Canadian content requirements for music on Canadian radio

Radio plays an important role in introducing listeners to new music and artists. CRTC policies and regulations ensure that Canadian works are played on Canadian radio stations.
The CRTC licenses seven general types of radio stations:

  • Commercial station
  • Campus station
  • Community station
  • Ethnic station
  • Native station
  • CBC / Radio Canada
  • Other not-for-profit stations

Each licensed station is required to devote a percentage of its weekly music broadcasting to Canadian content. The required amount of Canadian content depends both on the type of radio station and the type of music it broadcasts: Popular Music (Category 2) or Special Interest Music (Category 3).

Canadian content requirements for Popular Music (Category 2)

Commercial, community, campus and native radio

English-language and French-language stations must ensure that at least 35% of the Popular Music they broadcast each week is Canadian content.

Commercial radio stations also have to ensure that at least 35% of the Popular Music broadcast between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday is Canadian content.

CBC / Radio Canada

CBC / Radio Canada stations must ensure that at least 50% of their Popular Music selections broadcast each week are Canadian content.

Canadian content requirements for Special Interest Music (Category 3)

Commercial radio

English-language and French-language commercial radio stations must ensure that at least 10% of all Special Interest Music broadcast is devoted to Canadian selections. They’re also expected to ensure that at least 25% of all concert music (subcategory 31) and 20% of all jazz and blues music (subcategory 34) broadcast is devoted to Canadian selections.

As well, commercial radio stations have to ensure that Special Interest Music selections, including Canadian content, are scheduled in a reasonable manner throughout the broadcast day.

When these stations renew their licenses, they’re expected to propose an increase in the Canadian Special Interest Music they play – except in the case of concert music or jazz and blues. Those operating a concert / classical music format must also provide specific commitments to the broadcasting of works by Canadian composers.

Native radio

Native radio stations must ensure that 10% of all Special Interest Music broadcast each week are Canadian selections.

Community and campus radio

English-language and French-language campus and community radio stations must devote at least 12% of all Special Interest Music broadcast each week to Canadian selections.

CBC / Radio Canada

CBC / Radio Canada stations have to ensure that at least 20% of all Special Interest Music broadcast each week is Canadian content.

Canadian content requirements for ethnic radio

During ethnic programming periods, each ethnic radio station must devote at least 7% of all its broadcast music to Canadian content. In non-ethnic programming periods, these stations must meet the same Canadian content requirements as commercial radio stations for both Popular Music and Special Interest Music.

Exceptions to Popular Music (Category 2) Canadian content

Radio stations program a wide variety of popular music radio formats to meet the needs of their listeners. While most popular music formats tend to feature contemporary vocal music, other music formats – such as nostalgia, oldies, adult standards and middle of the road (MOR) – program "older" popular music styles that may include vocal and instrumental music.

The availability of older Canadian popular music within this group may be limited compared to contemporary music genres. With this in mind, the CRTC provides some flexibility in terms of Canadian content requirements (through either regulation or condition of licence). 

Popular instrumental music – Canadian content regulation

If less than 35% of all music broadcast each week consists of instrumental selections, at least 35% of popular music must be Canadian content. If at least 35%, but less than 50%, of all music broadcast each week consist of instrumental selections, at least 20% of all popular music must be Canadian.

If more than 50% of all musical selections broadcast each week are instrumental, at least 15% of all popular music broadcast must be Canadian content.

Popular older music – condition of licence

Two conditions of licence will allow commercial radio stations to broadcast less than 35% Canadian content required for popular music. Broadcasters can apply for these conditions.

  • Pre-1956 music: in program periods where all of the popular music broadcast is composed before 1956, at least 2% each week must be Canadian; in periods where 90% or more of popular music consists of selections composed before 1956, at least 10% must be Canadian
  • Oldies music: in any broadcast week where at least 90% of the popular music aired consists of selections released before January 1 1981, at least 30% must be Canadian, both on a weekly basis and between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

Exceptions for campus and community radio

Campus and community radio stations are expected to provide a local programming service that differs in style and substance from commercial stations and the CBC/Radio Canada.

Current policies require a minimum weekly level of 35% Canadian content for Popular Music selections. However, the CRTC recognizes that campus and community stations often program new and emerging popular music genres. In this case, there may be fewer Canadian selections available.

As such, the CRTC may approve conditions of licence that establish lower Canadian content requirements for program periods devoted to new and emerging Popular Music.

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