Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Which Political Party Supports Arts & Culture? Not the Liberals

Parliament has become more partisan than at anytime in its history and neither the Conservative majority nor the death of Jack Layton has blunted the bickering and attacks both in and outside the House of Commons. Twitter and political blogs have become cesspools of digital abuse, facts and arguments in the digital universe have little place in the brutish social media environment described by John Doyle.  CMRI's Media Trends Survey has tracked usage and attitudes toward Canadian arts and cultural activities for the past ten years and this year tested for political partisanship in arts and culture, a subject that should for the most part be above politics.   

The federal government spends roughly $2 billion annually on arts and culture, about half of which goes to the CBC, and provides other tax incentives and programs that support the arts.  Countless billions in assets, museums, libraries, arts centers, TV/radio stations, etc. have been accumulated over decades.  This investment is generally regarded by Canadians as positive but supporters of the main political parties have quite different opinions about which party is most supportive of culture.
Some well-phrased survey questions put to a representative sample of almost 900 voters can test whether supporters of the three main parties are partisan when it comes to Canadian arts and culture.  Liberals and NDP supporters, i.e., those who voted that way in 2011, are pretty clear about which political party is most supportive of Canadian arts and culture, their party!  Supporters of the two opposition parties are extremely partisan and overwhelming choose the party they voted for as being the most supportive of the arts. More than three quarters of NDPers choose the NDP and about the same proportion of Liberal voters say the Liberals are the most supportive of Canadian culture. By any other demographic characteristic, such as gender, age, occupation or income, none reveal this kind of dramatic skew in these survey results.  

But Conservative supporters are not so quick to blindly support their party and appear fair and balanced about this issue. Less than half of Conservative supporters think that their party is the most supportive of arts and culture.  Over 50% of Conservative voters choose either the Liberal party or the NDP as being more supportive of the arts, something you would think Conservative strategists should be concerned about.  James Moore's message about the increased financial support his party has given to the arts doesn't appear to be getting through; hardly any opposition supporters think so and many of his own party's supporters are not convinced.  

In an earlier post we pointed out that Conservatives, along with Liberals and NDPers are, surprisingly, very supportive of CBC TV and radio. Sympathizers of all three political parties are generally supportive of the arts.  For example, the majority in all cases believe artists (musician, painters, writers, etc.) deserve at least the minimum wage.  

Plus, a large majority of Liberal, NDP and Conservative supporters don't seem to put the importance of athletes ahead of Canadian artists. Conservatives are oftentimes portrayed as red necks interested in nothing but hockey and this is clearly not the case. Besides, hockey has evolved; for example, the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the first NHL teams to introduce an improvement for the Zamboni.

CMRI's Media Trends Survey found that less than 1 in 5 Liberals or NDPers placed athletes ahead of artists in importance. Less than 1 in 3 Conservatives felt that way, meaning they too value artists, at least abstractly.  
Our annual survey has collected invaluable information on the specific arts and cultural activities Canadian voters consider important (and are willing to support financially) and these results will be discussed in this space in future.  It will be useful to know how fiction and non-fiction books stack up against museums and professional dance, for example. Or pro and amateur sports (which we included) fare versus libraries and sculpture.  Unfortunately, internet publications, such as blogs!, didn't receive much support in the survey compared to other cultural activities.

Voters of all three parties support artists but are they willing to pay for them? It's one thing to be in favour of the arts but the litmus test is whether someone is willing to financially support them, either personally or through government.  Our test shows that when it comes to the government funding artists, there is some divergence of opinion. 2 out of 3 NDPers think there is a role for government, whereas only about 1 in 2 Liberals think so and only 1 in 3 Conservatives believe in direct government funding of artists. 

In terms of direct government funding the NDP know what they stand for and so do the Conservatives but the Liberals, the party that held power when government policies and programs developed so many great Canadian musicians, writers, actors and other artists, are today ambivalent and divided, which may be a factor in the decline of the party during the last decade.  The soft Liberal support for arts funding may partially explain why Michael Ignatieff, a man of letters, was unsuccessful at leading the party. He was leading blind and deaf followers.

