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Research in Canada and Australia indicates continuing growth in Internet usage in both countries.

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Canada/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

Television viewing: By far the largest audiences for cultural content are television viewers. In Canada, there are two (2) ways to measure viewing data: BBM Fall Surveys using diaries and the recently merged Nielsen Media Research / BBM national metered data, which is the most recent and accurate. Television viewing results provided in this document are based on BBM national metered data. Per capita average weekly television viewing decreased slightly from 25.1 hours in 2005 to 24.3 hours in 2006 indicating relatively little displacement of television viewing by computer-related activities such as games and the internet. In 2006, women aged 18 and over again watched the most television among the different groups, 26.5 hours per week on average, while adult men (18+) watched only 25.4 hours per week.  Children 2 to 11 years were the least avid viewers with an average viewing of 17.3 hours, down from 19.2 hours in 2005. (BBM Canada TV Meter Databank 2006)

News and current affairs: Statistics Canada's General Social Survey on Social Engagement in 2003 (2004) reports that in 2003, 89% of Canadians followed news and current affairs daily or several times a week, with a special emphasis on seniors, of which 95% followed the news daily or weekly. Men, people who are married, workers employed as professionals or managers, and those with higher incomes were more frequent users. Slightly more French-language users at home followed the news and current affairs than did English-language users at home; Quebec users ranked highest in Canada. Among frequent users or consumers 19 and over, 91% included television, 70% read newspapers, 53% listened to the radio, 30% used the Internet, and 23% read magazines for their news and current affairs information. In terms of demography, Internet use for this purpose was highest among Canadians ages 19 and over (42%) and lowest among seniors, and (only 9%), and among men (36%) more often than women (20%). Interestingly, 36% of immigrants not born in Canada used the Internet for news and current affairs compared to 28% for Canadians born in Canada. Frequent users were more likely to engage in non-voting political activities including attending public meetings, searching for political information, volunteering for a political party, contacting a politician or newspaper, signing a petition, or participating in a march or demonstration. Thus, it can be postulated that following the news and current affairs is positively related to being a more politically engaged citizen.

Radio listening: Canadians devoted less time listening to the radio in 2006 than in previous years. On average, Canadians tuned in to the radio for 18.6 hours per week, down from 19.1 hours a week in 2005. Since 1999, when radio listening peaked, the average has dropped by almost two hours. In 2006, the decrease was most notable in teenagers aged 12 to 17, the lowest of all age groups surveyed, who listened 7.6 hours per week and adults aged from 18 to 24 and 55 to 64 whose weekly listening levels decreased by approximately one hour.  Females 65+ continued to be the most avid radio listeners at 22.7 hours per week, virtually unchanged from 2005. AM radio continues to decline in total average hours tuned, while FM recuperates these hours. In 2006, approximately 73% of the tuning to Canadian radio stations was through the FM band. (Statistics Canada and CRTC 2007)

Cultural attendance: According to Statistics Canada and other cultural surveys, attendance figures generally show a small increase over time in most of Canada. However, owing to non-standard definitions of many survey questions concerning attendance or visiting, there is often difficulty experienced by cultural participation researchers in arriving at verifiably comparative figures and trend lines:

