Monday, June 27, 2005

Sirius Static

As new technologies have rendered the CRTC's attempts to uphold Canadian content requirements on the airwaves as futile as King Canute's attempts to hold back the tide, the much-maligned regulatory agency has bowed to the inevitable and allowed pay satellite radio into Canada.

Naturally, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting have taken umbrage:

The ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, if allowed to stand, would erode years of efforts to promote and protect Canadian programming on the country's airwaves, said Ian Morrison of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, one of the groups challenging the decision.

“It's a slippery slope,” Mr. Morrison said in an interview.

“It's taken decades to build up the Canadian content regime in this country. ... By the stroke of a pen, the CRTC is now saying that pay radio can be delivered at a content level of only 8-per-cent Canadian.”

The CRTC, in its ruling released earlier this month, cleared the way for two groups to provide pay-radio service – long in existence in the United States – to the Canadian market via satellite.

Canadian Satellite Radio is a partnership between Toronto businessman John Bitove and Washington-based XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

Sirius Canada is a joint venture among the CBC, Standard Radio and U.S.-based Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Under the rules laid out by the CRTC on June 16, both groups would be required to provide eight Canadian channels, one-quarter of them in French. But they could carry nine foreign channels for every Canadian one they deliver.

Given that the U.S. broadcast market is about nine times larger than Canada's, it's reasonable to expect that it would produce about nine times as many broadcast channels. The requirement to carry eight Canadian channels is certainly not onerous or arbitrary; it's about what the market would end up with in the normal course of events. And presumably, the Canadian channels would still be subject to the same Canadian content regulations as any other radio broadcaster.

But that's not good enough for the Friends, who, since their inception in 1985, have acted a thinly-disguised lobby group for the CBC and the cartel of organizations who have handsomely profited from CanCon.

In addition to Mr. Morrison's group, the coalition includes:

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Canadian Independent Record Production Association, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Directors Guild of Canada, Songwriters Association of Canada, Writers Guild of Canada, and the National Campus and Community Radio Association.

Ask yourself where the interests of the Friends, and their friends, lie. It's not with you, the Canadian listener.

Source: Canada's National Newspaper

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