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If being locked into a 3-year cell phone contract infuriates you to no end and you’d really like to take it out on the wireless providers, the CRTC has an open ear. Several hundred Canadians took advantage of a public consultation and wrote in to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as part of a proposed code of conduct for the country’s wireless industry. The issue most on the minds of those who responded: 36-month cell phone contracts should be banned.
Now that the first round of consultation has closed, the regulator will likely issue a draft code sometime in January.
Discuss this further in Digital Home’s Canadian Internet, Phone, TV and Wireless Service Providers forum. From Dallas to Downton Abbey, our national sense of culture and identity has long and repeatedly been exposed to outside exposure and influence. Those views go some way to explaining why Canadians also hold generally favourable views towards two major Canadian cultural institutions: the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). These are the findings of a recent comprehensive national survey of 1525 Canadians undertaken by the Angus Reid Institute. A deeper look reveals the CBC is held in highest esteem by its most engaged audience, while those who are more casual consumers of CBC content are much more ambivalent about the broadcaster. As for the CRTC’s perceived relevance, one-in-four (24%) of the Canadians surveyed said they believe it is “more relevant than ever” and another four-in-ten (39%, the plurality) said it is “as relevant as it used to be”.
But, most Canadians also do not see a regulatory role for online media (56%, rising to two-thirds of young people) and, relatedly, most see declining relevance for the CRTC in the coming decade (almost seven-in-ten). These overall positive views of Canadian culture are noted among Canadians from all walks of life – including across generations, education and income strata, and by political orientation.
Canadians also believe the nation’s culture needs programs and policies to ensure its continued survival. Asked to imagine we did not have cultural promotion policies and instead treated foreign cultural products the same as Canadian, just about half (47%) of those surveyed said this would result in Canadian culture being “completely swallowed up by American and foreign culture”, and another 37 per cent said it would be “weakened but still survive okay”. The concern that Canadian culture would be “swallowed up” in the absence of protective policies is most widespread in Quebec and BC, and among women. These findings indicate those who most consider Canadian culture to be unique and special tend to be stronger advocates of the need for protection policies to ensure its survival.
These questions on Canadian culture were prefaced with an item aimed at gauging Canadians’ overall attachment to Canada.
Two-in-three (69%) Canadians characterize themselves as having “a deep emotional attachment to Canada. These current results show little change on this fundamental measure over the past 20 years or more. Notably, there is a very strong relationship between attachment to Canada and assessment of its culture. Fully four-in-five (80%) Canadians surveyed expressed a favourable view of their public broadcaster – 21 per cent reported a “very favourable” view, while 59 per cent opted for a generally favourable characterization. There are some important differences in the CBC’s overall favourability ratings across key population groups (patterns which largely hold consistent on the various other aspects assessed in this survey). Across English-speaking Canada, three quarters (77%) expressed overall favourable views (18% opted for very favourable). Across generations, slightly higher numbers of older (55+) Canadians report “very favourable” views of the CBC compared to their younger counterparts. Looking across educational strata, the survey results (on this and other questions) show university-educated Canadians are much more likely than those with less formal education to give a “very” favourable rating to the public broadcaster (33% versus 15%).
Lastly, Canadians’ overall appraisal of the CBC is impacted by their assessment of the necessity of cultural protection: specifically, those who take the view that the culture needs protection to survive hold much more favourable views of the CBC than those who do not see a need for cultural protection. The Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians how often they access CBC programming and information.
Fully 58 per cent of the Canadians surveyed said they tune into CBC TV news and information at least once a week or more; one-in-three (31%) do so every day (17%) or almost every day (14%).
Almost as many (50%) said they tune in as frequently to other, non-info CBC TV offerings; one-in-five (19%) do so every day or almost every day.
CBC radio news and info programming is at least a weekly staple for one-in-three (31%) Canadians; almost one-in-five (17%) tune in to CBC radio news daily or almost every day.
Other CBC radio is tuned into by one-in-four (25%) Canadians weekly or more, by one-in-ten daily or almost daily.
Lastly, in the case of CBC online, one-in-four (28%) Canadians surveyed reporting checking in once a week or more, half of them (14%) almost daily or more.
The CBC engagement index gives us the following insights into the socio-demographic profile of its overall audience.