  • Feature film theatres: Movie attendance rebounded slightly in 2005 as more Canadians went to both movie theatres and drive-ins, and the industry enjoyed growth in total revenues, profits and profit margin. Although film data collected by Statistics Canada using comparable surveys is limited by major changes in the wording of questionnaires, backcasting was deployed in order to make the comparisons below. Movie theatres and drive-ins combined sold120.3million tickets, up 0.5% from the previous year, according to new data from the Motion Picture Theatres Survey. The recovery helped take the sting out of a4.6% decline in attendance in2003 / 2004. But attendance in 2004 / 2005 was still 4.1% lower than it was in 2002 / 2003, which was the highest since 1960. Moreover, foreign films continue to dominate box office receipts as noted in  chapter 4.2.6;
  • Not-for-profit performing arts: 14.2 million people in Canada and abroad attended nearly 44000 performances in 2004. Theatre accounted for 7.8 million in attendance and 30000 performances. Music organisations reached 3.2 million people at nearly 5000 performances. Dance organisations accounted for 1.6 million in attendance and 3400 performances. Opera, musical theatre and dinner theatre organisations reached 1.1 million people at 3400 performances. Other performing arts companies accounted for 460000 in attendance at 2000 performances. (Statistics Canada, 2006) The Department of Canadian Heritage also commissioned Phoenix SPI to conduct a 1 200 telephone sample survey of arts and heritage access and availability in Canada in 2007. The Report found that most surveyed Canadians (86%) attended at least one type of arts or cultural event or activity in the past year, with the most popular events being live performances (69%), craft shows (58%) and festivals (53%). Not surprisingly, these same events were also the most frequently attended arts events. Half (51%) attended a live performance at least two to three times in the year preceding the survey. This was followed, at a distance, by craft shows (34%) and arts and cultural festivals (30%). Even events typically associated with niche markets - visual art exhibits, media arts presentations, opportunities to interact with artists, and literary/poetry readings - attracted 9-23% of Canadians more than once a year, and another 5-21% once only. Overall, the 2007 results are similar to the findings of past years. Respondents were slightly more likely to have attended an event based on non-European cultures and traditions and less apt to say they are more interested in seeing arts or performances from their own cultural background as opposed to others. Otherwise, arts attendance has remained fairly steady over time from 2000 to 2007. In addition, over time, the importance Canadians attribute to the arts as part of their quality of life is virtually unchanged from previous years;
  • Heritage institutions: The Statistics Canada Heritage Survey includes some 50 for-profit and over 600 not-for-profit heritage institutions. In 2004, 35 million visitors passed through the turnstiles of heritage institutions, up from 31.6 million in 2002. Museums (especially not-for-profit museums), exhibition centres, planetariums and observatories accounted for 45% of total attendance. The average admission fee for adults to all heritage institutions surveyed rose from CAD 3.60 in 1999 to CAD 4.62 in 2004. (Statistics Canada 2006) In addition, a survey conducted of 2400 Canadians in 2003 by the Canadian Museums Association reported that 48% of Canadians visited a museum in their community at least once during the year prior to the survey. Most saw these visits as both an educational and entertaining experience for children, youth and adults alike. (Canadian Museums Association 2003). According to the 2007 Phoenix PSI report, attendance at all types of heritage institutions is down from 2000 levels, although, compared to 2000, it is encouraging that respondents were more likely to have visited these institutions both locally and while on vacation.

Time use for cultural activities: Data in Table 9 below represents the % of the Canadian population 15 and older who participate at least once a year in a given activity. Other breakdowns in regard to the frequency of participation (number of occasions daily, weekly, monthly and annually) are available for 2005 but are not included here. In addition to the categories indicated in Table 9, a report on the number and percentage of the residents of each province participating in cultural activities in 2005 was released in 2007. According to Hill Strategies, some key findings include:

  • most cultural and heritage activities attracted about the same percentage of the population in 2005 as in 1992. Provinces in this situation include Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • almost all cultural and heritage activities saw an increase in the absolute number of provincial residents attending, visiting, reading, watching or listening;
  • reading, music and movies are among the most popular cultural and heritage activities in all provinces;
  • British Columbia and Ontario are the only provinces where a heritage activity such as visiting a conservation area or nature park attracted at least half of the population in 2005;
  • contrary to the national trend, many cultural and heritage activities attracted a smaller percentage of British Columbians in 2005 than in 1992;
  • in Ontario, many cultural and heritage activities attracted a larger percentage of residents in 2005 than in 1992 (including cultural / heritage performances such as Aboriginal dance, Chinese opera, or Ukrainian dance), museums, public art galleries, historic sites, book reading, movies and videos;
  • in Quebec, as in Ontario, many cultural and heritage activities attracted a larger percentage of residents in 2005 than in 1992 (including cultural / heritage performances such as Aboriginal dance, Chinese opera, or Ukrainian dance), museums, public art galleries, historic sites, conservation areas or nature parks, movies, videos and music on CD or other pre-recorded formats; and
  • movie-going is particularly popular in Quebec which is the only province where more people go to movies than read books. In addition, Quebec is the only province where movie-going is within 10 percentage points of video-watching.

