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Ottawa, Ontario – Canada’s federal government said Wednesday it is stepping in to help the struggling Canadian media industry with new tax credits and incentives.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the package is worth nearly $600 million Canadian (US$453 million) over the next five years. Details of the program won’t be available until the next federal budget.

Most of the expense will be for a new tax credit for media organizations to support the labor costs of producing original news content. A temporary tax credit will also be created for subscribers to digital news media sites.

Non-profit media organizations will also be allowed to apply for charitable status. That will enable them to issue tax receipts for donations.

“To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada,” Morneau said in Parliament.

John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corp., which owns the Toronto Star and a number of other newspapers as well as a share of The Canadian Press, said he is encouraged by the proposals.

“They should significantly help the media sector as it transforms to a sustainable digital future,” he said in a statement.

More than 250 news outlets in Canada have closed in the last 10 years and newspaper revenues alone are down as much as 40 percent since 2012.

Opposition Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said his party would never endorse assistance for journalism. The Conservatives believe government help for journalists interferes with press freedom and Poilievre said the government is choosing who gets to sit on a panel that will ultimately decide which news organizations survive and which don’t.

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