Canadians trust media more than Americans do, but they’re also less likely to pay for online news, according to a study published last week by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Overall trust in news was 45 per cent in Canada but only 29 per cent in the United States. That places the two countries at 19th and 46th, respectively, out of 46 countries surveyed for the 2021 Digital News Report.
When it came to paying for online news, however, only 13 per cent of Canadians reported doing so, compared to 21 per cent of Americans.
“Across 20 countries where publishers have been pushing for more online payment, 17% have paid for any online news in the last year – up two percentage points,” the study found. “Norway continues to lead the way with 45% … followed by Sweden (30%), the United States (21%), Finland (20%), the Netherlands (17%), and Switzerland (17%).”
While Canada lagged significantly behind these countries, it did report more paying news consumers than France (11%), Germany (9%), and the United Kingdom (8%).
Colette Brin, author of the report’s section on Canada, said the pandemic, coupled with pre-existing industry turbulence, made the past year a difficult one for the country’s news outlets and media workers.
“One year into the pandemic, 40 media outlets have closed permanently and the status of 19 ‘temporary’ closures is still undetermined,” she wrote. “The media sector reported 1,200 permanent job losses; 1,800 more job cuts are still in the balance. Many newspapers have suspended or reduced print distribution.”
Direct and indirect government funding helped prevent further erosion of the Canadian media landscape.
“In addition to increased government ad money (especially public health messages) since the beginning of the pandemic, a number of previously announced direct public subsidies are coming into effect,” Brin wrote. “Dozens of journalists have been hired through a government grant to cover rural and underserved audiences, including First Nations communities. Some media organisations will also now be able to issue tax receipts for donations; some online news subscriptions are now eligible for a tax credit.”
More than 92,000 online news consumers were polled in the 46 participating countries. The study found trust in media increased by an average of six per cent during the pandemic.
“This crisis has also shown the value of accurate and reliable information at a time when lives are at stake,” the report said. “In many countries we see audiences turning to trusted brands – in addition to ascribing a greater confidence in the media in general.”
The news sources with the biggest online reach in English Canada were CBC News, CTV News, and CNN. The outlets with biggest offline reach were Global News, CTV News, and CNN.
The most trusted media brands in English Canada were Global News, CTV News, and local or regional newspapers.