Cabinet has upheld a CRTC decision to issue two satellite radio licences after the applicants agreed to increase Canadian content and French-language service.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission now will hold hearings to get public input on the new commitments, which will be included as conditions of the licences, a spokesman for Heritage Minister Liza Frulla said Friday.
The applicants are Sirius Canada and Canadian Satellite Radio, each of which has a U.S. partner.
Details of the new Canadian content commitments were not immediately available but the number of French-language channels will be increased to four from three.
The Canadian Recording Industry Association is naturally not happy with the decision, because of its members' dependence on the Canadian content regulations that have kept them in business on traditional radio.
The CRTC's decision will allow American-owned and operated satellites to beam hundreds of unregulated U.S. channels into Canada. In exchange, Canadian music will be ghettoized on a handful of 'all Canadian' channels -- as if Canadian music was a genre. The audience for these channels will be uncertain and miniscule. Music fans want to hear their favourite artists and music genres, regardless of nationality. Canadian musicians want and need to be heard alongside the biggest artists in their genre, not segregated into Canadian omnibus channels. If this version of Canadian content is widely adopted, the economic damage suffered by artists and the music community could be enormous and far-reaching.
While getting this decision right may take a few months, we believe that taking that time is worth it. Our cultural sovereignty must not be put at risk.
You'd think that if our cultural sovereignty was imperilled, the CRIA would be only too happy to have all-Canadian channels as a way to protect it, and give airplay to Canadian performers who might otherwise not get it.
Canadian musicians will be heard alongside the best of the genre on the U.S.-based channels if they are, indeed, the best of the genre.
CRIA, like its U.S. counterpart RIAA, stands athwart listener choice and freedom of access to protect the recording industry cartel. But just as RIAA couldn't shut down Internet file sharing, neither could CRIA shut down satellite radio. Technology's march will not be stopped.