Canadian radio to air more homegrown music


TORONTO -- Canada's broadcast regulator on Friday ordered commercial radio stations here to air more homegrown jazz, blues and concert music.

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Communications Commission, releasing the results of its first commercial radio policy review in eight years, backed away from an earlier threat to force domestic radio stations to air fewer popular foreign tunes to make way for indigenous content.

The CRTC raised the minimum level for Canadian jazz and blues airplay from 10% to 25% of the broadcast week, while the quota for Canadian concert music will double from 10% to 20%.

But the CRTC kept the current minimum level for Canadian popular music at 35%, rather than raising it to 40%, as earlier proposed.

"(The CRTC) determined that such an increase would not be appropriate at a time when the commercial radio industry must respond to the challenge of competing with new unregulated sources for the delivery of audio programming," the CRTC said in its decision.

Among the "unregulated sources" of music cited by the CRTC are MP3 players, Internet music streaming, satellite radio and peer-to-peer file sharing and downloading -- all of which are slowly but surely reducing the listening audience for domestic commercial radio stations.

The legislated 35% quota for popular "Canadian-content" music, which mandates airplay for emerging homegrown talent, has long been credited with sustaining a Canadian music industry that in recent decades has spawned international superstars like Celine Dion and Shania Twain.

But in return for leaving the current canadian-content quota alone, the CRTC said it will double the amount of money it collects from commercial radio stations to support new Canadian music talent.

Making that investment will be made easier by the current strong economics of Canadian commercial radio, according to the CRTC.

Figures released in April by the CRTC indicated revenues for Canada's 357 FM stations rose 5.5%, from CAN$700.3 million ($614 million in 2003 to $738.7 million ($647 million) in 2004.

The regulator said that the radio sector has benefited from recent industry consolidation, lower production costs relative to TV stations and morning and afternoon rush-hour drive periods providing a "captive audience" for advertisers.

In addition, the CRTC noted that national TV networks in recent years have focused their energies on securing regional and national advertising, leaving the local advertising business to radio stations.

At the same time, the release of the commercial radio decision came a day after the CRTC released a report on the future of Canadian broadcasting, in which the regulator predicted the rising use of electronic platforms in the next five years will speed up emerging competition for domestic radio and TV stations from the Internet and other digital technologies (HR 12/15).