What Canadians Think About Local Broadcasting, the CBC and the Federal Election

Sep 29, 2015

Submitted by Nanos Research to ACTRA, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and Unifor

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Canadians value local news, feel it’s important to have a strong CBC, and think Netflix should contribute to Canadian content

Canadians think it is important to reverse the Harper government’s cuts to the CBC and almost half support increasing CBC’s funding. Canadians also believe Netflix and other foreign Internet broadcasters should have to follow the same rules as domestic conventional broadcasters when it comes to financing the production of Canadian content. Of note, Local TV news is highly valued by Canadians. 

Television Programming

Canadians say they most want the quality of existing TV programs to be improved (51%), believe the CRTC is the most responsible for ensuring Canadian programming and content is protected (64%), and are generally satisfied (43%) or somewhat satisfied (24%) with the non-Canadian programming already available to them.  

  • Preferred Choice - Just over half (51%) of Canadians would prefer to have the quality of existing TV programs improved rather than receiving more channels on their television (20%), having popular programs aired more often (17%), or a combination of those items (two per cent). Ten per cent of Canadians have no opinion regarding which they would prefer.  
  • Responsibility for Ensuring Canadian Content - The majority of respondents (64%) believe it is the responsibility of the CRTC to ensure Canadian content on television and radio. Twelve per cent believe the responsibility is that of the cable and satellite companies, while seven per cent believe the Federal Government is responsible and six per cent said it was TV and Radio networks. Eleven per cent of Canadians are unsure who is the most responsible for ensuring Canadian content is protected. 
  • Satisfaction with Available Programming - Thinking as consumers, just under seven in ten respondents (67%) are either satisfied (43%) or somewhat satisfied (24%) with the choice of US and other non-Canadian programming available to them. One quarter of Canadians (25%) are either somewhat dissatisfied (12%) or dissatisfied (14%) with the choice of US or non-Canadian programming available to them.  

Protecting Canadian Culture and Identity

Canadians’ trust or confidence in various institutions were evaluated with a scale of one (meaning very low trust) to seven (meaning very high confidence/trust). A score of 5-7 means they have high confidence/trust, a score of 4 means they have average confidence/trust, and a score of 1-3 means they have low confidence/trust in the specific institution. 

  • The CBC is most trusted by respondents (72% high trust and confidence; mean score of 5.22) to protect Canadian culture and identity on television, followed by the CRTC (60% high trust and confidence; mean score of 4.77). Canadians trust cable companies the least to protect Canadian culture and identity (53% low trust and confidence; mean score of 3.36) . 
  • Of note, there has been a decline in trust since 2009 in the Canadian Government to protect Canadian culture and identity on television. The percentage of surveyed Canadians who had high trust and confidence in the government has fallen from 46% in 2009 to 37% in 2015, while the percentage of Canadians who had a low trust and confidence in the government has increased from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2015. 

CRTC Goals 

Overall, Canadians overwhelmingly support CRTC goals, which include providing the most value and best prices, ensuring enough competition to protect freedom of speech and democracy, enabling Canadians from different regions and languages to understand each other, and protecting Canadian culture and identity. 

  • Providing most value - Over nine in ten respondents (94%) think that the goal of providing consumers with the most value and best prices is very important (67%) or somewhat important (27%). Only four per cent of respondents feel this goal is not really important, and one per cent feel it is not at all important. 
  • Ensuring competition - Almost all respondents (95%) believe that ensuring enough competition in order to protect freedom of speech and democracy is very important (70%) or somewhat important (25%). Three per cent of respondents consider this goal to be not really important, while two per cent feel it is not at all important. 
  • Enabling understanding - Just under nine in ten respondents (89%) think that enabling Canadians from different regions and languages to know and understand each other is very important (55%) or somewhat important (34%). Seven per cent of Canadians feel this goal is not really important, while three per cent feel it is not at all important for the CRTC. 
  • Protecting Canadian culture - Nine in ten surveyed Canadians (90%) feel that protecting Canadian culture and identity at a time of very strong American and global economic forces is very important (61%) or somewhat important (29%). A total of 11% of Canadians feel this goal is either not really important (seven per cent) or not at all important (four per cent) for the CRTC. 
  • Encouraging Canadian programming - Just under nine in ten respondents (87%) think that encouraging more Canadian programming is very important (45%) or somewhat important (42%). Seven per cent of Canadians feel this goal is not really important, while five per cent feel it is not at all important. 

