The CRTC Announces Plans for Cancon Overhaul. What About Radio?

Before the Cancon regulations came into effect in 1971, there wasn’t much of a Canadian music industry. We were just a big branch plant of American (and a few British) record companies. Making it mandatory for Canadian radio stations a minimum amount of music of Canadian origin (first 30%, now 35%–more, if you said you’d do more as part of your broadcast license) forced a domestic industry into existence.

It made sense, too since radio frequencies are public property in Canada that broadcasters support Canadian culture in exchange for the licenses they were granted.

Implementing this cultural and industrial strategy was painful but necessary–and it was wildly successful. Without the Cancon rules, we wouldn’t be the global musical powerhouse that we are.

These mandatory minimums made sense when terrestrial radio was the most important gatekeeper and filter when it came to spreading music to the public. But now music fans can also choose to go to the unregulated Internet where such things as Cancon don’t exist. YouTube, streaming music services, Beats 1–they’re all exempt from the quotas faced by terrestrial radio stations.

Question: Is this fair?

Broadcasters don’t think so. Several attempts have been made to open dialogue on the subject over the past decade, but few issues are as contentious, volatile and dangerous as saying “You know, I think we should maybe remove or reduce the Cancon responsibilities for AM and FM radio stations.”

Now, though, Ottawa seems to walk to talk about it, as the Globe and Mail reported on Saturday:

Ottawa is ready to blow up the rules governing Canada’s $48-billion broadcasting, media and cultural industries, arguing that decades of technological changes and government inaction have left a broken system in need of a revolution.

“Everything is on the table,” Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly told The Globe and Mail.

Everything? Included Cancon levels on radio? This is gonna be interested. Read the full story here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38398 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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