Arcade Fire, Much Music, CMT, Bell Media, Corus Entertainment
Arcade Fire, Much Music, CMT, Bell Media, Corus Entertainment

Let’s Talk TV: Why Musicians & Music Video Makers May Be the First Unintended Consequences

The following article, penned by Linda Stuart, appeared in the Carrt Newsletter yesterday and is reprinted with permission in its entirety.

Recent applications to the CRTC by Bell Media and Corus Entertainment regarding proposed broadcast licence changes to its respective Much and Country Music Television (CMT) specialty channel brands have some music industry players very concerned about the implications for Canadian music video artists and producers.

In the first case, Bell Media submitted Part 1 applications on July 10 to the CRTC, requesting that its Much and M3 (formerly MuchMoreMusic) specialty channels be converted from Category A to Category B services, which have reduced requirements for the amount of airtime devoted to Canadian programming.

As they exist now, the Category A broadcast licences for Much and M3 require Canadian programming make up 60% of the channels’ broadcast year or broadcast day, and 50% of the evening broadcast period. Bell Media is now proposing that Much and M3 air Canadian programming for only 35% of the broadcast year and the evening broadcast period, which is the standard condition of licence for Category B services that have been in operation for at least three years.

(In its Let’s Talk TV decision issued in March, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-86, the CRTC said it was taking a standardized approach to Canadian programming exhibition requirements going forward, and set overall daily exhibition requirements for all discretionary services at a standard level of 35%. Also – all specialty services will eventually be collapsed into a single license by 2017, except 9(1)(h) must-carries. Finally, with the impending end of genre protection, too, which was also part of the Talk TV decisions, these channels can eventually become, well, anything.)

If the CRTC approves the requested conversion of Much and M3 to Category B services, Bell Media said it would forego its “must-carry” access privileges for the specialty services and maintain their current Canadian programming expenditure (CPE) levels of 26%.

In the case of Corus, the Part 1 application it submitted July 14 to the CRTC asks to have various aspects of CMT’s conditions of licence amended to remove references to specified percentage levels of both airtime and investment for Canadian country music video programming. Currently, CMT’s conditions of licence states that at least 40% of the music videos it airs during the broadcast year must be Canadian music videos and no less than 11% of its gross annual revenues must be allocated to the development and production of Canadian country music videos.

In explaining its rationale for removing these conditions of licence (COLs), CMT wrote in its Part 1 application to the CRTC: “Consistent with paragraphs 254 and 255 of LTT (Let’s Talk TV) content decision (BRP 2015-86) — deleted COLs relating to NOS (nature of service) are replaced with requirements to provide a brief description of the service. The brief description of CMT is as follows: ‘The licensee shall provide a national English-language discretionary service offering comedy, movies, real-life reality series and one of a kind music programming.’”

On the surface, Bell Media seems to be more in line than Corus with the approach the CRTC took to Canadian content requirements in its Let’s Talk decision. In BRP CRTC 2015-86, the CRTC wrote: “To support the production of high-quality programming, the Commission is shifting the focus from a regulatory approach based on exhibition quotas (the number of hours of Canadian programming broadcast) to one based on expenditures (the amount of money spent on Canadian programming).”

However, despite Bell Media’s assurance it would maintain its 26% programming expenditure level for Canadian content on the Much and M3 channels, at least one music industry stakeholder is concerned about the future of MuchFACT (Much’s Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent), which is funded entirely by Much and M3 and commits a percentage of the channels’ gross annual revenues to Canadian music video production.

Stuart Johnston, president of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), said he is pleased Bell Media has said it will maintain its 26% CPE funding levels for Canadian programming on Much and M3. However, he said he believes that CPE funding will go toward the acquisition and development of Canadian television shows. Bell Media’s application to the CRTC did not include any mention of its current level of funding support for its MuchFACT program, which supports the creation of Canadian music videos specifically, Johnston said. (CIMA represents all of the independent music labels in Canada, who are the prime beneficiaries of MuchFACT funding.)

“MuchFACT is funded by a separate provision in their condition of licence, and 7% of their revenues are dedicated towards MuchFACT,” Johnston said. “So the application isn’t explicit about MuchFACT. We’re hopeful that it will continue, but we’re also very concerned that the end game is to reduce or eliminate funding to MuchFACT altogether.”

Johnston said since MuchFACT was created more than 30 years ago through an agreement hammered out between broadcasting icon Moses Znaimer and one of CIMA’s co-founders (Bernie Finkelstein), MuchFACT has “helped launch the career of many of our great independent artists — Metric, Feist, Matt Mays, so many more — because of both the airtime, the marketing that they did on TV as well as now their online products, as well as the funding through MuchFACT.”

Johnston said he is concerned that Canadian content will be eroded bit by bit, and the smaller players in the music industry are ones who potentially will be hurt the most by the proposed broadcast licensing changes to Much and M3.

“Any reduction in airtime and any potential subsequent reduction in MuchFACT funding really hits Canadian small businesses and emerging Canadian artists the most. They are indeed going to be hurt by this.” – Stuart Johnston, CIMA

“Any reduction in airtime and any potential subsequent reduction in MuchFACT funding really hits Canadian small businesses and emerging Canadian artists the most. They are indeed going to be hurt by this,” Johnston said. “MuchFACT’s contributions to these artists and companies — $5,000, $10,000, whatever it is — dramatically assists the Canadian small business community in the music world to compete on the domestic and global stage. So it’s going to impact these independent artists and the independent companies that support them.”

In response to Cartt.ca’s emailed request for comment regarding any potential impact on MuchFACT as a result of the proposed broadcast licence changes to Much and M3, a Bell Media spokesperson said the company would not comment on the matter.

Bell Media’s submissions regarding Much and M3 are actually part of a larger move to have several of its specialty channels converted to Category B services. In addition to Much and M3, Bell Media has also requested that Bravo!, The Comedy Network, Discovery Channel, E!, MTV (Canada) and Space be converted to Category B, too, again with Bell Media agreeing to forego access privileges for these services and maintaining its current (and varying) levels of Canadian programming expenditures for each of the channels.

With regard to Corus and its proposed amendments to CMT’s broadcast licence, an emailed request for comment from Cartt.ca did not receive a reply before publication deadline. CMT also currently has a Canadian music video funding program — its Video Advantage Program — which was created 15 years ago and “supports the development and production of original Canadian music videos for emerging artists”, according to Corus’s Original Programming website.

In Johnston’s view, any broadcaster that includes music videos and music as part of its regular programming should be helping to fund the creators of that content.

“Our opinion is that the Commission should look at all TV broadcasters and say, if you're using music and music videos as part of your programming then you should be contributing to a fund like MuchFACT, because they are using the content that we create. It very much is a circular symbiotic relationship. They contribute, we create more, they have more variety in content that they then broadcast, which goes to their viewers and for their advertising, and then it comes back full circle to creating more content, and the cycle continues,” he said.

The deadline for comments to the CRTC on the Bell Media applications is Wednesday, August 19. The deadline for comments for Corus’s application is Friday, August 21.

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