An overwhelming majority of Canadians believes that journalism plays a critical democratic role in Canada and supports government measures to help strengthen Canada’s news media industry, a new survey from Maru/Matchbox’s Angus Reid Forum finds.
In total, 94 per cent of survey respondents said they feel that journalism plays an ‘important’ role in Canadian democracy. What is more telling, however, is that nearly three quarters of respondents feel that journalism plays a ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important role in Canadian democracy.
“These results send a clear message to elected officials that Canadians, now more than ever, believe that journalism is a crucial part of the democratic fabric of our country,” says John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada.
Respondents were also asked about what policy actions they believe the federal government can take to help strengthen Canada’s news media industry.
More than eight out of ten respondents support federal action to amend the tax code to create a more level playing field for digital advertising. At present, American-owned giants such as Facebook and Google siphon off more than 85 cents of every advertising dollar, leaving only pennies for news organization that generate content.
Other policy measures that garnered popular support from respondents included amending the Canadian Periodical Fund to include daily newspapers (79 per cent); strengthening copyright protection for content from news aggregators (78 per cent); removing obstacles to philanthropic financing of news organizations (77 per cent); and reversing the ‘digital-first’ strategy for Federal government advertising (75 per cent).
These recommendations come from long-term consultations facilitated by the Federal government. In June 2017, for example, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, chaired by veteran Liberal MP Hedy Fry, produced a report with recommendations for federal action to support media in local communities.
In 2016, moreover, the Federal government commissioned the Public Policy Forum, a non-partisan think tank, to provide possible solutions to issue of news, democracy, and trust in the digital age. Those recommendations were contained in the report, The Shattered Mirror, which was released in January 2017.
“These are some very practical, low-cost, solutions that the federal government could act on tomorrow,” says Hinds. “We hope our leaders in Ottawa give some serious thought to these proposals in advance of Budget 2018.”
The survey was conducted from February 9 to 11, 2018 and was composed of a national representative sample of 1500 Canadians.