I’ve had plenty of opportunities in the past year to listen to Canadian radio stations. Plenty. As someone who drives with one finger on the seek button, I’ve listened to every station my car’s antenna can grab between Ohio and Toronto, including the French-speaking ones.
There are a lot of Canadian stations. And, yet, they play the same Canadian artists. Nickelback, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan are played back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back. On ALL the stations. Those few artists are, in fact, played so much that one could presume they are the only Canadian artists making music. Maybe they are. Or perhaps me being American means I recognize fewer Canadian artists because those eight are the only ones played on American airwaves.
Anyway, the owners of Canadian stations are regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to follow a few rules, including:
- Radio programming should be predominantly Canadian.
- Radio should provide listeners with varied and comprehensive programming from a variety of sources, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, private commercial stations and nonprofit stations. The presence of different voices should be encouraged, and listeners should have a diversity of programming from which to choose.
- Programming should be of high standard and balanced on matters of public concern.
- Radio should reflect Canada’s linguistic duality.
- Programming should reflect Canada’s cultural and racial diversity, including the needs and interest of Aboriginal peoples.
Wanting to ensure “pride of place” for Canadian artists, CRTC set the required level of Canadian content for popular music selections broadcast each week to 35 percent. The goal? “To expand the exposure given to Canadian artists and works, and provide increased support to the Canadian industry as a whole.”
American translation: We don’t have very many good Canadian artists these days, and American/British artists are far more popular, but we can’t let them overtake our airwaves so let’s make sure what few recognized ones we have get A LOT of air time so that people will think we have a lot of good artists coming out of Canada.
I wonder if Celine Dion represents Rule #5…