The Need for the CRTC

Eighty-five per cent of survey respondents believe there is a need for the CRTC in Canada today, with 41% saying there is a great deal of need, and 45% saying there is some need, up from 1993 when tracking began and 31% said the CRTC is needed a great deal, and 48% said there is some need for the CRTC. Ten per cent of Canadians believe there is either not very much need (six per cent) or no need at all (four per cent) for the CRTC in Canada today. 

Pick and Pay Channels 

Asked if they believed that CRTC allowing consumers to pick and pay for individual channels will cause their monthly subscription fees to decrease, one third of Canadians feel it is either likely (14%) or somewhat likely (18%) this will occur. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians feel that it is somewhat unlikely or unlikely that their monthly subscription fees would decrease as a result of the ability to pick and pay for individual channels. 

Financial Contribution to Canadian TV 

Almost half of Canadians feel foreign broadcasters should not be exempt from contributing financially to support Canadian programming (44%), and would feel more positively about online streaming services such as Netflix if they helped financially support Canadian programming (68%). Canadians also feel that foreign broadcasters should be subject to the same rules as Canadian broadcasters (79%). 

  • Exemption of foreign broadcasters - Three in five Canadians surveyed disagree (44% disagree; 16% somewhat disagree) with the notion that foreign companies broadcasting in Canada should be exempt from financially contributing to support Canadian programming. On the other hand, 21% agree that foreign broadcasters should be exempt from financial contribution, while 17% somewhat agree. 
  • Netflix or Canal+ - Almost seven in ten respondents (68%), report their impression of online streaming service Netflix (or Canal+ in Quebec) would be more positive (44%) or somewhat more positive (24%) if they contributed financially to support Canadian programming. Seven per cent of Canadians somewhat disagree with the above statement, while 15% disagree. 
  • Rules for foreign broadcasters - Almost four of five of those surveyed (79%) either agree (64%) or somewhat agree (15%) that foreign companies that broadcast TV programming into Canada over the Internet should be subject to the same rules as Canadian companies that broadcast TV programs by cable, satellite or over the air. Eighteen per cent of Canadians either somewhat disagree (seven per cent) or disagree (11%) that foreign broadcast companies should be subject to the same rules as Canadian companies. 

Importance of the CBC 

Canadians generally agree that a strong CBC is important for Canada (89%), and that it plays an important role in shaping the Canadian culture and identity (91%). 

  • Importance of a strong CBC - Almost nine in ten survey respondents (89%) either agree (70%) or somewhat agree (19%) that with virtually all private news media in Canada are owned by only a few large corporations, it is more important than ever to have a strong and vibrant CBC. Three per cent of Canadians somewhat disagree with the statement, while seven per cent disagree that a strong CBC is important for Canada. 
  • Role of the CBC - Nine in ten respondents (91%) also either agree (70%) or somewhat agree (21%) that the CBC plays an important role in strengthening Canadian culture and identity. Six per cent of Canadians disagree that the CBC plays an important role in Canadian culture, while two per cent somewhat disagree. 

Funding for the CBC

Just under half (45%) of surveyed Canadians would advise their federal MP to vote to increase the CBC’s funding. Two in five (41%) would advise their federal MP to vote to maintain current levels of funding for the CBC. Only 12% would advise their federal MP to vote to reduce funding from current levels. Decided Conservative Party supporters are most likely to advise their MP to decrease funding (31%) and maintain the current level of funding (47%). NDP supporters are most likely to advise their federal MP to vote to increase CBC funding (63%). 

Local Television 

Canadians generally value local broadcasting, would care if those broadcasters were no longer available to them, and trust the CRTC to ensure they can remain viable. Canadians also agree that their local MPs should work to keep local broadcasting strong. 