Table 9:     Canadian cultural time use activities, 1992, 1998 and 2005 (% of Canadians 15 and older participating at least once a year)






Read a newspaper (not for paid work or academic studies)




Read a magazine (not for paid work or academic studies)




Read a book (not for paid work or academic studies)





Listen to recorded music on CD or other format




Listen to downloaded music on a computer, MP3 player





View a movie, bought or rented, VHS or DVD format)




Go to the movies at a drive-in or theatre




Performing Arts

Attend live professional music, dance, theatre or opera performance (excl. festivals)




Attend theatrical or stage performance in drama, musical theatre, dinner theatre or comedy




Attend symphonic or classical music performance




Attend popular music performance in pop / rock, jazz, blues, folk and country and western genres





Visit public art gallery or art museum incl. special art exhibit




Visit a museum




Visit a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, planetarium or observatory




Visit historic site




Visits to conservation area or nature park




Sources:    Statistics Canada: General Social Surveys. 1992, 1998 and 2005; Hill Strategies, Profile of the Grand Heritage Activities of Canadians in 2005. (2007)

Daily cultural activity time use: participants spent an average of 135 minutes daily watching television and only 13.5 minutes reading books, 9.8 minutes reading newspapers, 3.2 minutes surfing the Internet, 2.3 minutes going to a movie, and 2.2 minutes reading magazines in 2005. (Statistics Canada, 2006)

Other cultural participation surveys: In particular, surveys, such as reading books, some of the above figures may mask results from more recent surveys. For example, according to one survey, the reading of books by Canadians has remained rather stable in recent years. Over half of Canadians surveyed in 2005 reported reading every day (Créatec 2005). According to a survey of almost 2 000 Canadians aged 16 and over, 87% read a book for pleasure in 2004. Over half of Canadians read books for pleasure every day or almost every day. On average, Canadians indicated they read 17 books for pleasure and about two-thirds of respondents read at least one book by a Canadian author. 10% read at least one electronic book and the same percentage listened to an audio book. 40% of Canadians borrowed a book for leisure reading from a library in 2004 with an average of five visits each to a public library. Finally, while the impact of the Internet on reading is still unclear, a recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts cites declines in reading and book expenditures in the United States and explains what this means for literacy and why more than reading is at risk. Further research on the actual impact of the Internet (among other things) is appropriate not only for reading but also for other forms of cultural participation, new and old (see below).

Internet access and use: 78% of Canadians had access to the Internet in 2005, 65% at home, 45% at work, 29% at Library or other locations without access fees and 16% at school  although the pace of growth in Internet use has levelled off somewhat since the late 1990s, similar to that of cable before it. Sixty per cent of Canadians s reported using the Internet, at least once a week, and this rate of use remained constant at 60% from December 2004 to December 2005, up from 26% in March 1998. In December 2005, the average Canadian with Internet access connected for an average of 16 hours of Internet use per week. On average, men spent 142 minutes more on the Internet use per week than women. Among Canadians between 18 and 34 with access to the Internet use, 92% use it at least weekly. According to a recent global compilation, Canada was the top country in average monthly hours online over the Internet per unique visitor in January 2007 among both broadband and narrow band users 15+:  41.3 hours for broadband users and 14.2 hours for narrowband users (COM Score 2007). In 2005, 74% of Canadians had high-speed access to the Internet at home although only 26% had dial-up access (Statistics Canada 2006).

More recent research by Fletcher, Zamaria, Ewing and Thomas (2008), of comparative data drawn from the Canadian Internet Project of Statistics Canada (see and an Australian Survey commissioned in 2007 by the Institute for Social Research, respectively on Canadian and Australian diffusion and usage of the Internet, indicate continuing growth amongst consumers / users in both countries. Researchers in both countries also take part in the Worldwide Internet Project (WIP) - an international research consortium at the Annenberg School for Communication at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California under the direction of Jeffery Cole -  which asks Internet and mobile device users in 25 countries about their online activities and experiences, how their use patterns have reshaped their ways of seeing their media environment, and how this has affected their traditional media diet. Canadian results indicate that the relative importance of entertainment has grown from 31.3% in 2004 to 52.4% in 2007 although it is still shows that information at 66.1% remains the principal rationale for usage of the Internet. In Australia, slightly behind Canada in terms of Internet availability and usage, entertainment accounts for 31.5% while information accounts for 68.4%. In regard to the impact of Internet usage on traditional media time-use in 2007, between 20 and 25% of Internet users in Canada and Australia reported spending less time on newspapers, magazines and books as a result of being online. In Australia, 40.4% reported watching less TV in 2007 while 24.1% reported watching less TV in Canada as a result of using the Internet in the same year. Young viewers / users (18 to 29 in age) of the Internet value the opportunity to share their own creative content online significantly more than all other age groups in respect to reading or contributing to blogs, visiting and posting to social networking sites, posting photos and videos and sending original creations.

