The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) is calling the CRTC’s commercial radio policy review “a profound disappointment.”
Released Wednesday morning following a process that began in early 2020, the commission relaxed Common Ownership Policy to allow broadcasters to operate an additional FM station under certain conditions, but maintained Canadian content quotas, which many organizations, including the CAB, had suggested are now out of step with consumer tastes and choice in the new digital landscape.
CAB President Kevin Desjardins said the review represents “a missed opportunity to help ensure the future sustainability of radio.”
“After a drawn-out process of well over two years, we are dismayed that the Commission has missed this critical opportunity to establish a forward-looking policy for the sustainability of radio broadcasting in Canada,” said Desjardins, in a statement. “Instead, we have been presented with regulation through the rear-view mirror, which uses past policy touchstones that do not create the conditions for future success for a radio sector already in crisis.”
The CAB went on to say it is “unfathomable” that the commission would adopt a policy framework that largely maintains the status quo when the industry is experiencing a significant decline due to massive changes in the audio ecosystem, citing the CRTC’s own data which indicates a commercial radio revenue downturn of more than half a billion dollars over the past six years.
“With a few small exceptions, the updated Commercial Radio Policy does not include any meaningful changes for commercial radio broadcasters. In fact, it instigates further processes through Canadian Content Development (CCD) initiatives and the review of Canadian content requirements. Moreover, the Commission chose to defer important aspects of the decision into further proceedings without providing a timetable for those processes,” stated the CAB. “At a moment when the market for audio listening is exploding with unregulated options, the Commission must change course for the future viability of the sector.”
Meanwhile, Music Canada, the non-profit trade organization that represents the major record companies in Canada, said it is looking forward to helping the commission modernize the definition of Canadian content under the current MAPL (Music, Artist, Performance and Lyrics) system, as the commission moves towards new criteria to broaden the eligible songs that stations can play to meet their Canadian content requirements, better reflecting how music is made today.
“We applaud the Commission for maintaining current Canadian content regulations, and while we would have liked to have seen a higher play requirement for plays by emerging artists, a 5% requirement will act as an important tool to help ensure the next generation of great Canadian talent is heard,” said Patrick Rogers, Chief Executive Officer of Music Canada. “Lastly, we support the Commission’s efforts to help create an environment where music from equity-deserving and sovereignty-affirming groups can grow in that it is done so in ways informed by the voices from those communities.”
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