The future of satellite radio in Canada remains unclear as a coalition of Canadian music industry organizations on Aug. 31 called on the federal government to proceed with a review of the June 16 deci

TORONTO -- The future of satellite radio in Canada remains unclear as a coalition of Canadian music industry organizations on Aug. 31 called on the federal government to proceed with a review of the June 16 decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission to grant three subscription radio licenses.

The Canadian Recording Industry Assn., the Canadian Independent Record Production Assn., the Canadian Music Publishers Assn. and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada are asking the government to weigh the broader public interest of Canadian cultural sovereignty against the commercial interests of the satellite radio proponents.

Heritage Minister Liz Frulla is expected to table the request for a review of the CRTC decision at a federal government cabinet meeting on Sept. 6. Under Canada's Broadcasting Act guidelines, the cabinet has until Sept. 14 to decide on forcing the CRTC to reconsider its decision.

Meanwhile, Canadian-based satellite radio entities are vigorously lobbying the federal government to fight against a review of the CRTC decision. There have also been full-page ads in several Canadian newspapers this week touting the support of satellite radio in Canada by "over 20,000 independent artists" as well as support by such well-known Canadians as Robbie Robertson and Daniel Lanois.

The CRTC granted subscription radio licenses to three entities. Two are satellite radio operations: Canadian Satellite Radio and Sirius Canada. The third, a yet-to-be-named joint venture between Toronto-based CHUM and Montreal-based Astral Media, will be terrestrially transmitted.

Canadian Satellite Radio is a Toronto-based joint venture between local businessman John Bitove Jr. and Washington, D.C.-based XM Satellite Radio Holdings. Sirius Canada is a venture from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Toronto-based Standard Broadcasting Corp. and New York-based Sirius Satellite Radio.

The CRTC ruled that the two satellite operations must offer at least eight Canadian-produced channels with 85% Canadian content. At least 25% of the Canadian channels' output must be French-language. Additionally, the CRTC insisted at least 25% of the music on the Canadian channels be new recordings by domestic acts and a further 25% be by emerging Canadian artists.

Following the decision cultural and music industry associations sharply criticized the CRTC for allowing the satellite operators to carry less than the 35% Canadian content than private radio broadcasters or pay audio services.

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