Some of the biggest differences are noted generationally — and not in a direction that will comfort friends of public broadcasting.
Political orientation plays a major role in engagement with the CBC – specifically, supporters of the Conservatives are much less engaged then opposition party supporters.
Lastly, with respect to broader views on Canadian culture, the survey results show a strong relationship: Those who see Canadian culture as unique and something special and as requiring protective measures are much more likely to be highly engaged with the CBC’s various offerings and therefore to be found in the CBC committed and devotee segments. In terms of overall favourability, four-in-five of all Canadians give CBC a favourable rating, one-in-five opt for very favourable. The CBC committed are 93 per cent favourable overall and 27 per cent are “very favourable”.
As we will see in some of our subsequent analysis of the survey findings, levels of engagement also impact other aspects of Canadians’ assessment and points of view on the CBC and some of the current challenges it faces. The Jian Ghomeshi sexual harassment scandal: This is a source of significant concern for the Canadian public. Prominent CBC news personalities (including Peter Mansbridge and Amanda Lang) accepting speaking fees from companies, organizations and industries they may be covering: The revelation that CBC personalities had accepted speaking fees from organizations in the news has caused somewhat less public concern. For all three of these CBC news developments, this Angus Reid Institute survey finds levels of concern and levels of awareness consistently much lower within Quebec than elsewhere in the country. The results also show consistently higher levels of concern about these stories among university-educated Canadians, and those living in higher income households. We also see men expressing more concern about the speaking fees revelations, and older Canadians voicing more concern about the Ghomeshi scandal. For each of the three new stories, levels of concern rise steadily with higher levels of CBC engagement. That leaves half of Canadians who think the CBC is substantially more expensive for taxpayers than it actually is. Some of the biggest differences are noted by Canadians’ levels of engagement with the CBC.
Socio-demographically, the highest levels of concern that the CBC needs more money are voiced among Canadians over 55 (fully 40% take this view) and university-educated Canadians (44%). Canadians are roughly evenly divided on the question of whether the CBC is maintaining its relevance.
Across generations and educational strata, we see the same broad split in overall views, but a closer look shows older Canadians and those with the most formal education are considerably more likely than others to see the public broadcaster as “more relevant than ever”. As seen on virtually all other aspects examined, supporters of the Conservatives are more tepid in their views of the CBC: in this case, by a margin of two-to-one, Conservatives see the CBC’s relevance as declining whereas their counterparts supporting one of the main opposition parties tilt towards the CBC being of continued relevance. Lastly, the CBC’s perceived relevance varies by views of the necessity of cultural protection – though perhaps not to the degree that might be expected given this variable’s pull on other measures.

Canadians express overall favourable views of the CRTC, though with very little intensity of feeling at either end of the spectrum. Overall, perceptions of the CRTC do not vary greatly along generational lines or across educational or income strata. We do see something of a gender gap with higher favourability ratings offered by women (70% versus 58% of men). Views on cultural protection factor in Canadians’ appraisal of the CRTC: those who see protective measures as essential for Canadian culture’s survival endorse the CRTC overall (71% favourable. Reported familiarity with the CRTC increases rather sharply along educational strata from 35 percent of those who have not gone beyond high school rising to 55 percent of Canadians with a complete degree.
This Angus Reid Institute poll examined public perceptions of the overall mandate of the CRTC.
This content-focused area was rated as the lowest of the six priorities: 40 per cent put it in the top three, only 13 percent ranked it as first of the six. Canadians give the CRTC fairly good marks here, with 41 percent saying they do a good job against 23 percent who say they do a poor job.
Regulating cell phone companies’ billing practices emerged as one of the top priorities of the six assessed, with a total of 57 percent of those surveyed selecting this as the first (18%), second (21%) or third (18%) most important priority from the list.
This regulatory function also ranked as a high priority, with a total of 55 percent of Canadians surveyed ranking it first (17%), second (19%) or third (19%) of the six mandate areas assessed.
