The CRTC has released the results of its latest commercial radio review, allowing broadcasters to operate one more FM station in the same market, under certain conditions, while upholding Canadian Content requirements.
The first commercial radio policy update since 2014, one of the review’s key changes offers greater flexibility to Common Ownership Policy. For markets with eight commercial radio stations or more operating in a given language, an individual may now be permitted to own or control as many as four stations, with a maximum of three stations within one frequency band (FM or AM) in that language. For markets with fewer than eight commercial radio stations operating in a given language, one may be permitted to own or control as many as three stations operating in that language, with no limits on frequency band.
The commission is also removing restrictions around the use of Local Management Agreements (LMAs) and Local Sale Agreements (LSA), understandings or agreements between two or more licensees allowing a licensee to manage aspects of another station as a way to decrease costs by sharing resources, advertising costs and revenues in a market or adjacent market. Unprofitable stations will be allowed increased flexibility, however the commission would still review proposed LMAs to ensure policy objectives are being met, with each licensee required to maintain distinct and separate programming and news services, as well as management, including a program director and news director.
While organizations, including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), noted in their inventions that the current 35% Canadian Content requirement for Popular Music was out of sync with consumer tastes, the review upholds the current percentage. The CRTC also maintained the quota for French Vocal Music (FVM) for French-language broadcasters at the current level of 65% in each broadcast week and 55% between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. At the same time, it has eliminated the “hits policy” in Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau, stating that it “finds that the evolution of the audio market in Canada has made it such that the hits policy is no longer effective in achieving its stated intent of protecting French-language broadcasters from a loss of revenues or audience share.”
In reference to the current MAPL (Music, Artist, Performance and Lyrics) formula, the point system that determines whether a song is Canadian, the commission says it is moving towards new criteria and refining some content categories that will broaden the eligible songs that stations can play to meet their Canadian content requirements.
The CRTC says it’s working to implement a new digital monitoring system and open music database “to simplify and automatize the process of identifying musical selections” that will reduce the regulatory burden on broadcasters.
“This system relies on probative data that can be verified and anchored in existing metadata that are internationally standardized, such as the International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) and the International Standard Musical Work Code (ISWC), codes that can be used to confirm the accuracy of the information for any musical selection. Such accuracy is essential to ensure the database is of high quality and that new selections can eventually be added to it automatically. Once it is made public, this database will greatly facilitate identification of Canadian musical selections and mitigate the risks of non-compliance with regulatory requirements,” the review states.
It additionally sets out an expectation that commercial stations that were not already required by condition of licence to broadcast music by emerging artists, play at least 5% of songs from emerging Canadian artists, defined by a 48-month window following the release of the artist’s first commercially marketed song. Commercial radio licensees will have to report annually on the percentage of selections from Canadian emerging artists and the number of distinct artists they broadcast. The commission is also expecting commercial radio broadcasters to include Indigenous music in their playlists, noting it continues co-development on a new Indigenous Broadcast Policy that will impact all facets of the industry.
The commission says in a follow-up proceeding, it will seek comments on “multiple elements” related to Canadian content development, including how to ensure better contributions to Indigenous and diversity initiatives. It will also examine whether broadcasters should collect gender and race-based data about Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and people who identify as 2SLGBTQI+ from the initiatives benefiting from their contributions.
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