Published on April 25th, 2016 | by Alan Cross


The CRTC Announces Plans for Cancon Overhaul. What About Radio?

Before the Cancon regulations came into effect in 1971, there wasn’t much of a Canadian music industry. We were just a big branch plant of American (and a few British) record companies. Making it mandatory for Canadian radio stations a minimum amount of music of Canadian origin (first 30%, now 35%–more, if you said you’d do more as part of your broadcast license) forced a domestic industry into existence.

It made sense, too since radio frequencies are public property in Canada that broadcasters support Canadian culture in exchange for the licenses they were granted.

Implementing this cultural and industrial strategy was painful but necessary–and it was wildly successful. Without the Cancon rules, we wouldn’t be the global musical powerhouse that we are.

These mandatory minimums made sense when terrestrial radio was the most important gatekeeper and filter when it came to spreading music to the public. But now music fans can also choose to go to the unregulated Internet where such things as Cancon don’t exist. YouTube, streaming music services, Beats 1–they’re all exempt from the quotas faced by terrestrial radio stations.

Question: Is this fair?

Broadcasters don’t think so. Several attempts have been made to open dialogue on the subject over the past decade, but few issues are as contentious, volatile and dangerous as saying “You know, I think we should maybe remove or reduce the Cancon responsibilities for AM and FM radio stations.”

Now, though, Ottawa seems to walk to talk about it, as the Globe and Mail reported on Saturday:

Ottawa is ready to blow up the rules governing Canada’s $48-billion broadcasting, media and cultural industries, arguing that decades of technological changes and government inaction have left a broken system in need of a revolution.

“Everything is on the table,” Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly told The Globe and Mail.

Everything? Included Cancon levels on radio? This is gonna be interested. Read the full story here.


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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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6 Responses to The CRTC Announces Plans for Cancon Overhaul. What About Radio?

  1. mark says:

    Cancon needs to remain, the percentage can come down to a fair level, but at the same time they need to find a way to put regulations on companies that sell streaming or songs to Canadians, that they need to have certain percentage (equal to radio) when they play random or curated playlists to Canadians.

  2. Tony says:

    I think it should more or less stay as it is. Yes, we miss out on some American content, but having our own music industry is worth it. Tweak the system? Sure. But don’t destroy it completely either…

  3. Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsThe Federal Government Wants to Know How They Should Change Cultural Policies. Fill Out This Questionnaire. - A Journal of Musical Things

  4. sal says:

    I love all the Canadian bands. Leave things the way they are. The thing I would change is to bury those two monopolies bell and rogers. Give us more competition and less prices. Let in other companies. Or are they afraid of losing their monopolies on everything?

  5. John Bacon says:

    Got SIRIUS long ago as I was sick of hearing that “Life is a Highway” ad nauseam. Get rid of the dinosaur altogether or watch almost everyone find an alternative source eventually.

  6. Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsChannels are Changing: The Future of Televised CanCon - A Journal of Musical Things

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