Forty-four per cent said the CRTC has done a poor job in this area (15% opted for very poor) compared to 33 percent who said they are doing a good job. This consumer protection area ranks as a slightly lower CRTC priority for Canadians (47% put it in the top three; 13% as first). And again, Canadian consumers tilt negatively in their assessment of how good a job the CRTC does protecting them from unsolicited communications: 46 percent said they do a poor job here versus 35 percent who said they think the CRTC does a good job protecting consumers in this regard. Views on the CRTC’s current relevance are fairly consistent across the main population groupings. And the CRTC’s perceived relevance varies by views on the necessity of cultural protection – those most convinced of its necessity attach higher relevance to the CRTC. Back in 1968 when the CRTC came into being, the advent of online media was obviously not on anyone’s radar. This is a contentious subject, but at this point Canadian public opinion already tilts away from a traditional CRTC role where online media is concerned. Above all, as would be expected, views diverge sharply by people’s general disposition on the need for cultural protection.
Lastly, looking at the results by political orientation shows Conservative party supporters most convinced that online media should not be subject to CRTC regulation (63% versus 37%) whereas opposition party supporters are almost evenly split on this overall question. Waiting three years to upgrade mobile phones, extending contracts to get a new phone before term or paying hefty cancellation fees, while on contract, to sign on with another provider with a better offer, are all bothersome elements of the 3-year deals. A second round of online consultation and public hearings will follow, starting in February 2013. New wireless entrants including WIND, Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Videotron account for a mere 4 percent of Canada’s 27-million wireless subscribers and combined for just 2 percent of overall revenues in 2011. If you buy your cellphone at full price, then you can enjoy the benefit of having a no contract deal. In spite of this, most consider Canadian culture to be unique, worthy of, and, critically in need of protection to survive.
Specifically, whether it is unique and special, and whether it requires protection in order to survive. Asked to describe their overall feelings regarding Canadian culture on a 10-point scale where “1 means basically boring” and “10 means something special”, the Canadians surveyed gave an overall average rating of 7.4. Views are slightly less enthusiastic among Quebecers than elsewhere in Canada, though most Quebecers agreed Canadian culture is unique and most assigned a rating of 7 or higher on the boring versus special scale. Only one-in-six (16%) Canadians surveyed said “Canadian culture would be fine without government protection”. Large differences are noted across political stripes: on the overall point-of-view question, Liberal and NDP supporters opted for Canadian culture needing protection by a factor of four-to-one, whereas Conservative supporters were evenly split on this overall question. We used a question Angus Reid first benchmarked during the heat of national unity debates in the early 1990’s. Then, as now, views differ sharply within and outside Quebec, though a narrow plurality of 42 percent of Quebecers now opt for a deep attachment to Canada. Specifically, those professing the highest level of attachment are almost unanimous in their view that Canada has a unique culture (84% take this view) and that it is “something special” (86% chose a 7 or higher on that scale). This leaves only one-in-five (20%) nationally who voiced an unfavourable view of the CBC (4% opted for “very unfavourable”).
Overall favourable views were as high as 87 per cent in Atlantic Canada and dipped to just over 70 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Specifically, supporters of the opposition Liberals and New Democrats are more intensely favourable towards the CBC than those who supported the Conservatives in the last federal election.
A total of one-in-three (30%) Canadians surveyed said they tune into this once a week or more often (only one-in-twenty on an almost daily basis). This is an aggregate assessment; readers interested in the audiences for the six specific CBC offerings summarized above are invited to examine the detailed tables at the end of this release. Women are slightly more likely to be in the casual group (26% versus 19%) whereas men are slightly more likely to rank as devotees (20% versus 16%).
Among Canadians under 35 years of age, fully two-in-three land in the casual grouping or in the crowd, and only one-in-three rank as CBC committed (19%) or CBC devotees (12%). Among the university-educated, just about half land in the devotee (28%) or committed (20%) groups.
For example, only 10 per cent of Conservatives score as CBC devotees compared to roughly three times as many opposition party supporters. On the other hand, a disproportionate number of Canadians who believe the culture does not require special protection are found in the less engaged segments. Those Canadians most engaged – the heaviest consumers of CBC’s offerings – have a much more favourable orientation towards the public broadcaster. This latter figure is 53 per cent among CBC’s devotees, and another 46 per cent indicate generally favourable views – so the overall verdict among the most highly engaged is essentially unanimously favourable.