  • Value of local television news - Nine in ten (92%) of those surveyed either agree (78%) or somewhat agree (14%) that local TV news is valuable to them. Seven per cent either somewhat disagree (three per cent) or disagree (four per cent) with this. 
  • Loss of local television news - Eighty-five per cent of surveyed Canadians either disagree (74%) or somewhat disagree (11%) with the statement that they wouldn’t care if local news broadcasts on TV were no longer available to them. Fourteen per cent of Canadians said they agree (nine per cent) or somewhat agree (five per cent) with the notion that they wouldn’t care if they lost those networks. 
  • Trust in CRTC - Regarding the CRTC and local TV, three quarters of those surveyed agree (48%) or somewhat agreed (27%) that they trust the CRTC to make decisions that will ensure their local TV station is not forced to close. One-fifth of Canadians (20%) either somewhat disagree (nine per cent) or disagree (11%) with that statement. 
  • Role of Federal MPs - Nine in ten survey respondents either agree (73%) or somewhat agree (17%) that their federal member of parliament should work to keep local broadcasting strong in their community. Three per cent of Canadians somewhat disagree that their federal member of parliament should work to keep local broadcasting strong, while five per cent disagree. 

The CBC and the Federal Government 

Canadians trust the NDP most to protect the CBC, and feel that the CBC’s level of independence has decreased over the last four years. Canadians also support the notion of increasing CBC funding and reversing the cuts implemented by the Harper Government. 

  • Trust in Federal parties - The NDP was the party that survey respondents trust most to protect the CBC the most (31%), followed by the Liberal Party (27%), and the Conservative Party (13%). 
  • Independence of the CBC - Forty-two per cent of Canadians feel that the CBC’s independence has decreased over the last four years, while 36% feel that their independence has remained the same. Only 11% of Canadians feel that the CBC’s independence has increased over the last four years. Decided Liberal Party supporters are most likely to say that independence has increased (11%), while decided NDP supporters are most likely to say independence has decreased (54%). Decided Conservative Party supporters were most likely to say independence has remained the same (44%). 
  • Government influence - Respondents were split regarding their opinions on the Prime Minister’s relationship to the CBC, with 49% saying the Prime Minister’s power to appoint the CBC President and Board of Directors gives the government too much influence over the nature and content of programs broadcast on the CBC, and 41% saying the CBC is independent and it doesn’t matter who appoints the Board of Directors and President. 

Government support for the CBC

Four in five Canadians surveyed support (55%) or somewhat support (27%) Heritage Minister James Moore’s statement in 2011 that CBC funding would be maintained or increased. Fourteen per cent of Canadians somewhat oppose (five per cent) or oppose (nine per cent) this notion. 

Reversing CBC cuts

More than three in four surveyed Canadians (77%) believe that it is important (56%) or somewhat important (21%) that the Harper Government’s cuts to the CBC be reversed. Decided Conservative Party supporters rate this as important or somewhat important (56%), while decided NDP supporters support this notion (88% important or somewhat important. 

The CRTC and Canadian Content

Just under seven in ten (68%) of those surveyed believe at least half of TV channels received in Canadian homes should be Canadian owned and controlled, while 29% believe it’s okay for a majority of channels entering Canadian homes to be foreign owned and controlled. Decided NDP supporters are most likely to support half the channels being Canadian owned (73%), and that idea is also popular with women (76%, compared to 58% of men). Decided Conservative Party supporters are most likely to say it’s okay for a majority of channels to be foreign owned (42%). 

Importance of Canadian Content

Just under four of five respondents (79%) believe it is important (53%) or somewhat important (26%) that at least half of the programs available on Canadian television channels remain Canadian. Decided NDP supporters are most likely (87%) to say this is important or somewhat important, along with women (86% compared to 72% of men). Decided Conservative supporters are least likely (60%) to say this is important or somewhat important. 

Stephen Harper and the Duffy Scandal

Just over half of surveyed Canadians say that their impression of the integrity of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has worsened over the last year as a result of what they’ve heard during the Duffy trial. Thirty-eight per cent said that their impressions have stayed the same, and three per cent say their impressions have improved. Decided NDP supporters were most likely (69%) to say that their impressions had worsened, and decided Conservative Party supporters are most likely (nine per cent) to say their impressions had improved. Impressions has net worsened among Conservative voters (17% said it worsened and two per cent it improved). 

These observations are based on an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) random telephone survey of 1000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, conducted between August 28th and September 3rd, 2015 by Nanos Research. The research was commissioned by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. The margin of error for a random survey of 1000 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

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