FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Toronto - Three in four (77%) Canadians see domestic media companies as too important for cultural and security reasons to allow them to be controlled by foreign interests, according to a new opinion survey released this morning by the watchdog organization Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
This finding emerges amid reports that the federal government will soon unveil plans to scrap or weaken laws that require domestic ownership of Canadian media and telecommunications companies.
"For practical and patriotic reasons, Canadians think selling off our media and telecommunications sector to the highest foreign bidder is a bad idea," says Ian Morrison, Friends' spokesperson.
Canadians' broadly held negative opinion complicates the federal government's search for a policy solution now that the Supreme Court is considering the appropriateness of the federal government's decision to allow Globalive to operate a wireless phone business in Canada even though the CRTC has previously ruled it to be foreign controlled.
Recently, the Harper government has indicated it may allow foreign companies to own and control Canadian telecommunications providers, arguing it is possible to permit foreign ownership in this sector without affecting the broadcasting sector.
However, the converged nature of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries, with telephone companies owning broadcasters and cable companies offering phone service, makes it impossible to open one sector to foreign ownership and not the other, because they are direct competitors.
"The Harper government cannot gut foreign ownership laws for telecom companies without their direct competitors in the cable industry demanding equal treatment. Like cascading dominos, the private broadcasters - which are now all owned by cable or phone companies - would follow suit and soon, several generations of hard work to maintain our cultural sovereignty through Canadian ownership and control of broadcasting would go down the drain," Morrison said.
The survey found a strong expectation that Canadian content on radio and TV would decrease if foreign companies were permitted to control domestic media companies. This expectation has grown significantly since this question was last posed in April 2010.
"Canadians have good reason to believe that foreign companies will favour their own entertainment products over Canadian options," Morrison said.
Noting that the government is forecasting cuts in excess of $100 million to CBC, the predominant source of Canadian content on TV, Morrison said: "allowing foreign interests to control our media would be a one-two punch against Canadian content."
Heritage Minister James Moore has floated the idea of deep cuts to the CBC, even though the Conservative Party promised to maintain or increase CBC funding during the recent election campaign. On May 3rd, 2011, one day after the election, Moore said:
*"**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."*
"Among all broadcasters, the CBC is by far the largest source of Canadian programming on television with a prime time TV schedule that is 75% Canadian. Substantial cuts to CBC's budget will mean fewer Canadian stories on TV," Morrison said.
On the question of CBC funding, the government will be off-side with the views of Canadians if it proceeds with deep cuts. According to previously released data, the CBC continues to be highly valued by most Canadians who by a wide majority would advise their MP to maintain (46%) or increase (23%) funding to the CBC.
The online survey of 2022 adult Canadians conducted from November 4 to 10, 2011 has a margin of error of +/- 2.18%, 19 times out of 20. The survey was designed and administered by political scientists Peter Loewen, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and Daniel Rubenson, Associate Professor at Ryerson University. Fieldwork for the poll was done by Vision Critical on the Angus Reid Forum National Panel.
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming and is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.
For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592
Feb 13, 2012 — Opinion Poll: Foreign ownership of Canadian media companies
A new report on public opinion shows that Canadian media companies are too important for culture and natural security to allow foreign ownership.