This positive rating falls off among “the crowd” – still 81 per cent positive but only 11 per cent very positive. This Angus Reid Institute survey looked at three issues to gauge the extent to which these have caused concern, if any, among the Canadian public.
Fifty-five per cent of all those surveyed said they were very (29%) or somewhat (26%) concerned by the Ghomeshi scandal. Meanwhile, one-in-three (35%) of those polled said they were not very or not at all concerned about the CBC losing HNIC. A total of 42 per cent of Canadian surveyed said they were very or somewhat (16% and 26% respectively) concerned by the speaking fee revelations while almost as many (37%) said they were not concerned about this. Indeed, for each of the three, Quebecers were roughly twice as likely as other Canadians to indicate they had not heard of these news stories, and they also voiced much lower levels of concern (in the range of 20 percentage points lower). Lastly, by views of the CBC, those more favourably disposed overall were relatively more bothered by the move of HNIC and less by the speaking fee revelations, which are of greater concern to those with an already unfavourable disposition towards CBC. CBC has been coping with budget reductions estimated (on CBC’s own website) at a cumulative $390 million since 2009.

How does this actual figure dovetail with what Canadians think the public broadcaster costs us?
Fourteen per cent chose between $50 and $100 per capita; 17 per cent chose between $100 and $200. In the United Kingdom, The CBC’s equivalent, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is held up as the new gold standard with growing audiences and critical acclaim, at home and internationally. The devotees are quite convinced the CBC is underfunded (60% of this high user segment takes this view).
Asked if they think the public broadcaster is more or less relevant to Canada than it was 20 years ago, just under half (48%) of the Canadians surveyed said they believe it is “more relevant than ever” (15% chose this strong characterization) or “as relevant as it used to be” (32%). Those most convinced of the necessity of cultural protection are overall roughly split on whether the CBC is holding or losing its relevance, whereas those who believe Canadian culture would be fine without protective measures tend to see the CBC as losing relevance.
Views are somewhat more lukewarm elsewhere in the country, particularly in BC and Ontario (where we see less than a 20 point gap in the proportion favourable versus unfavourable). Conservative Party supporters were only narrowly positive in their overall view of the CRTC (56% versus 44%) whereas the favourability gap is over 20 points in the case of NDP supporters (62% versus 38%) and over 30 points for Liberals (68% versus 32%). Those who take the view that the culture would survive without protection tilt towards an unfavourable view of the CRTC (54% unfavourable).
The survey results also show a fairly wide gender gap in reported familiarity (only 32% of women versus 58% of men).
Specifically, Canadians were asked to prioritize six specific areas of agency focus and to provide an assessment of the CRTC’s performance on each. Thirty-six percent of Canadians surveyed were unsure, reflecting lower awareness of this aspect of the CRTC’s mandate.
Asked if they think the agency is more or less relevant to Canada than it was 20 years ago, one-in-four (24%) of the Canadians surveyed said they believe it is “more relevant than ever” and another four-in-ten (40%, the plurality) said it is “as relevant as it used to be”. Generationally, younger people are somewhat more likely to believe the CRTC is holding its relevance while those over 35 are somewhat more likely to see its relevance as declining.
Those who described themselves as very familiar with the CRTC are more likely than those less familiar to take views at both ends of the spectrum: 34 percent said “more relevant than ever” (versus the 24% overall) but 18 percent said “no longer relevant at all” (versus only 6% overall). Indeed, the arrival and rapid proliferation of television in the decade prior was nothing short of revolutionary in its own right, and has posed a major regulatory challenge from the get-go. Asked for their broad view of the CRTC’s role here, a majority of 56 percent of Canadians surveyed took the view that: “Online media should not be subject to the same types of CRTC regulations as traditional media” while a large minority of 44 percent took the opposing view that “The CRTC should regulate online media in the same way it regulates traditional media”. Those who see a need are essentially evenly divided as to whether or not the CRTC’s regulatory role should encompass online media; those who don’t consider cultural protection to be necessary decidedly want the CRTC to leave this area alone. By a margin of two to one (67% to 33%), Canadians under 35, obviously the heaviest consumers of new media, do not believe it should be subject to traditional CRTC regulation. Once again, it is Quebecers who are the biggest boosters of a strong role for the CRTC – a majority (54%) of Quebecers surveyed opted for CRTC regulation of new media.
