Find Trust In Media Tanking

Canadians rate media as less trustworthy than politicians or police, new Statistics Canada data showed yesterday. Lack of confidence in journalists’ integrity coincided with a $595 million bailout critics warned would fuel public skepticism.

Asked, “Using a scale of one to five where one means ‘no confidence at all’ and five means ‘a great deal of confidence,’ how much confidence do you have in the Canadian media?” less than a third of Canadians nationwide, 31 percent, expressed a “good or great deal of confidence in media.”

Canadians by comparison were more likely to trust Parliament (32 percent), the courts (46 percent), the school system (47 percent) and police (62 percent). Findings were drawn from Canadian Social Survey questionnaires.

The survey did not ask respondents to differentiate between one medium or another. Trust ratings in media overall were as low as 23 percent of Canadians aged 25 to 34 and only a quarter of Prairie residents.

Canadians with a “good or great deal of confidence” in reporters numbered as few as 24 percent in Alberta followed by Manitoba (25 percent), Saskatchewan (29 percent), Ontario and New Brunswick (30 percent), British Columbia and Nova Scotia (31 percent), Newfoundland and Labrador (33 percent), Québec (39 percent) and Prince Edward Island (42 percent).

Poor ratings coincided with Parliament’s 2019 amendments to the Income Tax Act that awarded $595 million in subsidies to cabinet-approved publishers. “As to independence of media and journalists, there are always concerns,” Pascale St-Onge, then-president of the Fédération Nationale des Communications of Montréal, testified at 2019 hearings of the Commons heritage committee.

“The media, the publishers, they are always beholden to the advertisers,” testified St-Onge. She is currently Minister of Canadian Heritage responsible for the bailout program.

Anthony Furey, then-Toronto Sun columnist, testified the bailout was harmful. “Canadians are wary of the idea that their government would somehow favour, influence or direct the media,” said Furey. “If the impression is left to linger that the government is forking over cash grants to their journalist buddies, trust in media will only plummet further.”

Media analysts testifying at 2022 Commons heritage committee hearings echoed the concerns. “Canadians are expressing unprecedented distrust towards the news and the reporters who deliver it,” said Jeanette Ageson, publisher of the Vancouver news site The Tyee. “Canadians need to know who is funding the news they receive and on what terms.”

“Trust in Canada’s media has never been lower,” testified Peter Menzies, former Calgary Herald editor in chief. Public mistrust was fueled by confidential subsidy terms with publishers, he said.

“The more government assistance news media gets, the more broken the relationship with readers becomes,” said Menzies. “The more that relationship is broken, the more subsidy will be required.”

By Staff


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