Of course, the Conservatives and Liberals have held power but the NDP haven't drunk from the chalice yet, so we won't know how the NDP will actually support Canadian artists until they do form a government. These data on arts funding demonstrate that there is an ideological chasm separating the Liberals and the NDP, which would run counter to any merger of the two.  NDP strategists might be better off targeting the 1 in 2 Liberals that think like the NDP and who strongly support arts and culture.  Not that the arts are the only issue voters consider, there are such things as health care, education and pensions, but support of the arts is an indicator of a party's and a society's values.
It was either this or a photo of the PM at playing at the NAC

The 2011 survey results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total in this period. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Why Do People Listen to the Radio? (Part 1)

Radio is a portable, use-anywhere medium. Attempts have been made to turn radio into a wired, fixed-place medium, e.g., Muzac, cable audio and, more recently, internet radio. However, an essential feature of radio, particularly since the invention of the transistor radio in the 1960's, is that radio can be listened to virtually anywhere, even in moving vehicles.  Within most households there are multiple radios, so that listeners can access their favourite radio programming throughout the home. It has been estimated that there are upwards of 100 million radios in Canada, in cars, trucks and homes.  Computer chips are starting to turn smartphones into an anywhere communication device for streaming live music and information but it is still in its infancy and data use is expensive, unlike radio, a broadcasting medium that is free.  

Radio was so popular that even during the Great Depression in the 1930's radio sets were sold in great numbers. It achieved the status of a universal household appliance during the Second World War. The public adoption 'curve' of radio was more pronounced than the telephone's in these early years, with the latter not becoming universal until late into the 1960's. Of the three older, universal communications appliances, radio, TV and the telephone, television experienced the fastest growth rate. TV, of course, was introduced in the post­war economic boom years. The newer communication devices, the home computer, the internet and the cell phone, have also experienced significant acceptance but have never been universal, although all three are close to being in every home.

Music is an essential feature of radio. The universal appeal of music, which can be listened to while performing other tasks, is our companion at work, play and almost all activities. Music envelops our lives, whether it is on the radio, TV, CDs, iPods, in the movies, the concert hall, church or on a street corner. No one has ever quantified it but we spend a very large proportion of our waking lives with music either in the foreground or background. Music is one of our psychic stables, perhaps as necessary as language.  

There are some in the radio business, including but not only CBC, who think that the internet can compete with radio, a stream can be an ocean.  Their focus is on streaming music, which Apple and dozens of other vendors started doing in the late 1990's.  However, there is strong evidence that internet music streaming will face some insurmountable hurdles. For the past decade CMRI's Media Trends Survey, the only survey in Canada that has tracked attitudes and usage of TV, radio and the internet continuously in this period, has asked Canadians to report how they use the electronic media.  99% of people use TV and radio at least once per month but not everyone uses the internet. The chart below shows the trend in the percentage of Canadians using the internet and downloading/streaming of music (and video) on the net at least once a month.

Even by the mid-2000's the internet had a very substantial monthly 'reach', the proportion who used the internet for an hour at least once per month. However, internet use on a monthly basis has stabilized at about 80%, having grown from just under 70% in 2004-05.  Downloading/streaming was practiced by less than 1 in 5 people in 2004 and grew to about 40% by 2009 but has stabilized at that level in the past two years.  Barring some unforeseen new technology and a reduction in data costs, it would seem that downloading/streaming may have peaked at about 40% of the population.  Demographics, i.e., the aging of the population, will work against further growth. 

The introduction of Netflix and Apple TV has had an impact on tonnage, the frequency that people download/stream, but these new services do not seem to have affected reach, the proportion of people who are downloading/streaming for an hour at least once a month.  By the way, audience reach, using a minimum time period such as one-hour, cuts through the dazzling (and often misleading) statistics that techies toss around such as page views and unique visitors (sometimes based on as little as a few seconds of use in a month).  Reach rigorously defined tells us the real potential and impact of any service.

