YouTube Effect Costs Jobs at Canada's MuchMusic Channel


The Canadian TV service must air music videos on 50 percent of its schedule and limit the number of scripted and reality shows, even as users increasingly get their music video fixes online.

TORONTO — Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Selena Gomez and other pop superstars routinely perform at the popular MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto each June.

But young Canadians for the rest of the year increasingly get their music video fixes from YouTube and other online video sites.

That hasn't stopped the CRTC, the country's TV czar, from compelling MuchMusic, the Canadian counterpart to the U.S.-based MTV channel, to continue airing music videos during 50 percent of its overall schedule.

That's music video content young Canadians can view for free elsewhere, and the fallout came this week when broadcaster Bell Media cut 91 jobs, mostly at its MuchMusic, M3 and MTV Canada channels and ended much of its in-house production.

The CRTC's rationale for not allowing MuchMusic to cut back on music video programming is simple: The cable channel must abide by its original licensing mandate as a music-based service.

The alternative to the regulator's so-called niche protection strategy is seeing Canadian broadcasters forever transform domestic channels into look-alike U.S brands.

Examples include Bell Media's Talk TV channel morphing into MTV Canada, Mystery rebranding as Crime + Investigation and Canadian Learning Television becoming OWN Canada, a local version of the U.S.-based Oprah Winfrey Network.

Domestic channels MTV Canada, Twist TV, Showcase Diva, Outdoor Life Network, History and Country Music Television have all been fingered by the CRTC for genre and brand confusion over their programming and original licensing mandates.

Of course, that regulatory straitjacket has limited air time on MuchMusic for scripted and reality fare popular with viewers.

MTV in the U.S. market faces no similar condition of license after long ago becoming a lifestyle channel.

To the frustration of Bell Media and its MuchMusic service, the U.S. MTV channel can schedule whatever it likes and balances scripted with reality fare as long as it doesn't break FCC codes.

Ironically, the job cuts at MuchMusic and sister channels come ahead of the CRTC considering scrapping its genre exclusivity policy at upcoming hearings in September on the future of Canadian TV.