Canadians’ trust in news media hits new low

According to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2022, trust in Canadian news media has fallen to its lowest level in seven years.

The study, produced by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, found that trust in the news has fallen 13% since 2016. Only 42% of Canadian respondents trust “ most of the news, most of the time”. a slight drop from 45% last year.

Canadian respondents were asked if they trust the news most of the time: 47% of Francophones trust the news, compared to 39% of Anglophones. In 2022, Canada: n=2,012; Anglophones: n=1,486; Francophones: n=1,004.
(2022 Digital News Report/The Reuters Institute, Center for Media Studies)

As in previous years, the study found that Francophones trust news and information sources more than Anglophones, although both groups trust the news less than ever before.

The study also showed that age is a major factor in how much respondents trust information, with trust being higher among respondents aged 35 or older than among young adults. This finding is consistent with previous research. Young people tend to consume less news in general and rely more on social media and other digital platforms for information.

Media independence

English-speaking Canadians expressed less confidence this year in the independence of the news media from political and commercial influence. On the other hand, the beliefs of Francophones in the independence of the media remain stable compared to previous years.

Bar graph showing the number of Canadians who agree that the news media is free from political influence and commercial influence.  The graph shows that more Francophones believe in both statements than Anglophones.
Canadian respondents were asked whether they thought the news media in Canada was mostly independent of undue political and commercial influence.
(2022 Digital News Report/The Reuters Institute, Center for Media Studies)

English speakers who identify with the political right are more likely to be skeptical of media independence. Moreover, half of Canadians consider the mainstream media to be politically close to each other. Of those who consider news outlets very close, only 21% trust the news.

Although the question was added to measure public perceptions of polarization in the media landscape, this finding instead suggests that the perceived lack of diversity in media ownership and outlook is one of many causes of mistrust.

Consumer habits reflect these negative opinions: the number of people who actively avoid news, at least occasionally, has increased from 55% in 2017 to 71%.

The most cited reasons why people avoid the news lately include negative effects on mental or physical health, too much news on topics like politics or COVID-19, and exhaustion from the amount of news available. .

A graph showing how many Canadians are actively trying to avoid the news
Respondents were asked if they actively try to avoid the news these days: 71% of respondents said they had.
(2022 Digital News Report/The Reuters Institute, Center for Media Studies)

More people pay for news online

The study offers some silver linings for news agencies. Two years ago, the Digital News Report revealed that more Canadians were paying for news online. This number is now at its highest level since 2016. This is promising for the future of independent and popular media.

Canadians who pay for news are also more likely to subscribe or donate to more than one news source. Many Canadians expect their online media subscriptions to increase rather than decrease. Still, more than half said their media subscriptions are likely to stay the same.

However, subscriptions to online news services are still much less popular than entertainment platforms such as TV or music streaming services, podcasts, audiobooks and sports.

A line graph showing that every year more and more Canadians are paying for news content online
The number of Canadians who have paid for news content online or accessed a paid online news service in the past year.
(2022 Digital News Report/The Reuters Institute, Center for Media Studies)

Journalism in times of crisis

Although the survey was conducted in a time of crisis in January and February – during the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests in Ottawa – most of the report’s findings follow multi-year trends and are consistent with the Digital News’ global findings. Postponement.

It is possible that government support programs for the news media, such as federal tax credits, are linked to more negative perceptions of the media.

Certainly, these funding programs have allowed much-needed Canadian news media to recover financially, in addition to increasing advertising revenue during the pandemic.

But they have also drawn criticism and fueled concerns about the independence of journalists.

Media regulation

Governments are becoming increasingly active in regulating digital media ecosystems and supporting local journalism to protect democracies from disinformation and misinformation.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began shortly after this investigation was completed, intensified pressures in this regard due to widespread misinformation about the invasion on social media.

In this time of upheaval and transformation, surveys like the Digital News Report contribute to our understanding of the relevance and legitimacy of professional news sources from the public’s perspective. Factual analysis of changing consumption and attitudes of news users can support the development of public policies as well as better journalism practices.

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