Monday. 8/2/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Hold the front page

For one day last week, the front pages of three of Canada’s largest newspapers were left entirely blank, with the words, “Imagine if news wasn’t there” printed at the bottom. The move by the broadsheet National Post, the tabloid Toronto Sun (both owned by parent company Postmedia) and the Toronto Star was a collective act of protest against Google and Facebook, which, the papers say, siphon off advertising revenues while making their own profits from sharing news stories.

The campaign highlights a media-funding problem with no easy solutions. The Trudeau government says that it will propose reforms to how internet platforms pay for the journalism they aggregate – but it’s a tough measure to implement. Just ask Australia, where Facebook has threatened to disable its newsfeeds and Google said that it would remove its search engine entirely if Canberra goes ahead with plans to bring in new protocols.

The problem in Canada isn’t new. In 2018, the Trudeau government offered support to struggling local newsrooms, on the condition that they make themselves more competitive in the digital marketplace. That proved easier said than done: given that online aggregators faced no financial obligations when journalists’ articles were shared on their platforms, the burden of finding revenue sources remained on the newsrooms themselves. National broadcaster CBC trialled paid-for content models to make up the difference but that too was poorly received. Some Canadian publications, such as national magazine The Walrus and Montreal’s La Presse, have turned to not-for-profit models as the only way to keep their titles running.

The value of independent journalism is as important as ever but it’s clear that the current system for recognising that value isn’t working. It shouldn’t be too much to ask internet companies to pay for the news they spread. Blanking out a newspaper front page is a blunt reminder that, even in the news business, you get what you pay for.

Image: Alamy

Travel / Europe

Ticket to ride

While the UK prepares to go down the route of quarantine hotels for incoming travellers, Sweden and Denmark have joined the list of countries pushing for vaccine passports as a way to boost travel and reopen society. Both nations intend to offer digital certificates and have pledged to make them work in conjunction with the international passports being discussed by the World Health Organization and the EU. “It is absolutely crucial for us to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track,” Morten Bødskov, Denmark’s acting finance minister, said last week. Agreement across the EU’s 27 member states on requiring vaccine certificates for cross-border travel has so far proved difficult. But the idea has been strongly backed by Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who hopes that vaccinations will help give his country’s vital tourism sector a shot in the arm. The hope is that digital passports could soon overtake the need for expensive quarantines in a drab airport hotel.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Northern Ireland

No uncertain terms

It has been just over a month since Northern Ireland entered into a complicated new customs arrangement for goods travelling between the EU and the UK – yet the entire system is already in danger of unravelling. This week sees European Commission vice president Maroš Šefčovič (pictured) travel to London for talks aimed at restoring trust. Few breakthroughs are expected but it is hoped that both sides will at least issue a joint statement reaffirming their commitments.

Katy Hayward, professor of political sociology at Queen’s University Belfast, says that London and Brussels have been so busy “firefighting” the deal’s many challenges that they’ve ignored a crucial element: setting up the promised group of UK and EU officials that would meet monthly to troubleshoot the deal’s implementation on the ground. “You need a forum where you can have direct input from Northern Ireland,” she tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s there for a purpose: to avoid small issues from becoming big ones.”

Image: Grosvenor Group

Cinema / Hong Kong

World premiere

A new independent cinema will open in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town district this week. The movie theatre will be the first in the area, which has been slowly gentrifying since the subway was extended in its direction in 2014. It will also be the first cinema opened by the Hong Kong film distributor Golden Scene, which has been struggling to secure showtimes at larger chain cinemas in recent years because of the dominance of US blockbusters. But with the pandemic slowing the pace of Hollywood releases, there’s an opportunity here for the locals. Winnie Tsang Lai-fun, the founder of Golden Scene, hopes to bring the experience of cinema to a part of the city where cultural and entertainment options are still limited – reigniting interest in Chinese-made films in the process.

Image: Jacques Leroy

Urbanism / France

Maison d’être

France has long had a complex and difficult relationship with its housing-estate banlieues on the periphery of cities such as Paris and Marseille. Indeed, the lack of opportunity and inclusion has gained notoriety in films including La Haine and Les Misérables. But now, after repeated complaints from residents, some good news: the green light has recently been given to an urban renewal project in arguably the most crumbling and deprived of Paris’s suburbs, Python-Duvernois (pictured). Starting in April, 306 low-income housing units will be razed as part of a development project that will last until 2025. On the horizon? New housing, a three-hectare park, new sports facilities and a crèche. The French capital’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has made headlines for her ambitious plans to “reinvent Paris”, including a green makeover of the Champs-Élysées and adding pedestrian and bike lanes. But away from tourist eyes, fixing the city’s banlieues will also be key and this is long, hard work that is about more than global exposure for city hall.

M24 / The Menu

The power of photography

Danish top chef Bo Bech on how photography and travel changed his approach in the kitchen. Plus: the new London food delivery platform that some of the capital’s best restaurants want to sign up to.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.

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