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Poll: New Conservative traction on culture and CBC could slip with budget cuts

Nov 29, 2011

FRIENDS launch STOP THE CBC SMACKDOWN

Ottawa (29 November 2011) The Conservative Party is gaining the trust of voters when it comes to Canadian culture and the CBC, but that trust could quickly evaporate if forecast cuts to the national public broadcaster's parliamentary allocation come to pass.

These findings emerge from a national opinion survey sponsored by the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

If Stephen Harper's criticism of Canadian culture during the 2008 election campaign that many observers believe cost the Conservative Party a majority government was the low point in the public's estimation of Mr. Harper's trustworthiness on cultural matters, this survey provides some good news for the Prime Minister.

The survey found that the Conservative Party leads the other two major parties as the most trusted to handle matters of national culture and identity (Conservative Party 27%; NDP 24%; and Liberal Party 14%). 

The Conservative Party is most trusted by 3 in 10 voters (29%) to protect the CBC, second behind the NDP, which enjoys the trust of almost half of voters (46%) and ahead of the Liberal Party (25%).

"The Conservatives promised time and again before and during the election campaign to maintain or increase CBC funding.[1] It would appear Canadians, who in overwhelming numbers support public broadcasting, are responding in a supportive way," said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison.

But, the survey also found that the government's hostility toward the national public broadcaster and its cost-cutting agenda could put the Conservative Party off side with voters, a strong majority of whom want to see the CBC's budget maintained or enhanced.

  • When asked what advice they would give their MP on how to vote in the House of Commons concerning funding for CBC, 46% would counsel maintaining CBC funding at current levels, while another 23% would advise their MP to vote in favour of an increase. Only 17% favour decreasing CBC funding.
  • 52% believe that Canada's level of funding of its public broadcaster is insufficient to maintain a unique and vibrant Canadian identity and culture vs. 21% who disagree.

"A ten percent cut to the CBC's budget, as the Conservatives are contemplating, would have devastating consequences that would be visible and of great concern to the vast majority of Canadians.  In addition, the steady attack on the CBC by various government MPs could change the direction of public support in on this issue," Morrison said.

CBC budget cuts could undermine the Conservatives' new-found trust on matters related to culture and put them at odds with a majority of their own base.  Among Conservative Party supporters:

  • 57% would advise their MP to maintain or increase funding for the CBC.
  • 63% think the CBC plays an important or very important role in protecting Canadian culture and identity.
  • 64% give the CBC high marks for meeting its mandate to inform, enlighten and entertain
  • 70% believe that the federal government should be somewhat or very responsible for ensuring that Canadian programming and content on television and radio is protected.

Voters who identify the Conservatives as their second choice also strongly support public broadcasting:

  • 81% would tell their MP to maintain or increase funding for the CBC.
  • 78% think the CBC plays an important or very important role in protecting Canadian culture and identity.
  • 84% give CBC high marks for meeting its mandate to inform, enlighten and entertain
  • 75% believe that the federal government should be somewhat or very responsible for ensuring that Canadian programming and content on television and radio is protected.

The survey found that Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative government carry a reputation for being hostile to Canadian culture and the CBC:

  • Half (52%) of Canadians think Canada's level of public broadcaster funding is insufficient to maintain a unique and vibrant Canadian identity and culture, and 55% think Canada's level of public broadcaster funding is indicative of the federal government's treatment of the cultural sector overall.
  • Half (50%) think the Harper government is underfunding the CBC so that it can turn it into a private, commercial broadcaster. Only one in four agree that privatizing and commercializing the CBC is the right thing to do.

CBC remains extremely popular with Canadians, who by wide majorities give the CBC high marks for meeting its mandate to present programs that inform, enlighten and entertain (77%) as well as its mandate to serve the broadcasting needs of Canada's regions (68%)

In defence of our national public broadcaster, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is launching STOP THE CBC SMACKDOWN, a satirical online campaign calling on the Conservative government to keep its election promise to maintain or increase CBC funding.

"This effort dramatizes what is perhaps our greatest fear - one that grows with each passing day's events on Parliament Hill - that the Conservative government secretly intends to privatize some or all of our national public broadcaster, selling it to the highest bidder.  Two SMACKDOWN videos portray this worst-case scenario arising from the government's hostile attitude toward the CBC," says Friends' spokesperson Ian Morrison.

The videos feature messages from the new CBC's new owner, Lance Fury.

A personal friend of the Prime Minister and a former professional wrestling promoter from the US, Lance has purchased the CBC for an undisclosed amount.  In his video messages, the new owner-operator of the former public broadcaster outlines a radical overhaul of CBC News and his plans to introduce commercial advertising to CBC Radio.

Fury says, "Canadians are gonna love this.  I mean, let's be honest.  They're very unique in that they're just like Americans, except for the Quebeckians, who are more like the Puerto Ricans.  But now that I'm here, there will be something for everyone.  But don't worry Canada, I won't be touchin' your wheat."

"As the survey demonstrates, the CBC continues to enjoy high levels of public esteem.  The video campaign is about lifting those numbers off the page to demonstrate that without great care and support for our national public broadcaster, the new found gains in public trust the Conservatives have achieved could be short lived," Morrison said.

The online survey of 2022 adult Canadians conducted from November 4 to 10 has a margin of error of +/- 2.18%, 19 times out of 20.  The survey was designed and administered by political scientists, Daniel Rubenson, Associate Professor at Ryerson University and Peter Loewen, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.  Fieldwork for the poll was done by Vision Critical on the Angus Reid Forum National Panel.

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For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

Embed code for the high definition STOP THE CBC SMACKDOWN campaign videos is available at www.friends.ca/smackdown

Survey report is available at: http://www.friends.ca/poll/10453


[1] Heritage Minister James Moore, May 3, 2011: "We believe in the national public broadcaster. We have said that we will maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that."  http://www.friends.ca/news-item/10188