As the national voice of Canada’s private broadcasters, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) urges the Government to take immediate action to ensure that commercial radio broadcasters are sufficiently viable to support their communities and the cultural policy obligations imposed upon them.
According to recent research from Communications Management Inc., Canada’s radio industry is facing significant challenges. Unfortunately, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s recent Commercial Radio Policy review failed to recognize this. The updated radio policy from November 2022 effectively maintained the status quo on a policy shaped decades ago and denied the impact of foreign digital services on the Canadian audio landscape. The radio policy needs immediate reconsideration to address the sustainability of radio in Canada.
Canadians rely on our radio broadcasters
Canadians turn to commercial radio broadcasters to stay in the know as they are increasingly the only source of local news and information in smaller markets. Our radio broadcasters also foster connection to community and keep Canadians company at home, at work and during their commutes.
Commercial radio broadcasters are major cultural, societal and economic contributors, and their impact must be recognized:
- 12,690+ jobs sustained
- $373M contributed to Canadian content through Canadian Content Development (CCD), news and information spending, tangible benefits and copyright payments
- $136M spent on news and information, including by-the-minute reporting in emergencies
Station closures a real, urgent risk
Radio owners had been waiting for the CRTC’s radio policy review to decide what to do with unprofitable stations. The lack of meaningful, forward-thinking change was profoundly discouraging and will force stations to make tough decisions.
More than 200 commercial radio stations are at risk of closing, with 40 per cent operating with a negative profitability and 188 stations with a profitability below -20 per cent. Small and medium-sized markets will be most heavily impacted, leading to shutdowns or further cost reductions through regionalization of news, increased use of syndicated programming, and reduced use of local talent.
Advertising revenue continues to decline
The pandemic was not a blip – it fundamentally changed the local advertising market as local businesses slashed their budgets or reoriented their businesses online. Paired with the current economic downturn, commercial radio broadcasters need the CRTC to recognize the grim state of the radio market and reduce the regulatory burden.
What the CRTC must do
The CRTC cannot continue to ignore the significant challenges for radio. Private radio broadcasters’ cultural contributions rely on a thriving industry, and the regulatory framework must contribute to the success of radio and not create further impediments.
The Government must require the CRTC to apply a sustainability lens if we are to have a healthy radio sector in Canada. This means:
- Reducing the regulatory burden placed on the industry
- Greater ownership flexibility to compete in today’s transforming audio market
What the Government can do
The Government must provide a direction to the CRTC to review the Commercial Radio Policy to ensure that its policy framework:
- Accounts for the competitive Canadian audio market, especially given the presence of foreign players without Canadian content (CanCon) requirements or funding obligations
- Properly balances support for the music industry with radio’s ability to maintain its own talent and local news operations
As part of the Bill C-11 policy direction, the Government can also ensure the Commission applies fair and equitable rules to all players in the Canadian audio sector and rebalances obligations so that Canadian radio can remain viable and vibrant.
Figures drawn from Communications Management Inc.’s report, Structural change in the Canadian commercial radio market, prepared for the CAB.