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Where are the Canadian stars?

"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?

CanCon would be the saviour of the music industry, or its death knell (depending on who you talked to in 1970). Proponents said it would lead to a distinct Canadian sound, propelling Canadian artists to mega stardom. Critics said radio stations would lose thousands of listeners and millions of dollars. By 1976 it's clear that neither scenario has happened. Entertainment reporter Margaret Daly says there are lots of great Canadian bands now, but they still aren't cracking the top 40.
• In the 1960s most top 40 stations were programmed by American music consultants, who relied heavily on U.S. listings of proven popular hits (usually American or English), such as those found in Billboard magazine.

In the late 1960s, Canadian newspapers and magazines began discussing legislating Canadian content. The Globe and Mail ran a full page feature headlined "Can a Law Put Canada on the Hit Parade?" This prompted a group of rock radio stations to form the Maple Leaf System (MLS) in 1969 to develop and encourage "Canadian talent on an organizational basis." Critics saw this as a sneaky way of heading off regulation by the CRTC.

In 1970 the CRTC introduced the MAPL system to classify songs. They count as "Canadian" if two of the following four characteristics are met:
Music composed entirely by a Canadian
Artist is Canadian
Produced in Canada
Lyrics written entirely by a Canadian
Songs that met two of these criteria were to make up 30 per cent of AM radio airplay.

• When the CRTC's MAPL regulations replaced the MLS, the impact was felt immediately. Sam The Record Man's Canadian music sales increased 25 per cent in 1971 and 36 Canadian singles made American top 100 lists that year.
• There were many Canadian success stories in early 1970s, including The Guess Who, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Crowbar, Lighthouse, Rush, BTO, Loverboy, April Wine, Heart, Trooper, Chilliwack and Streetheart.
(Source: Axes, Chops & Hot Licks, Ritchie Yorke, 1971.)

• The 30 per cent CanCon requirement was a serious concern for radio stations that played anything other than top 40 music. On CBC's Metronome, record industry executives pondered how easy listening and classical stations would be affected. One producer said that because of the number of musicians involved and the relatively small market, creating a "Canadian" classical recording would be far too expensive to be profitable.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Jan. 19, 1976
Guest(s): Margaret Daly
Host: Barbara Frum, Alan Maitland
Duration: 7:16
Photo: CBC Still Photo catalog

Last updated: October 23, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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