By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Facebook Inc is exploring potential licensing agreements in the coming year with Canadian media outlets and expanding its investment in local journalism initiatives, a source familiar with the company’s thinking said on Wednesday.
The move comes as the Canadian government is preparing to introduce legislation in the coming months, along the lines of the controversial Australian model that forces technology companies like Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay media companies for content.
But the source said Facebook views the situation in Australia as unique.
“You’re looking at a country that is by and large dominated by one large media conglomerate that has a very heavy influence on government and government policies,” the source said, pointing out that most countries do not have that.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers.
The source, who is not authorised to speak about the matter publicly, declined to say which Canadian publishers Facebook would consider for licensing talks or how much it has budgeted.
Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, in charge of crafting legislation, condemned Facebook’s decision to shut down all news sites in Australia for several days, and said it would not deter Ottawa from introducing new rules.
Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would raise its funding of news publishers to $1 billion over three years.
Canada’s news media industry has come out hard against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies, to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas and Marguerita Choy)