Canada's specialty music TV station MuchMusic may still get the programming changes it seeks from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), including a reduction in the number of music videos it's required to play.
Last month, CTVglobemedia, which owns MuchMusic, filed a Group License Renewal application for all its specialty stations, says Brad Schwartz, senior VP/GM of the Much MTV Group, CTV Inc.
"Normally, specialty channels have a license term and when the license term ends, you renew it," Schwartz explains. "This year, the CRTC has asked all the major broadcasting units to renew all their specialty channels at the same time."
The CRTC hearing of these applications is expected in April 2011.
Many of MuchMusic's big requests were denied by the CRTC, in an announcement released on Nov. 25. The station had sought to reduce its music video content to 25% from 50%. It's not a case of the Group License Renewal application making a stronger argument for the changes, Schwartz says.
"We submitted on MuchMusic earlier than Group License Renewal because, quite frankly, we couldn't wait. The channel was in bad shape and we needed to get out and ask for these changes as soon as possible," he said. "I think they looked at our application; they looked at everything that we asked for; they realized that it probably needed a bigger discussion and a bigger forum, and the more difficult changes that we were asking for probably [could be] better addressed during Group License Renewal."
The three smaller requests the CRTC granted to MuchMusic in November -- including the adoption of an 18-hour broadcast day, as opposed to 24-hours -- puts the station "on par with many other specialty channels," Schwartz says. "The more complicated ones that we've asked for will get pushed for Group License Renewal."
Looking into it for Schwartz, Amy Doary, publicist at Much MTV Group, told Billboard, "What we don't know yet is when it will be gazetted by the CRTC. The hearing will be sometime in the new year and we're expecting an answer by early summer."
MuchMusic launched in 1984 as "the nation's music station," but in recent years has been airing more youth-driven shows, like "Gossip Girl," "The Hills," "Jackass" and "Degrassi." The station still plays music videos but its chief argument is they can now be widely seen on-demand online.
Among the other previously denied requests MuchMusic is hoping to now get approved are an amendment to the station's minimum level of Canadian content, abandonment of French-language content, and the amount it contributes to the MuchFACT fund (which provides grants to Canadian artists to make music videos).
"Just because we've asked to reduce the amount of money we give to MuchFACT does not reduce the amount of money that we overall put into Canadian productions," Schwartz says. "We want to put it into Canadian music productions that rate. So we're not going to spend less on Canadian music programming. We will give our money to creative Canadians to create great music content for us."
The problem with its current license is it restricts MuchMusic to scheduling music videos, Schwartz says. "What we need to do is get creative and entrepreneurial about how we create new music ideas, new ways of connecting music with the audience. We just need some flexibility to our license to allow us to do it.
"I think what's lost in an application that goes on a piece of paper is that it just sounds like Much wants to get away from music," he adds. "I'm very passionate about making sure that MuchMusic is all about music and maybe more so than anytime in its recent history."
"For me, personally, the important thing is I want MuchMusic to be the preeminent music media platform in Canada. It's not a brand that has a U.S. output deal. It's a very powerful Canadian brand that we want to maintain and be as unique and strong as possible."