Pierre Juneau, former CRTC and CBC chief, dies

Pierre Juneau, the first chair of the CRTC and a former CBC president, is being remembered as a 'fervent promoter' of Canadian content on radio and TV after dying at age 89.

As CRTC's first chair, Juneau was passionate champion of Canadian content

Pierre Juneau, who championed Canadian content on radio and TV as the first chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, has died. He was 89.

As president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. from 1982-1989, Juneau also presided over the creation of CBC Newsworld, now CBC News Network.

Pierre Juneau was president of CBC from 1982-1989 and presided over the launch of the national network's all-news channel. (CBC)

"Pierre Juneau was a passionate defender of public broadcasting and a fervent promoter of Canadian content," current CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in a statement mourning Juneau's death.

"He was instrumental to shaping policy that allowed Canadians to build their own industry and their own content. We still feel his influence today."

Juneau began his career in 1949 at the National Film Board, where he rose to become head of its French-language production.

Appointed CRTC head in 1968 by his longtime friend Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Juneau created the first minimum standards for homegrown fare on television and radio. The rules were controversial — private AM radio stations objected to a requirement of 30 per cent Canadian music content.

'Canadian broadcasting should be Canadian.'— Pierre Juneau, after creating the first rules for homegrown content as head of the CRTC

Juneau, a cultural nationalist, stuck to the policy saying, "Canadian broadcasting should be Canadian." It was a philosophy he applied throughout his career, which included important positions throughout the Canadian broadcasting hierarchy.

Juneau's CRTC regulations, soon called "Cancon," helped build the music and television production industries in Canada.

Junos named for Juneau

The Juno Awards, Canada's music awards launched in 1970, were named after Juneau because he implemented the Canadian content regulations.

As CRTC chair, he also insisted on 80 per cent Canadian ownership of radio and television networks and the fledgling cable industry.

"At that time, just to give you a few examples, the main anglophone station in Montreal was British-owned," Juneau said in a 2011 interview with industry group CARRT. "The main francophone station in Quebec City and the anglophone station belonged to an American organization – and it was like that all over the country."

Acting CRTC chair Leonard Katz said Canadians are "indebted to the leadership [Juneau] provided" to the agency as its first president.

"We join Canadians in celebrating his legacy as the architect of Canadian content regulations and the dynamic cultural industry that has since flourished," Katz said. 

'He worked to make certain that Canadian artists have a voice in their own country.'— Maureen Parker, Writer's Guild of Canada's executive director

The minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, James Moore, said Juneau "made a considerable contribution to the Canadian media landscape."

Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Juneau was "instrumental in developing regulations that assured we would see and hear Canadian creations broadcast from coast to coast to coast."

"Canada lost one of its greatest advocates for Canadian music and culture," he said in a statement.

Writers Guild of Canada executive director Maureen Parker said Canadian screenwriters are grateful for Juneau's work.

"He worked to make certain that Canadian artists have a voice in their own country," he said. "His legacy can be seen and heard daily in Canada’s vital and vibrant TV, film and music — he made it possible for Canadians to choose Canadian content in their entertainment."

Friend of Trudeau

Pierre Juneau was a longtime friend of Pierre Trudeau and briefly a member of his cabinet. (CBC)

Born Oct. 17, 1922, in Verdun, Que., Juneau met Trudeau while studying at the University of Paris and co-founded political magazine Cité Libre in Montreal with the former prime minister.

Juneau was also a co-founder of the Montreal International Film Festival and served as its president until 1968.

Trudeau wanted Juneau in his government and appointed him as communications minister in 1975 even though he did not have a seat in the House of Commons. Juneau was forced to leave his post within a few months after losing a byelection, but he later became a civil servant in the communications department.

He went on to become CBC president in 1982. In 1987 he spearheaded the creation of CBC's 24-hour English-language news channel, then called Newsworld, in his drive to promote Canadian content.

Closely allied with the Trudeau Liberals, Juneau clashed with former prime minister Brian Mulroney over budget cuts to the CBC and over Mulroney's decision to split his job and appoint both a part-time president and a full-time chair of the CBC.

He was twice invited to step down but stayed until the end of his seven-year term in 1989.

Under Juneau, the CBC consolidated its reputation for news and public affairs, increased its Canadian content and shifted toward independently produced dramatic content.

However, the broadcaster lost viewers as cable TV offered more options to audiences and became more dependent on advertising.

In 1994, Juneau was appointed to head a government inquiry into the future of the CBC.

Juneau is an officer of the Order of Canada.