Following its review of commercial radio and hearings last May in Ottawa, Canada's broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) unveiled on Dec. 15 a decision that sided with Canadian broadcasters.

The CRTC rejected calls by Canada's publishing and indie label sectors to raise Canadian content quotas from their present 35% as well as to introduce an incentive-based strategy in programming new Canadian music.

"The key challenge facing the radio industry is to remain relevant in a marketplace characterized by rapidly changing technology and consumer behavior," says Charles Dalfen, chairman of the CRTC. "We are confident that the measures announced today will enable commercial radio broadcasters to contribute effectively to the achievement of the objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act, while operating efficiently in an increasingly competitive environment."

The CRTC's previous review of the Canadian radio was in 1998. At that time, the quota of domestic music for English-language commercial radio was increased from 30% of airplay to 35%. The CRTC then stated that a future review of the quota would take place following five years, and that a further increase might be enacted.

Proposals filed by the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) for an increase to 45% CanCon, and a proposal of 55% by the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada had angered many broadcasters at the hearings.

While the CRTC apparently considered increasing the minimum level of popular musical selections from 35% to 40%, it felt that such an increase would be inappropriate when the commercial radio industry was already facing the challenge of competing with new unregulated sources for the delivery of audio programming.

These include the use of MP3 players and of Internet music services, streaming over wireless broadband, and podcasting.

While the CRTC declined to mandate an incentive-based strategy proposed by CIRPA to further exposure of new Canadian-generated music on commercial radio, broadcasters will now be asked to make specific commitments at their licensing hearings to provide airplay for and to promote emerging Canadian artists.

As well, the CRTC proposes to set a minimum level of 25% for Canadian concert music and of 20% for Canadian jazz and blues music aired during each broadcast week, which would replace the current minimum regulatory level of 10% for these two subcategories.