Attitudes and opinions towards commercial radio in Canada

How do Canadians feel about Radio? This is a great question and clearly one that the CRTC have been thinking about. They recently invested $123,000 to have an extensive research study done by Ipsos Public Affairs.  This research firm did qualitative research talking with 88 participants across 13 focus groups (9 in English, 4 in French) between March 19 – 31, 2020. Then, between November 12 – 26, 2020 they did quantitative research with 1,735 Canadians aged 18 years or older.

It is unfortunate that there was such a time lag between the qualitative research and quantitative research as there is no way to know what impact this may have had on the results. But what we do know is that COVID-19 was just starting in March of last year and by November last year more people were working from home and listening habits and commute patterns had changed.

Here is a summary of the key findings:

The good news is that radio continues to reach more Canadians than any other medium. 7 out of 10 Canadians listen to radio each week and 40% of Canadians listen daily to radio. In vehicle listening is still where most listening happens making up 80% of consumption.

Commercial radio is considered the most important broadcast platform for Canadians to have access to with 64% saying they listen mainly for music while 57% say it is news and information they are seeking. 51% rely in radio for weather, 22% come to radio for talk and 10% saying they like to hear contests and games on the radio.

The focus groups identified the three key reasons why Canadians listen to commercial radio

  • To get the latest information – news, weather, and traffic
  • Radio creates a sense of atmosphere, comfort, and community
  • For the music

The CBC did not fare as well as commercial radio with only 32% saying they listen to the CBC on a regular basis. Currently the federal Government spends over $1.8 billion of taxpayer funds on the CBC each year. The research found that only 39% listen to streaming services, 17% to satellite radio and 22% to podcasts.

For the most part Canadians are happy with what they hear on commercial radio. The fact that commercial radio is free of charge is by far the thing Canadians like most about it (60%), followed by the convenience and simplicity (30%), the connection it gives them to their local community (30%), variety of music genres (27%), and a reliable source of information (26%).

The focus groups confirmed that commercial radio is positively perceived by listeners as an enjoyable and entertaining medium that has a variety of musical genres available and is considered a good source of high-level news and information. When it comes to how commercial radio could be improved, the most popular suggestion was to play fewer commercials followed by a wider variety of music. Music repetition was also mentioned in the focus groups.

In these studies, it seems Canadians exhibited a strong sense of patriotism towards the promotion of Canadian artists and music in general and feel it is essential to ensuring a strong Canadian culture (62% strongly/somewhat agree). Most felt the current levels of popular Canadian music on commercial radio should stay the same.

Most Canadians feel it is important that we continue to promote Canadian artists through content rules (60%) and that more should be done to promote new and emerging Canadian artists on commercial radio (51%). However, many also admitted that they don’t pay a lot of attention to whether the artist is Canadian or not when listening to music (58%).

Most agree that streaming music services should be required to support the Canadian broadcast sector (53% strongly/somewhat agree) but feel that any future regulations should not interfere with consumers’ ability to choose the content they want (68%). The qualitative research also showed that many were supportive of having streaming services contribute financially to the Canadian music industry, as they believed that homegrown artists should be supported.

Awareness of commercial radio station ownership is relatively low. However, some concern exists about concentration of ownership and that it may limit the diversity of opinions and music available or limit Canadians’ access to different sources of information.

The youngest generation (Gen Z, 18-23) is less likely to listen to commercial radio on a regular basis, but also feel it is important to have access to it and express satisfaction with most aspects of the listening experience. They are less likely to feel it is important to have access to local, national, or international news, weather, or traffic on commercial radio and more likely to mention diversity, exposure to new artists, or more Canadian music as aspects of commercial radio that need to be improved.

Boomers (56+) are more likely to support the current French-language content rules, requiring streaming services to contribute financially towards the Canadian broadcasting system and ensuring a minimum amount of Canadian content is included on streaming services weekly playlists. Boomers are least likely to feel as though there is not enough programming offered on commercial radio in their preferred language

Those born in Canada are more likely to listen to commercial radio on a frequent basis, to feel having access to commercial AM/FM radio is important (8-10 on 10 point scale) and to be satisfied with the listening experience. They are more likely to be satisfied with the availability of programming in their preferred language, the availability of local content from where they live, the frequency of information, and the quality of programming

Those born outside Canada are more likely to feel having access to international news on commercial radio is important and that they would like more access to content in their preferred language on commercial radio. They are also less likely to agree that promoting Canadian artists and music is essential to ensuring a strong Canadian culture and to feel that streaming music services should be required to support the Canadian broadcast sector.

This is a great report card for radio in Canada and hopefully the CRTC will be aware of this as it undertakes a review of the radio policy, the first one ion 30 years. You can read the full study here