CBC News Balance study: Canadians believe quality of journalism in decline

CBC has released its most comprehensive analysis of news content, The News Balance Report.

The CBC’s Jennifer McGuire writes:

“So what have we learned? First and foremost, that Canadians are sophisticated and critical consumers of news who are not satisfied getting information from any one source.

“Canadians’ perceptions about journalism are changing. They believe journalism plays a vital role in society and is critical to the health of democracy.

“However, they think there is much less fact and more opinion in contemporary journalism, that over time the quality of journalism has been declining and that most journalism reflects the corporate point of view of owners and shareholders.”

The study covers TV, radio and online news, with a focus on CBC News (but also looking at its major competitors). The content analysis research was done by ERIN research and covers a 25-week period from Oct. 26, 2009 to May 2, 2010, which encompasses 6,000 radio stories, 7,500 TV stories and 2,400 online stories.

A press release reports some key content analysis findings:

“Most news organizations are fairly similar in how they cover events and issues”, but the study found these differences:

• CBC News tends to have more women and visible minorities as anchors and hosts
• CBC News allocates more time to stories about politics and government
• CBC News spends more time on major world issues
• CBC News devotes more time to analysts and experts in its stories

The analysis found that women, while representing 50% of the population, are underrepresented in news coverage, which tends to be dominated by violent male offenders or male politicians.

Ipsos-Reid provided the public opinion research: it surveyed 2,555 Anglophone Canadians over age 18, as well as 206 aboriginal Canadians and 646 visible minorities. 

The press release also included public opinion survey findings:

• “single source” news no longer exists; Canadians use multiple sources and media;
• Canadians aren’t convinced any single news provider can be completely fair and balanced;
• Canadians don’t see “fair” and “balanced” as the same thing; “fair” means accurate, unbiased, truthful, factual, honest and impartial; “balanced” means covering multiple points of view, a range of subjects and opinions and regional representation.

The study consulted five media experts from Canada and abroad:

Sarah Carter: Bureau Chief, CBS News, Johannesburg and visiting professor at the University of British Columbia;

Fred Fletcher: Professor Emeritus, Communication Studies and Political Science, York University and founding president of the Canadian Media Research Consortium;

Hanson Hosein: Director of the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington in Seattle;

Mark Jurowitz: Associate Director of the Pew Research Centre Project for Excellence in Journalism;

Holli Semetko: Vice Provost for International Affairs and Director of the Office of International Affairs at Emory University and 1995-2003 Professor and Chair of Audience and Public Opinion Research, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam.