The future of the printed press is very much in the news these days. National as well as local papers are now competing with Internet giants for revenues. A newspaper depends on advertising revenue to offer content to its readers. If the Googles and Facebooks of this world threaten the survival of large circulation papers, local advertisers are the lifeblood of regional papers.
Until recently municipalities were required to post legal notices, such as changes to bylaws, in the local papers. In 2016, a new law in Quebec changed that. Towns and municipalities are no longer required to post all notices in local papers. Other than changes to zoning bylaws, municipalities now reserve the right to publish notices in local papers. In the words of Chantal Lévesque, Director of the Journal Le Guide, where about 12 municipalities – including TBL, Cowansville and Bromont – post notices, “This change has hit us hard”. Municipal notices make up an important source of revenues in local markets. Municipalities may now reverse this trend if they decide to use their discretion and publish all notices in the local press. This is a proposal that Jacques Drolet, mayor of West Bolton, recently put to his 20 colleagues in the Brome Missisquoi MRC. Yes, it will cost the towns more than just posting notices on their websites and bulletin boards. Yes, the citizens will ultimately foot the bill. But this is a small price to pay to support a more diversified media and ensure that local issues are not completely forgotten because no media outlet is there to cover them. This would be a meaningful contribution to our regional democracy, while enabling some jobs to be better protected.
In April of this year, to comply with the law, TBL decided to do away with posting all its notices in the local papers. St-Étienne-de-Bolton did the same, and Brome uses the local print media as needed. Is it time to reconsider in order to help save our local papers? Citizens who are not comfortable with searching the Internet would certainly welcome such a move. This would be a step in the right direction and send a signal that our local media are worth supporting.
N.B. Being a monthly publication, Tempo is not used as a carrier of municipal legal notices.