The majority of Canadians support government bailouts for media organizations that are facing a collapse in advertising revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses across the country, according to a new poll.
The survey was conducted by Nanos Research for FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, a non-partisan media watchdog, and was released Monday.
It found that seven in 10 Canadians support (26 per cent), or somewhat support (41 per cent) the federal government sending financial aid to failing news organizations.
A majority of Canadians also agree (36 per cent), or somewhat agree (26 per cent) that Ottawa should treat media bankruptcies and layoffs as an emergency because journalism is essential to “keeping Canadians safe” during this crisis.
The survey notes that Canadian media outlets have seen advertising revenues fall by as much as 60 per cent, and nearly 500 journalists were laid off in the first two weeks of the lockdown.
Torstar, which publishes several daily newspapers including the Toronto Star, announced on Monday that it would eliminate 85 positions and cut its operating budget to offset advertising revenue losses.
The government previously announced a $30-million COVID-19 awareness advertising campaign in an effort to support Canada’s struggling media industry. And Ottawa said it was moving closer to implementing long-promised tax credits for newspapers.
However, the measures were widely criticized as too little to make a real difference, including Mark Lever, the president of SaltWire Network, a newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada that laid off 240 employees — or about 40 per cent of its workforce — last month and shuttered several of its publications.
“Many of our most prominent journalism outlets face imminent failure, even after the government’s proposed tax credits and wage subsidies are factored in,” FRIENDS’ Executive Director Daniel Bernhard said. “This is an acute emergency and Canadians want Ottawa to intervene quickly to save these trusted institutions from mass extinction.