In part 2 of this post we will examine some of the deeper reasons why people listen to radio and examine in more depth who is downloading/streaming music on the internet.  Who are heavier downloaders/streamers?  Who are least interested?

The 2011 results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total in this period. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Do Conservatives Think CBC is Important?

For the past decade CMRI's Media Trends Survey, the only survey in Canada that has tracked attitudes toward TV and other media continuously in this period, has asked Canadians to rate the importance of CBC TV and radio to Canadian culture.  Other cultural organizations are rated each year as well, including Telefilm, NFB, the NAC and the National Gallery.  Generally speaking, most Canadians don't speak ill of our cultural icons.  In 2011 CBC TV and radio had one of their most positive ratings in the ten years of the Media Trends Survey.  But what level of support does CBC receive from supporters of the three main political parties?

It turns out that CBC TV and radio are not hated after all by the majority of Conservatives, which runs counter to what one might think after reading some conservative blogs or listening to talk radio stations.  A  long time ago I learned from research that those who write to newspapers or blogs or call talk radio stations are not actually representative of the average reader or listener.  Likewise, the often engaging hosts of talk radio or Sun TV News are not representative of all Conservatives.  James Moore, Minister of Heritage and rumoured to be a fan of CBC, is probably reflecting the views of most Conservatives (and other voters) when he supports CBC.  

Some 4 in 5 Conservative supporters think CBC TV is important to Canadian culture and about 2 in 3 support CBC radio.  The Conservatives ratings are not be as high as those given by NDPers and Liberals but nonetheless a majority support CBC.  However, there is a core group of Conservatives who don't think CBC TV or CBC radio are important.

About 1 in 5 people who voted Conservative in the last election don't think CBC TV is important compared to less than 1 in 20 who voted Liberal and an infinitesimal number of those who voted NDP. 
Of more concern to CBC is that the core group of Conservative supporters who give a thumbs down to CBC radio is larger, more like 1 in 3 Conservatives.  Relatively, support for CBC radio is much higher among Liberals and NDPers. Noteworthy too is that almost half of NDP voters indicated that both CBC TV and radio were 'very important', larger than the proportions in Liberal or Conservative ranks. 
The Media Trends Survey probes deeply into the demographics, lifestyles and interests of respondents and a future post, if time and space permit, may examine the core group of Conservatives who don't support CBC. Clearly it is important for those interested in the public broadcaster to understand this phenomenon.

Comparisons are the very essence of all research; one needs a control group to test the effectiveness of a new drug so to speak, so comparing the ratings of other cultural organizations can be valuable. For example, support for CBC is very strong when compared to Telefilm. More than 1 in 4 NDPers and Liberals don't think Telefilm is important to our culture and this increases to over 1 in 2 Conservatives.  Telefilm, of course, doesn't have the same visibility as CBC and respondents may not fully understand its mandate but these results tell us something about both CBC and Telefilm.    
The 2011 results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians during this period.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Has Interest in HDTV Peaked?

The Media Trends Survey has explored interest in HDTV and other new technologies over the past ten years.  In particular, respondents have been asked about their likelihood of purchasing an HDTV set in the coming year.  As shown in the graph, interest in HDTV sets at the price point we tested, $1000, was modest 7-8 years ago but interest levels changed somewhat around 2005 for the first time and these changes accelerated in the years 2006 to 2010.  The percentage of people who said they were not at all likely to buy an HD set shrank from over 60% a decade ago to just over 30% today.  Even more remarkable was that in 2011 some 35% of respondents indicated they already had an HDTV compared to less than 1% ten years ago. HDTV was a rarity ten years ago and has become almost common today but it would appear that interest in HD has now peaked.   The percentage of people who said they already owned an HDTV stalled at 35% in 2011, the first year of no growth. Only when older sets die, and they tend to last for years, will the rest of the population switch to HD sets.

