CIRAA: Disappointing CANCON News From The CRTC
As you probably know, there has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about modernizing Canadian Content rules. Discussions have revolved around various ways to make CANCON smarter, so that more emerging artists would receive airplay. Nearly all parties were in agreement that radio stations often meet their CANCON quotas by repeating a handfull of Canadian superstars over and over again. There were various proposals presented to the CRTC to address this issue.
-Canadian Independent Recording Artists' Association (CIRAA) proposed an emerging artist quota
-Record companies and radio broadcaster proposed a bonus system
-Indie Pool proposed a points system (www.letsfixcancon.ca)
In short, all parties, including the CRTC, recognized the growing problem. Even the radio broadcasters themselves agreed that the CANCON problem existed and offered to address it by receiving a small bonus when they played emerging artists. Never before has there been such unanimity that the very foundation of CANCON was threatened if our public airwaves were not used to develop Canadian artists. The CRTC held an extensive review of this and other matters last spring and recently announced its decision.
Unfortunately, the news is very bad. In a 3-2 split decision, the CRTC has decided to not change CANCON. It will remain at 35% and there will be no incentives or quotas for radio stations to play emerging artists. Instead of offering our own biased opinion on this, here are some quotes from a dissenting opinion offered by CRTC Commissioner Stuart Langford:
"The majority decision to cave in to industry demands and virtually ignore the needs of Canadian artists is simply unacceptable."
"The majority has identified another problem but done nothing about it. I refer to the sad fact that though broadcasters have adhered to the letter of the law requiring 35% or more, many have openly defied the spirit underlying it. They meet the 35% level but they do so by playing just a few marquee artists over and over again."
"The majority has thrown up its hands and declared that this problem defies remedy."
"The majority has bowed to industry pressures and done nothing."
"Lack of imagination appears to be the hallmark of the majority's reaction to the plight of Canada's new and emerging artists. Rather than solving the problem by requiring FM licensees to provide airplay opportunities for as many Canadian artists as possible, the majority has decided to duck the problem today and leave it to be solved on a case-by-case basis during future licence renewal processes. This is simply unacceptable. To say to emerging artists that someday down the road things will improve is the regulatory equivalent of promising pie in the sky when you die. The Commisssion's case-by-case approach once more leaves most Canadian musical talent out of the new radio policy as they were left out of the old. The case-by-case approach will result, not in the establishment of a clear regulatory directive supporting these artists, but in the equivalent of a crazy quilt policy made up of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of rulings, each more different than the last."
CRTC Commissioner Langford certainly speaks for all of us and we thank him for making his opinions clear on the impact of this decision. Perhaps we can build on this. Perhaps it is some measure of progress. Maybe we'll look back some day and realize that this was a turning point.
For now, we can't help but believe that this was a lost opportunity. The entire report can be found here: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Notices/2006/pb2006-158.htm
By no means does this mean we are giving up. CIRAA is growing and will continue to press the CRTC and others to modernize in order to meet the realities facing today's music industry. Have a great holiday season, we'll have more to report on FACTOR and other matters early in the New Year.
Canadian Independent Recording Artists' Association