OFLSC-280320-Advertising-Report_ENG_Finale_2018-04-13.pdf
- Miller P., and Keeble D., The Deductibility of Foreign Internet Advertising, Friends of Broadcasting, January 2017, p. 8. Available online at http://www.les-amis.ca/information/document-de-politique-generale/14386
- Le centre d’études sur les médias (CEM), Données Financières, Université Laval, p. 1, Updated in February 2018. Available online at http://www.cem.ulaval.ca/pdf/Donneesfinancieres.pdf
- Lavoie, É. and Houle R, Language practices of children in francophone families living in a minority linguistic environment, Statistics Canada, catalogue N° 89-642-x2015012, ISBN 978-0-660-03794-3, p. 7. Available online at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-642-x/89-642-x2015012-fra.pdf
- Alliance des Médias Minoritaires, Parlons médias, Étude sur les habitudes médias des communautés francophones en situation minoritaire, Faits saillants : Communautés francophones Ontario, March 2012, p. 10. Available online at http://www.parlonsmedias.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/AMM_Rapport-regional_Ontario_WebF.pdf
- Bernier,C., Laflamme, S., Lafrenière, S., L’effet de la disponibilité des médias et de la densité de la population minoritaire sur la langue d’exposition aux médias, La francophonie canadienne en mouvement : continuité ou rupture?, Numéro 3, 2013, p. 139. Available online at https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/minling/2013-n3-minling0661/1023803ar.pdf