I purchased my first HDTV set in 2002, a 205-lb 34" Sony tube set and the cost was almost $5,000.  We never moved it.  Three years ago I traded it in for a flat screen 46" first generation LED Samsung that was on sale for $2,500, marked down from $4,000.  Today the same Samsung set, with more bells and whistles, sells for $1,000 or less.  Anyone who complains about the cost of living always going up doesn't go into Future Shop or Best Buy often and probably doesn't own shares in Sony.

Who is more likely to own an HDTV today? People who subscribe to digital cable (41.7%) and those who are very interested in Hollywood movies (46.8%) are above average when it comes to HD ownership.  And, over 50% of people who own an iPod, have Apple TV, an iPad or subscribe to Netflix report they already have an HD set.

The 2011 results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total in this period.

Just Who is Tweeting? Hint: Apple TV

(This replaces a deleted post.  How many documents are deleted by errant fingers on iPad screens?)

In an earlier post we noted that among the supporters of the main political parties Conservatives were far less likely to use Twitter than NDPers or Liberals. Just who then is tweeting in the general population?

The chart shows that some 7.3% of Anglophone Canadians use Twitter.  However, results vary dramatically among subgroups in the population.  Older adults are far less likely to tweet (2.7%) than younger adults (14.1%).  Men and women are about equal users of Twitter but Facebook users are twice as likely to tweet as Netflix subscribers, the latter perhaps being more passive media users.  CBC TV and Radio supporters, i.e., people who think CBC is very important to Canadian culture, are similar to the general population. Heavy tweeters are owners of smartphones (17.5%), iPod owners (18.2%) and iPad owners (28.4%).  The heaviest users of Twitter are owners of Apple TV (37.2%), although only a small number of Canadians (~1%) have Apple TV. 

Satisfied Viewers of Apple TV Podcast

The second generation of Apple TV was launched in September 2010.  It is about the size of a package of cigarettes and provides on demand access to the latest Hollywood movies and TV programs and offers a vast library of movies and TV shows.  One can also access NHL Center Ice, NBA Basketball, Major League Baseball and other events.  Apple TV also allows one to wirelessly “throw” music or video from an iPhone, iPod or iPad to your TV and surround sound system. The small device is as easy to hook up to your TV as opening a pack of smokes and has one hidden advantage over cable and DTH pay-per-view and on demand services: there is no HST on any content you order.  James Moore, take note: these taxes could fund the CBC twice over.

Results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Will CBC Ever Restore Radio 2?

