Source : Communications Daily
The Canadian Radio-TV & Telecom Commission (CRTC) gave XM and Sirius a green light Thurs., opening the Canadian border to satellite radio on condition the licensees offer at least 8 original channels produced in Canada, among other stipulations.
The Commission granted all 3 pending subscription radio licenses -- one by Sirius Canada, one by Canadian Satellite Radio and a terrestrial application by CHUM Ltd. Sirius Canada is a partnership between the Canadian Bcstg. Corp. (CBC), Standard Radio and Sirius. Canadian Satellite Radio (CSR) is a consortium involving former Toronto Raptors owner John Bitove and XM Satellite Radio Holdings. CHUM Ltd. is a partnership between CHUM and Montreal's Astral Media.
"These decisions foster the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and balance the interests of Canadian consumers, the radio industry and the music industry," said CRTC Chmn. Charles Dalfen in a prepared statement: "These licensees will harness new technologies for Canadians and give Canadian talent exposure to listeners across Canada and indeed, North America -- both through new Canadian channels and air-play on U.S. channels. New and Emerging artists should benefit especially from the airtime that is being reserved for them."
To address Canadian content requirements -- a top priority for interest groups intent on protecting Canadian airwaves from a deluge of American media -- the CRTC required the foreign satellite licensees to offer at least 8 Canadian channels, and limited them to 9 foreign channels for each Canadian channel. Sirus and XM, with their Canadian partners, originally offered 4 and 5 Canadian channels, respectively. That means that if XM or Sirius wants to add more American channels, it must also add Canadian content to maintain the ratio. Further, the CRTC's decision stipulated that the Canadian channels must play original content produced in Canada, not rebroadcasts.
Reactions to the CRTC's decision were mixed. XM officials said XM and CSR will work to address the increased Canadian content stipulation. XM CEO Hugh Panero said the license, and XM's partnership with CSR, "offers a unique opportunity to expand the reach of Canadian music and culture in Canada and in the U.S." Sirius officials didn't comment by our deadline.
Others were less pleased. A spokesman for Friends of Canadian Bcstg. (FCB), a citizen-supported public interest group, called the net effect of the CRTC's decision "essentially a subversion" of Canada's Bcstg. Act. "For every Canadian channel, there can be 9 American channels. That's not consistent with the Broadcasting Act in our estimation," the spokesman said: "The merit of the Broadcasting Act -- recently reviewed and supported by Canada's Parliament -- lies in maintaining the predominance of Canadian programming in the Canadian broadcasting system, and this decision opens a huge pipeline of American programming into our country."
Our Public Airwaves (OPA), another citizen-led public interest group, said it wasn't thrilled with the CRTC's decision either. "But, we're enormously pleased that the CRTC has taken a position similar to our own that the provisions for Canadian content originally offered by the applicant just wasn't sufficient," said Arthur Lewis, exec. dir. of OPA. Lewis said he was also disappointed not to see a provision for universal carriage of the Canadian Bcstg. Corp. (CBC), Canada's public broadcaster.
When asked if they will appeal the CRTC's decision, the FCB and OPA officials said it's too early to say. "We have a meeting booked tomorrow with a loose coalition of other Canadian cultural groups and we will be reviewing our options at that meeting," said the FCB spokesman.
Not all of Canada's music industry disliked the decision. Independent Canadian artists applauded the CRTC decision, welcoming satellite radio as a way to heighten their profile and widen their "stage." Representing 20,000 independent Canadian recording artists, Indie Pool, a for-profit company that pools the resources of independent artists, said it is "over the moon" with the CRTC's satellite radio approval. "We got more than we asked for," said Indie Pool Pres. Gregg Terrence: "There are 20,000 independent Canadian recording artists popping champagne tonight. This is great for Canadian artist development, especially with the provisions within the regulations requiring original Canadian content."
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