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Canadians oppose foreign control of media/telco firms
1/29/2003

Ottawa, - Canadians' opposition to foreign control of domestic media and telecommunications companies has increased slightly over the past 18 months, according to a recent survey commissioned by Decima
Publishing Inc. and conducted by affiliate company Decima Research Inc.

The latest research indicates that there has been a hardening of attitudes among those opposed. The findings were published this month in Decima Publishing's leading communications industry newsletters.

The results take on a greater significance as the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is scheduled to begin hearings this week as part of its review of foreign investment limits in the telecommunications sector. Industry Minister Allan Rock announced the review last November. As well, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will wrap up in the coming weeks its year-long review of the Canadian broadcasting system, which has included the issue of foreign ownership.

The December 2002 Decima Express telephone survey of more than 2,000 Canadians repeated questions from a Decima Express survey completed in June 2001. The latest survey revealed that 72% of Canadians are now opposed to a change that would allow Canadian media and telecommunications companies to be majority owned by foreign companies, compared to 68% in June 2001.

However, the proportion that is strongly opposed increased from 40% in 2001 to 45% in 2002. According to the latest research, 21% of Canadians favoured foreign control of media and telecom companies (down from 26% in 2001), with only 7% strongly favouring the notion.

When asked about specific types of communications companies, the survey showed:

* 60% of Canadians expressed the view that foreign ownership of telephone companies is unacceptable, up marginally from 59% in 2001;
* 56% of Canadians found foreign majority ownership of cable companies unacceptable, compared to 57% in 2001;
* Opposition to foreign majority ownership of private TV broadcasters increased over the past 18 months with 54% saying the notion was unacceptable in 2002, compared to 50% in 2001;
* Opposition to outside control of private radio broadcasters registered a larger increase. According to the latest research, 58%
considered foreign control of private radio broadcasters unacceptable, compared to 50% in 2001; and
* Canadians continue to be more opposed to foreign control of newspapers than of any other media sector. In 2002, 66% found the idea of foreign majority ownership of newspapers unacceptable, compared to 65% in 2001.

"Overall, these results reveal that the general public is increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of foreign control over the country's communications industry," said Keith Neuman, Senior Vice President of Decima Research. "This presents the federal government with a significant challenge if it chooses to help Canadian telecom and cable companies attract greater foreign investment to pay for the expansion of the country's communications infrastructure," Neuman added.

"The issue of possibly relaxing foreign ownership limits in the communications industry is not black and white. In addition to strong public opposition, there is division among industry players as to whether foreign
ownership limits should be changed," said Mario Mota, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Decima Publishing. "The federal government faces a delicate balancing act as it tries to assuage both the concerns of Canadians over increased foreign ownership and of some powerful industry voices lobbying for less restrictive laws."

A survey of this size can be expected to provide results accurate to within +/- 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.

To purchase an executive summary of the latest research results or the full research data, please contact Ryan O'Neill at (613) 230-1984 or roneill@decima.ca.

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