CBC's stubbornness not to restore classical music on CBC Radio 2 is a product of its management culture. Once a programming decision has been made by management, it seems nothing short of an order from Parliament or sacking the CBC president will change it. This was the case twenty years ago when CBC TV moved its national news to 9pm and the audience disappeared in droves. Only when the president of that era departed would the news finally be moved back to 10pm. Ten years later another president cancelled all local TV news programs and would only restore them when both the CRTC and Parliament applied pressure and he was on his way out. Today, CBC management, typically, has dug in its heels about two things, access to information about its financial dealings and classical music on CBC Radio 2.
The internal culture at CBC is responsible for this unyielding stubbornness, now a hallmark of the Corporation, as much as its classic logo, which evokes a circling of the wagons. Each new CBC president when appointed by the PM is a 'temp' and takes the better part of their five year term to grasp the scope and complexity of the Corporation. Most new presidents fail to understand that the managers around them are determined to survive until the end of the president’s term. CBC managers know that survival is enhanced by being united, appearing to work together and not contradicting each other with a new president. Any that do are ostracized and usually leave the Corporation. Once managers have convinced the president to make a major decision about programming, nothing from inside the Corporation will ever, ever change it. It becomes doctrine and that appears to be the case about classical music on CBC Radio 2.
Thankfully, Parliament has forced the Corporation to revisit its obstinate decision about releasing harmless information about its staff salaries and the number of vehicles that it owns or leases. One can only hope that this situation has now been resolved and the CBC will accept that a little more transparency will help, not hinder it.
The prospects for restoring classical music on Radio 2 don’t look as good. I have heard Hubert Lacroix, who is in the final year of his 5-year term, several times defend the decision to change from a classical music and cultural service to a grab bag of different types of music. He has apparently not recognized that maybe his best hope to be renewed as president is to show that he truly understands the culture of CBC and reverse this decision, which had roots even before his term.
As I recall, Hubert, as he likes to be called by staff, provides the following arguments/doctrine:
· Radio 2’s audience was old and dying off and the service would eventually have no audience at all (RIP)
· Researchers told us that we should attract younger listeners
· Classical music lovers only need to tune into our fabulous internet music service where they can get classical music 24/7
· Radio 2’s classical music lovers should be willing to share the Radio 2 network with people who like other types of music
· Radio 2 now plays mostly Canadian music that you can’t hear anywhere else
· I like the music we have on Radio 2
· My mother likes it too
Let’s consider some basic facts about the ageing population and CBC Radio’s audience to see how well these arguments hold up:
· Radio 2’s audience may have been older but, as everyone who has read the news about OAS knows, older segments of the population are growing at a frantic rate and many of them are a natural audience for what Radio 2 used to offer. For every one that dies, two or more will replace them in the next thirty years. Stats Canada concludes: “The ageing of the population is projected to accelerate rapidly, as the entire baby boom generation turns 65 during this period. The number of senior citizens could more than double, outnumbering children for the first time.” Hubert, ask your researchers to check out this link for more information: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100526/dq100526b-eng.htm
· The last time Statistics Canada asked about the number of radios in Canadian households and cars, it was estimated that there were upwards of 100 million radios in Canada. Radios, either in households or cars, are the overwhelming manner in which people listen to the radio. To suggest that all one needs to do is stream music from cbc.ca is to ignore this basic fact about how people listen to the radio. Radio is radio. The internet is not, despite recent advances in technology that those with extra income can afford to access.
· CBC listeners and other listeners share the entire radio spectrum, not just the Radio 2 network. On average, people only listen to three or four stations but we have dozens of radio stations to choose from in major centers and we can be our own programmers thank you and choose the music we want from all of these stations. We don’t need CBC to program the music for us. Most stations play one type of music, which is called their ‘format’, and that allows listeners to know what to expect from each station. However, CBC has always thought that anything offered by private broadcasters is unworthy. CBC managers are adept at convincing each new president that CBC is everything to everyone.
· For amusement I occasionally tune into the grab bag of music on Radio 2 and I have yet to hear a music selection I couldn’t hear on another station. Much is non-Canadian. Incidentally, I am not a fan of classical music. CBC managers should know that younger people don’t listen much to radio compared to older people, and they certainly don’t listen to CBC radio. Young adults aged 18-34 listen to only about 7.5 hours of radio per week and very little of that is CBC radio, as the first chart shows. Middle-aged and older adults spend as much as double the time listening to radio and CBC radio (1 and 2) accounts for a large share of their total radio listening. In total CBC accounts for about a 20% audience share, impressive given the number of stations to choose from. Radio 2 only accounts for a small sliver of that 20%, however, and is almost immeasurable in younger listeners. Update: the CBC's audience share expressed another way means that English Canadians spend approximately 3,380,000,000 hours listing to CBC radio on an annual basis, which dwarfs the time Canadians spend on all CBC internet services combined.
· CBC should take solace from the fact that supporters of all the main political parties spend a considerable amount of time with CBC radio, as shown in the second chart. Conservatives are heavier radio listeners generally and, like NDPers and Liberals, listen to CBC for a substantial number of hours per week. These results are from CMRI’s tenth annual Media Trends Survey, which has surveyed a representative national sample of some 15,000 Canadians over the past decade.
· Finally, Hubert, the next time your researchers conduct research, insist that you and your mother not be in their sample of respondents. That might assist in deconstructing CBC's management culture and lead you to restore Radio 2 to the strategically well-positioned service and cultural force that it was.

Note: persons who do not listen to radio at all are excluded from these per capita data