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Threesome: Defending CanCon (sort of)

June 25, 2009

mountie

Last week, CBC Radio 3‘s online radio broadcast and their Sirius Satellite radio station merged their playlists and schedules as a cost-saving measure. As part of the merger, they solicited input on whether the joint entity should play 100% Canadian music (as the online radio did) or 85% Canadian music, as was the case for Sirius 86. Scores of people sent in comments, and in the end they decided to play only Canadian music, but to also reserve the right to make exceptions: for example, covers of Canadian artists by non-Canadians, or for Neko Case, “who is American, but is widely considered an ‘honourary Canadian.'”

But the whole issue of CanCon in the age of the Internet probably deserves to be reconsidered. If you’re not familiar with this, the basic premise is that Canadian broadcasters are required to play a certain fraction of Canadian content, as a way of supporting Canadian artists who might otherwise be drowned out by the bigger and better-funded American industry (or as cultural protectionism, take your pick). Many Canadian artists have gotten airplay via this support, and there are some artists (like Sloan and The Tragically Hip) that are superstars north of the border but who’ve never really made it big in the US.  When broadcast was the primary means of disseminating music and video, the CanCon requirements made a certain amount of sense (remember, something like 90% of Canadians live within 100 mi – ie within broadcast range – of the US border). But it’s not clear how it’s going to shake down these days. On the one hand, the global playing field is increasingly leveled by the existence of Internet. On the other hand, it makes it easier to follow, see, and support local bands. Tellingly, one of the reasons why CBC Radio 3 decided to go with the 100% (give or take) Canadian approach in the merger is because, in a crowded online marketplace,  it differentiates the station from the rest of the world.

MP3: The Flaming Lips – After the Goldrush (Neil Young cover) [more]

MP3: Ben Gibbard – Complicated (Avril Lavigne cover)

MP3: Neko Case – If You Knew [more]

Image: Ride On by Flickr user eskimo_jo, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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