CEO of CBC Catherine Tait visting CBC Vancouver - Source: X

Most Canadians don’t support government funding for media and additional subsidies are failing to restore trust in the industry.

A new poll, conducted by Public Square Research, aimed to gauge the public’s trust in different types of Canadian news media and views on government subsidization of the industry.

It found that 70% of Canadians were not supportive of government subsidies for the salaries of private news organizations.

Government funding measures currently in place consist of payroll subsidies for journalists employed by “qualified” private news media, a tax credit for news subscriptions, and more.

The federal Online News Act has also forced Google to decide which Canadian media companies will receive a portion of its $100 million media bailout.

The Hub estimates that there is up to a 50% subsidy on journalist salaries up to $85,000 a year. 

The research showed that few Canadians were aware of the government funding journalists’ salaries, either directly or indirectly. Only 4% said that they were following funding through the Online News Act closely. Over three-quarters of Canadians were unaware of the legislation. 

Liberal and Green Party supporters were the most likely to support government subsidies for private news organizations, while Conservative supporters were the most likely to oppose them.

One in three Canadians said that most news is biased depending on who pays for it. 23% of Canadians said that a lot of news is just government propaganda.

A 2023 study showed that only 40% of Canadians trust legacy media, a steep decline from 55% in 2016.

“The decline in trust comes at a time when the federal government is increasingly intervening to support major incumbent firms in the Canadian media landscape like the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and Postmedia,” reads the study.

Canadians also don’t trust the government to decide who gets the funding.

Only 34% of Canadians said they trusted the government to decide which news media qualifies for funding. A near-equal 33% of Canadians said they trust the government to decide which media qualifies as journalism.

The Liberals’ 2024 budget announced $42 million in new funding for the CBC.

Speaking on an Alberta talk show in February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “conspiracy theorists” and “social media drivers” were deliberately undermining mainstream media to prevent people from agreeing on a common set of facts.

“The way that the CBC and CTV, when they were our only sources of news, used to, and Global News used to project across the country, at least a common understanding of things,” he said.

However, the recent polling showed that Canadians have lost trust in legacy media because they feel they are not telling the truth. 

Only 12% of Canadians said that they felt they were getting the truth from mainstream news. 20% of Canadians polled believe that news coverage in Canada is fair and transparent.

When asked about specific reasons for funding or not funding the news, Canadians showed more concern than hope.

76% of Canadians worried that paying the salaries of journalists could undermine their objectivity. 73% said that government funding will make it more challenging for the media to challenge the government. 

While Canadians don’t trust the legacy media because they don’t believe they’re telling the truth, they also tend not to trust media that is government-funded.

Only 42% of Canadians said they would trust a news organization that received funding from the Canadian government.

Conversely, 61% of Canadians said that they would trust a news organization that was funded by the readers.

“The federal government should consider the impact of current and future subsidization initiatives on public trust in news media,” concluded the research. “It should also recognize the unintended consequences of the further erosion of public perceptions of legitimacy.”