Canada’s screen industries strive to engage the widest possible audience, but what do we know about that audience? Assumptions about who watches Canadian entertainment are based on research that misses those who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Race-based audience data has been completely absent from most research. The Black Screen Office, therefore, set out to provide credible, empirical data on these invisible audiences with our Being Counted: Canadian Race-Based Audience Survey, so that they can be genuinely considered in the screen product development process. The information we gathered clearly and credibly illustrates who these audiences are and their specific viewing habits and preferences. It paints a vivid picture of how Canada’s screen industries can better capture the attention of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour audiences and what is left off the table by ignoring them.
This process illuminated the inadequacy of traditional data capture and analysis built on methodologies that privilege white audiences in benchmarking and presenting data. We hope this ground-breaking report prompts change on both of these fronts.
BSO is developing several tools to help Canada’s screen industries address the structures, processes and biases that negatively affect Black creators, Black industry professionals and Black audiences. We are grateful to the funders who have helped make this research possible through their support: Telefilm Canada, CBC/Radio Canada, Bell Media, Corus Entertainment, Inspirit Foundation, Creative BC, Interpublic Group and Canada Media Fund.
For Canada to build the kind of authentic, inclusive screen content that engages the widest audience possible, we must understand the distinct groups that make up our uniquely diverse audience. This report is an important step to finally seeing, understanding, and accurately reflecting those differences.
Do Black Canadians consume Canadian content? This question is critical to our industry’s ability to forge an equitable and inclusive path when it comes to serving Black Canadian audiences.
Audience is foundational in our business. It is a key component in deciding what television series and films are developed and produced, how marketing dollars are allocated and where advertisers spend their dollars (although that calculus is swiftly changing). Can we conclude the dearth of Canadian scripted content directed at or meaningfully featuring the stories of Black Canadians is based on the belief our audiences don’t consume said content? Of course not. I grew up on a steady diet of The Friendly Giant, The Beachcombers and E.N.G. and my mom is a huge Murdoch Mysteries fan. Are we a rarity in the Black community? I doubt it, but beyond the forgoing anecdote we have not had extensive empirical research to definitively answer the above question. Until now.
The Being Counted: Canadian Race-based Audience Survey definitively answers the question of whether Black Canadians consume Canadian content and so much more. This ambitious and pioneering survey launched by the Black Screen Office (BSO) interrogates the content consumption habits of other racialized groups revealing hitherto unknown perceptions and values of Canadian racialized communities with respect to content consumption. The data resulting from this survey will serve as an essential tool for the Canadian media industry as it makes strides toward real inclusivity.
As a result of the Being Counted: Canadian Race-based Audience Survey, the question is no longer whether Black Canadians consume Canadian content. Now, the question is whether we are “being seen”. Is our viewership being measured? It is my hope this game-changing survey will provide the impetus for us to be included when it comes to audience measurement going forward. Once racialized audiences in Canada are recognized and valued, the creation of more inclusive and authentic Canadian content will be inevitable.