Cultural consumption: Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending contains data on the purchase of cultural goods and services among many other categories. The data drawn from this annual survey, a paper-based questionnaire on Canadians' spending habits, represent a broad survey of overall spending habits. The Survey does not provide all of the details that might be desired regarding cultural spending items. For example, the live performing arts category is not broken down according to sub-types of for-profit and non-profit arts activities, including pop concerts, opera, dance, classical music, etc. Similarly, spending on books is not broken down into Canadian-authored books, Canadian-published books or fiction and non-fiction categories. The report examines cultural spending, not overall attendance at cultural activities. Free cultural activities, by definition, are excluded from this Survey. Table 10 contains comparative figures in 1997 and 2003 that show that Canadian household spending on culture grew by 45%.

Table 10:   Household spending on cultural activities in Canada, in million CAD, 1996-2003










% change (1996-2003)












3 260

3 650

4 037

4 456

4 896

5 426

5 817

6 542


Performing arts







1 161

1 170


Written media

3 874

4 378

4 510

4 737

4 869

4 949

5 093

5 315













1 191

1 338

1 341

1 459

1 482

1 486

1 584

1 466



3 711

3 754

3 997

4 229

4 203

4 649

4 411

4 484


Visual arts











14 054

15 082

16 120

16 955

17 762

18 854

19 527

20 430


Source:      Statistics Canada. Survey of Household Spending.

Data on cultural spending by consumers (households) in 2005 indicate: Internet spending jumped by 15% to an average of CAD 240; DVD players, which have become the most rapidly adopted new technology since television in the 1950s, were reported by 80% of all households surveys, up from 20% in 2001; Canadians spent an average of CAD 104 per household for attending the movies; net spending on games of chance (e.g. lotteries) increased 5% to CAD 280 per household; live performing arts spending accounted for CAD 100 per household; purchases of audio and visual equipment, including pre-recorded and blank media such as CDs, DVDs and tapes, rose 6% to an average of CAD 470 per household while home entertainment services, including rentals of pre-recorded media, remained flat, declining 1% to CAD 110; and satellite subscriptions rose 17% to CAD 138 per household. (Statistics Canada: Spending Patterns in Canada 2005). Table 11 shows consumer spending on cultural equipment from 2001 to 2005, inclusive.

Table 11:   Consumer spending on cultural equipment in Canada, % of households, 2001-2005







CD player












Satellite dish






DVD player






CD writer






DVD writer












Colour TV sets






Source:      Statistics Canada: Spending Patterns in Canada in 2005. (2006)

Immigrant cultural participation: A number of public opinion surveys and reports have determined trend lines in regard to the role of immigrants over several generations in cultural and civic participation. While there is not yet enough evidence to demonstrate the degree to which content diversity and access in both official and non-official languages shape the frequency and time use of participation patterns in both the cultural and civic realms, recent reports indicate a complex impact on participation and identity occasioned by enhanced demographic and ethno-cultural diversity of audiences and citizens. Jedwab (2003) notes that while historically, analysts have focused on generational differences, gender and region as principal factors shaping cultural consumption, ethno-cultural origin is now an equally important factor.

Environics (2001) found that immigrants are somewhat more interested in attending cultural events based on their own cultural background than non-immigrants and would like more exhibits or performances that connect with their cultural or ethnic background. Nine out of ten immigrants expressed an interest in seeing artwork and attending live performances based on different cultures, compared to 81% for respondents born in Canada. Solutions Research Group (2006) surveyed 3 000 members of the six largest ethno-cultural population groups in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Canada's three largest cities. With few exceptions, all groups were attracted to performances featuring their respective cultural traditions at some expense of mainstream events. Moreover, interest in other cultures is strong across the majority of the six population groups surveyed. Use by recent immigrants of other sources of cultural content such as digitally equipped libraries may be another important indicator of public engagement and life-long learning in culture and citizenship although work needs to be undertaken to prove this hypothesis. The importance of linking cultural participation to intercultural dialogue is explored in a preliminary fashion in the author's draft paper, "Intercultural Dialogue and Cultural Participation: the Canadian Experience" submitted to the Council of Europe (September 2008). 

Chapter published: 16-07-2018

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