Monday, May 15, 2006

Canadian Content and Emerging Canadian Artists

The CRTC has started hearings on its radio policy review. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters'(CAB) has made a submission that is getting a lot of media attention - for good reason.

The CAB notes that things have changed in radio. Radio stations today compete with many forms of new media, while continuing to take on public service roles such as education, community fundraising, and public alerting. Commercial radio now competes not only with new sources of commercial content, but also with consumer-generated content and "illegal downloading of music" (para 305). Not only does commercial radio continue to carry the burdens of traditional broadcasting, it now also has to pay the increasing expenditures that the industry must pay for copyright(para 101). While the industry is profitable, the CAB argues that the recent increase in profits is part of a cyclical trend, likely to come to a head in the near future.

Things have changed in the music world too. The report argues that musicians can now create their own distribution networks, circumventing labels and traditional radio, whereas costs in traditional distribution have gone up and retail stores are now very cautious about what they put on their shelves (para 306-309). This should lead, they argue, to a refocusing of traditional radio's role on the promotion of artists and music, rather than simply as a promoter of record sales. Radio should promote the "whole artist economy" (para 313), and should include the promotion of Canadian artists even where that promotion is not linked to record sales.

There are also some difficulties that radio broadcasters have noted with Canadian content regulations. So, they have some suggestions. Some of the difficulties radio stations encounter are the overplay of certain artists in attempts to meet Canadian content requirements. Therefore, they ask that emerging Canadian artists' play count for extra points towards meeting Canadian content requirements. Such a plan would lead to less overall Canadian content, but more emerging Canadian artists on the air, and a more diverse selection of Canadian artists. This plan would give radio stations incentive to enter the risky market of emerging music. According to this proposal, "A Canadian artist would be considered an Emerging Canadian Artist up until 12 months from the date they reach the Top 40 in spins on BDS or Mediabase all format charts or become gold certified for the first time."

My opinion: The CAB has laid out a very reasoned argument as to why radio should promote emerging artists as artists, rather than remaining focussed on established artists and their record sales. To me, it is an argument that makes sense in itself; I am not convinced that the additional incentive of extra credit for emerging artists in the CanCon system is necessary.