Entertainment

MuchMusic can't cut back on videos: CRTC

The CRTC has rejected MuchMusic's request to air fewer music videos in favour of more "lifestyle" programming, but network executives say the station will continue to press for the changes.

The CRTC has rejected MuchMusic's request to air fewer music videos in favour of more "lifestyle" programming, but network executives say the station will continue to press for the changes.

Much had asked the federal broadcast regulator for a number of amendments to its licence — including one that would allow the station to reduce the number of videos it plays to 25 per cent of its total content from the current 50 per cent.

Parent company CTV also wanted to reduce Canadian content and add more animated programs and drama to MuchMusic.

The CRTC turned down most of CTV's requests but will permit feature films to be aired on MuchMusic.

MuchMusic's move to reduce the number of music videos it shows was opposed by a number of groups, including Rogers, which argued that "it would allow MuchMusic to reorient itself from a music-based service into a lifestyle-type service targeting young adults."

The amendment was also opposed by a number of organizations representing the music industry — including the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) — who argued that MuchMusic would duplicate the programming of MTV Canada, another CTV property.

The CRTC also rejected Much's request to eliminate French-language videos from its playlist and to decrease music-related content (from 100 per cent to 75 per cent).

Brad Schwartz, senior vice-president of Toronto's Much MTV Group, says the network needs more flexibility because of its declining viewership. He said changes are necessary to keep the station relevant to young viewers.

More flexibility needed: Schwartz

CTV will put the changes forward again when its requests a group licence renewal next year for its cluster of specialty networks, which includes Much.

"It's certainly not the end of the process," Schwartz said in a telephone interview from New York.

"We got some nice flexibility to put us on par with other specialty channels, and I'm confident that our case is strong on why we need these changes to keep MuchMusic relevant."

Schwartz says that in an age where music videos are available on-demand in an ever-increasing multitude of formats, a television station based solely on music videos isn't viable.   

"What the CRTC does in creating the nature of services and genre protections is to allow businesses to be special," Schwartz said. "And our problem is, music videos no longer make us special. When you look at a service like Vevo — which is owned by the record labels — we don't even get music video premieres anymore. All music video premieres are on Vevo."

The CRTC did approve MuchMusic's request to operate 18 hours a day, down from 24. That means that Much will be free to broadcast whatever it wants between midnight and 6 a.m., without consideration of its licence — allowing, for instance, additional late-night reruns of Gossip Girl.

Schwartz said the change could take effect as early as next week.   

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