Asked for their overall forecast on this question, a slim majority of 52 percent of Canadians said they think the CRTC will “still be important, but declining” a decade from now. If you want the benefit of a free phone or a get ridiculous savings on a phone, then you sign a contract for a term. One-in-three (30%) gave an enthusiastic 9 or 10 rating, and another four-in-ten (44%) opted for a 7 or 8.
The generational pattern will be disturbing for Canadian nationalists: whereas three-quarters of Canadians over 35 profess a deep attachment to Canada, only half of their younger counterparts chose this most patriotic characterization. Interestingly, views on the need to protect that culture do not show nearly as much variance by responses to the attachment measure. Among Conservatives, two-in-three still give the CBC overall favourable ratings but the one-in-three unfavourable represents almost three times the number of critics found among opposition party supporters. This audience segment scores between 310 and the maximum 480 on the index, with the median score at the 360 mark; which would translate into consuming all six CBC offerings two to three times a week (or some less often and some more often than that, but obviously tilting to heavy usage).
Scoring from 110 to 200 on the index, the crowd tunes in perhaps monthly or so to several CBC offerings or is a heavier user of one or two (or some combination of these broad scenarios). Roughly one-in-four (23%) Canadians surveyed are included here, having scored between 10 and 100 (of the possible 480) on the index. Meanwhile, the three largest provinces tend to reflect the national representation in the four engagement segments. Those who did not go to high school are much less likely to be in these highly engaged segments; only 12 per cent score as devotees, for example. Likewise, Conservatives are twice as likely as opposition party supporters to be ranked as only casual CBC viewers (27% versus 14%).
The casuals, the lightest CBC consumers, are almost split in their overall opinion of CBC (56% to 44% unfavourable). The parliamentary operating grant itself has shrunk from over $1.2 billion a few years ago to $960 million this year.
Higher still, 10 per cent guessed the subsidy to be somewhere between $200 and $500; and another one-in-ten (8%) placed it over $500 per capita. Among opposition party supporters it is the reverse with almost half (the plurality) viewing the CBC as underfunded to properly perform its role and only one-in-ten taking the view that the broadcaster should have to make do with less money. But the other half (52%) see the CBC as a less relevant institution: a plurality of 44 per cent took the view that the CBC is “becoming less relevant” while almost one-in-ten (8%) said they believe “the CBC is no longer relevant at all”. There is also a generational skew with familiarity lower among Canadians under 35 (37%, bumping up to 48% among those over 35).
As in all of the focus areas assessed, a fairly large number of Canadians could not offer an assessment of the CRTC’s performance (20% in this case).
This leaves one-in-three (31%) who took the view that the CRTC is “becoming less relevant” while only one-in-twenty (6%) said they believe “the CRTC is no longer relevant at all”. Across educational strata, it is those with a complete university degree who are most likely to see the CRTC as “more relevant than ever” – almost one-in-three of this group take this view.
Now, we’ve gone beyond the 200 channel universe and into the ether with the exploding possibilities offered by cultural offerings delivered via the internet. Elsewhere, most (60%) Canadians take the opposite view and do not see a regulatory role for the CRTC when it comes to online media (one exception being the Atlantic region where those polled were evenly split). Only half as many (28%) tilted towards the CRTC “continuing to play an important role in Canadian culture”, while one-in-five (20%) took the view that the CRTC will be “basically irrelevant” a decade from now. Fewer than one-in-ten (7%), meanwhile, gave Canadian culture a “thumbs down” rating of below 5.
This would mean this casual audience tunes infrequently to a few different CBC offerings or perhaps uses one (and only one) more heavily. Government funding for the CBC is augmented with the corporation’s advertising and other revenue, also under some pressure.
As seen on other questions, supporters of the Conservatives are somewhat more tepid in their views of the CRTC, while opposition party supporters attach greater relevance to it.
The attendance of video on-demand service Netflix at recent CRTC hearings offers perhaps some foreshadowing that this may be difficult territory for the CRTC to navigate. Canadians over 55, meanwhile, tend towards the opposing view with 56 per cent saying the CRTC should regulate online media in the same way as traditional.

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