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Radio, television and the price of being Canadian

"Canadian broadcasting should be Canadian." Pierre Juneau said those words in 1970 and he meant business. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission head said Canadian broadcasters were behaving like mouthpieces for American "entertainment factories," and introduced strict Canadian content rules for radio and television. Artists, actors, executives and politicians squared off. Would "CanCon" rules create a world-class recording industry and a "Canadian sound"? Or would they promote unwatchable shows, unlistenable music and mediocre Canadian talent?

The Canadian Radio-Television Commission has big plans. Chair Pierre Juneau, described by reporters as "a tough customer," is hell-bent on imposing higher percentages of Canadian programming on AM radio and on television. At 1970 CRTC hearings, Juneau is greeted with howls of protest. Private broadcasters say they can't afford the changes. Politicians can't believe the bureaucratic body has the gall to try to determine what the Canadian identity is.

Not everyone has a problem with Juneau. Two prominent stations (Ottawa's CJOH and Toronto's CFTO) have quit the Canadian Association of Broadcasters over its anti-CanCon stance. As we hear in this clip from Sunday Magazine, taking Juneau's side at the hearings are writer/broadcaster Pierre Berton and CBC newsman Warren Davis. "If we can't afford to be different," says Davis, "we can't afford to be Canadian." 
• The 1968 Broadcasting Act replaced the Board of Broadcast Governors with the Canadian Radio-Television Commission.
• In 1970 the CRTC heard submissions from 111 different groups and individuals at hearings leading up to its Canadian content decision.
• The CanCon requirements were to apply to both private stations and the CBC. The CRTC imposed earlier implementation deadlines on the public broadcaster.

• Jean Roy (who is heard in this clip) became a Liberal MP for the riding of Timmins in northern Ontario in 1968. He served until 1979 when he left politics citing health reasons. He later served on the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes and as president of the Standards Council of Canada. He died on Dec. 28, 1996.
• Warren Davis hosted such CBC programs as The National, Reach for the Top, Double Up and Two New Hours.

• Pierre Berton was managing editor of Maclean's, a member of CBC programs Close Up and Front Page Challenge and hosted The Pierre Berton Show on CTV. He has written dozens of books and has won three Governor General's Awards. He became a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1986.

• AM (amplitude modulation) radio began broadcasting from commercial stations in the 1920s. FM (frequency modulation) radio stations began broadcasting in North America around 1940, but did not become popular until the 1960s when FM stereo broadcasting was introduced. Since music stations in Canada were still AM, that was the focus of the 1970 CRTC regulation.
• The BBG introduced regulations for FM radio in 1964. A new FM policy was announced in 1975 and introduced in 1979, easing Canadian content requirements.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: April 19, 1970
Guest(s): Jim Allard, Harry Boyle, Warren Davis, Jean Roy
Reporter: Tom Earle, Ken Mason
Duration: 27:19

Last updated: March 6, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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