Culture and Communications

TELEVISION VIEWING US programs account for about 70% of all viewing of English TV in Canada, according to two different sources. Unreleased data from CBC Research for the 1994-95 season finds foreign programs account for 70% of viewing time (66% is US programs alone). During prime time, viewing of foreign programs rises to 76%. Statistics Canada estimates 72% viewing for foreign programs in 1995.

It is in the drama and situation comedy categories that foreign programs account for nearly all of English Canadians' viewing. CBC Research found that when we watch drama, 85 percent of the time it is American (90% foreign). For sitcoms it is 97%! (99.6% foreign).

Statistics Canada finds that when we watch drama and comedy, 95% of the time it is foreign (99% for comedy and 92% for drama.) Despite the efforts of the Canadian government, the CRTC and others, the pattern over time has changed little. (Statistics Canada’s data covers the years 1985-1995, while the data from CBC Research covers selected years from 1967-1995.) Check back later in a the week for a data table.

Among the various age groups, teens spend the largest share of their viewing time watching foreign programs, 76% compared to 70% for all ages).

Viewing share of foreign programs on English TV, 1994-5
age share
2-5 70%
6-11 74%
12-17 76%
18-34 73%
35-49 72%
50+ 63%
Source: CBC Research

Is this preference for American programs a result of viewer preference or is it perhaps more a reflection of the lack of availability of Canadian drama and sitcoms? The data is difficult to interpret but it is probably the latter. "When Canadian programming is available people will watch it. But it has to be available," former CBC President Tony Manera told Ian Austen for an article in the May 1996 Canadian Forum. Citing a CBC study, Austen says that, "the audience levels for Canadian content roughly match the amount available. In 1993, 25% of programming on all English stations between 7 and 11 PM was Canadian. It captured 24% of the audience."

MAGAZINES For Canadian culture, the trend for magazines and books has been improving.

The Canadian magazine industry has been increasing their market share overall. The issue of concern here is newsstands, which are dominated by the American industry.

18.5% of the English-language magazines sold on newsstands in Canada are Canadian.

The newsstand market is controlled by the distributors, a sector dominated by a handful of firms (Metro News in Toronto). The distributor decides what the retailer gets and often determines the prominence that a title gets on the rack. The distributors may be compensated by the big magazine publishers for display prominence.

Overall, though, the Canadian industry does better since subscriptions account for 50% of circulation and free, controlled circulation for a further 35%. (By comparison, subscriptions account for 3-5% of circulation in the UK. In Canada, 72% of business/trade publications are distributed as free, controlled circulation publications.) Thus 68% of the magazines circulating in Canada (all languages) are Canadian, up from 25% in 1961.

Measured by all circulation revenue, Canadian magazines have roughly 25% of the market. However, consider this: the largest Canadian consumer magazine is Reader's Digest, with a circulation of 1,226,400 (June 1996). In Canada, Reader's Digest is counted as a Canadian magazine.

The top 4 Canadian publishers account for 34% of Canadian magazine revenue and 32% of circulation.

Canada receives the bulk of US magazine exports: 78% of US magazine exports went to Canada in 1992-3.

["A Question of Balance," the 1994 report of the government-appointed Task Force on the Canadian Magazine Industry, is a good source for data and background information.]

BOOKS Canadian books account for about one-quarter to one-third of the books sold in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, 27.8% of the trade books sold in Canada in 1992-3 were Canadian-authored.

The domestic market book is about $1.8 billion. $1 billion of this is imports, including $600 million in publishers' imports, according to Industry Canada estimates. By these numbers, Canadian books are 1/3 of the market.

Publisher Jack Stoddart says the book trade has been something of a success story for Canadian culture.

Mass market paperback books are an exception. Just 7.1% of the mass-market paperbacks sold in Canada are Canadian-authored, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada (1992-3). In the mid-1970s about 250 Canadian mass-market paperbacks were published per year. Now it is about 25. Stoddart stopped publishing mass-market paperbacks four years ago, McClelland and Stewart two years ago.

What happened is the 'Americanization' of the industry; "We let an American model of business dominate," says Stoddart.

Mass-market paperbacks have huge press runs but on average 60% of the copies are destroyed by retailers. (At the end of their shelf life, the retailer tears off and returns just the cover.) Because of the huge press runs, development costs for American publishers are low, so they want the racks full even if that means a large destruction rate. For Canadian publishers, with just the Canadian market to sell into, the development costs are a much higher proportion, making it impractical to match the terms American publishers offer the wholesale distributors.

"Canadian authors, on average, sell 3.5 times more copies [in Canada] than do foreign authors for Canadian-controlled publishers and 8 times more copies for foreign-controlled firms....Canadian-authored books are increasing slightly faster than the market as a whole." [Rowland Lorimer in Dorland... ]

Canadian owned companies produce nearly 90% of Canadian-authored books. [ibid.]

The success for Canadian books is in part attributable to the fact that the retail sector for books is overwhelmingly Canadian. Should that change, the future is uncertain. For publishers, that's what the Borders Bookstores issue is all about.

Of more concern, perhaps, is this: Canadian authors accounted for just 18% of leisure reading in 1991, according to a study by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. This is less than the share in 1978.

Export sales accounted for 20% of total sales in 1992-3 (this includes sales of rights and services, as well as books). The export share, as of 1992, was growing rapidly. For books written by Canadian authors, 90% of sales still take place within Canada.

Foreign-controlled publishers and exclusive agents accounted for 73% of the textbook sales for all educational levels combined in 1992-3.

MUSIC Recordings with Canadian content accounted for 13% of total industry sales in 1993-4, up from 8% in 1989-90. [StatsCan 87-211]

FILM According to a 1992 survey by Groupe Secor for the Canadian Heritage ministry, American feature films have 96% of the market for theatrical distribution in English Canada and 83% in Quebec. Canadian films have 2% of the market in English Canada and 3% in Quebec. Foreign controlled firms controlled 83% of theatrical distribution in Canada in 1993-4.

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