The Rise and Fall of CanCon (Throwback Thursday)

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By Jenneth Hogan


Flashback to May 1970: the widely popular Tommy Hunter Show was in its fifth season on CBC, American Woman by The Guess Who was the number one radio hit and the very first Juno Awards ceremony (known as the Gold Leaf Awards) had just taken place three months earlier. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) has now been established for two years and the Canadian entertainment industry is about to make some drastic changes.

On May 22, CRTC introduced 50 percent Canadian content (CanCon) program rules for radio and television, effective that September for the CBC and the following September for private sector broadcasters. The requirements, derived from the Broadcasting Act of Canada, stated that radio and television broadcasters (including cable and satellite specialty channels) must air content of 50 percent that was at least partly written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada. The program aimed to produce and provide cultural and creative content that was more Canadian in nature.

The requirements would take on various changes throughout the years since then, perhaps with the biggest changes yet to come. CanCon requirements for radio stations are currently much looser and fall between 10 and 50 percent depending on the station and the genre of music.

With the rise of online platforms and multi-media outlets the CRTC is making changes to their focus for future TV programming to aim less for quantity and more for quality. The Broadcasting Regulatory Policy was made public earlier this year and is the result of the process initiated by Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, which received over 13,000 comments and interventions from both Canadian companies and individuals from all parts of the country.

CanCon restrictions will be lessened, except in prime-time viewing window from 6 pm to 11 pm. Specialty channels will now be restricted to only 35 per cent Canadian programming throughout their daily schedules, and some local stations will not have to have any CanCon in non-prime time viewing time slots. Specialty channels, which have had genre protection and license requirements that limited what kind of content they could show, will see those restrictions lifted allowing more flexibility on what they can air.


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