Fraser Institute

[Media Releases]
[Online Publications]
[Order Publications]
[National Media Archive]
[Other Resources]
[About Us]

Economic Freedom

  Appendix A: Highlights in the Evolution of Canadian Content Regulations

1920: Regular radio broadcasting began.

1923: There were 34 radio stations in Canada.

1932: The first Broadcasting Act was passed by Parliament creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC) with only one dissenting vote (Nash, 1995, p. 88). It was to both regulate all broadcasting and create a new national public radio network. In November 1931, the CNR had stopped broadcasting to its trains (Nash, 1995, p. 80); in 1933, the CRBC bought the CNR's radio network for $50,000. In 1932, US radio stations had a combined power of 680,000 watts versus just 50,000 in Canada. Most Canadians could hear more US than Canadian stations. National public broadcasting was seen by its proponents as a very important means to avoid the "cultural annexation" of Canada by the US (see Nash, 1995).

1936(Nov): The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation came into existence, replacing the CRBC. Note, however, that the CBC also had the dual role of the CRBC (public broadcaster and regulator of private broadcasting). The CBC had a staff of 132 who created six hours a day of network programming. At the time, a million Canadian homes had a radio, and there were 67 private stations (Nash, 1995, p. 141).

1952(Sept): CBC began television broadcasting three hours a day to the 146,000 sets in Canada. The head of CBC public affairs, Neil Morrison, said that "no other single factor will be so influential in shaping the future life of this country as television" (Nash, 1995, p. 242). Television was seen as the most effective weapon against American cultural domination and as the most valuable instrument of national unity. Note: this was before American TV programs were seen by more than a few thousand Canadians.

1952: The first attempt to regulate Canadian content occurred when the CBC (then also the regulator of private stations) proposed that all radio stations be required to have a minimum percentage of time devoted to Canadian programs. After vigorous protests from private stations, it backed down (Nash, 1995, p. 252).

1953(Oct): The first private TV broadcasting stations went on the air, licensed by the CBC board.

1958: The Board of Broadcast Governors was created to regulate broadcasting. It replaced the board of the CBC which until that time still had the dual role of directing the public broadcaster and regulating private broadcasters.

1959: The Board of Broadcast Governors promulgated the first Canadian content regulations for television-SOR/59-456.

1960(July): The Board of Broadcast Governors (following hearings in Nov. 1959) announced that Canadian TV stations would be expected to broadcast 45 percent Canadian content by April 1, 1961 and 55 percent on April 1, 1962 (Raboy, 1990, p. 145).

1961(April 1): The BBG specified that the minimum percentage of TV program time "devoted to programs that are basically Canadian in content and character" shall be 45 percent (measured during any four-week period). The regulation listed 7 types of programs deemed to be "basically Canadian in content and character" (see Grant, 1973, p. 185).

1961(Nov): Per SOR/61-486, the BBG required every radio station to furnish it with an annual statement showing how the station "promoted and ensured the greater use of Canadian talent." Peter Grant describes this as the first CanCon regulation for radio (Grant, 1973, p. 190).

1962(April 1): The minimum level for Canadian content on TV was increased to 55 percent.

1962(May): The BBG announced a quota of 40 percent Canadian content for the period 6:00 p.m. to midnight ("prime time").

1962-1964: The BBG lowered the CanCon quota to 45 percent during the summer period (Grant, 1973, p. 186).

1964(Oct 1): The BBG set the CanCon quota for TV at 55 percent calculated for each "calendar quarter" (per SOR/64-248).

1968 The new Broadcasting Act brought the cable TV business under the Act as a distribution undertaking (Nash, 1995, p. 372). It also specified that the CBC "contribute to the development of national unity."

1968(April) The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) replaced the Board of Broadcast Governors. The chairman, Pierre Juneau, soon proposed stricter Canadian content quotas for TV and radio.

1970(May): The CRTC announced a minimum CanCon quota for TV at 60 percent to apply to the entire broadcast day and during the period 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (SOR/70-257). The new rules applied to the CBC as of October 1, 1970. Private broadcasters continued with the old rules (55 percent from 6:00 p.m. to midnight) until September 30, 1971.

1971(Jan): The CRTC announced the first quotas for "Canadian" musical selections on AM radio only. They came into effect a year later.

1971(Sept): The CRTC, in response to appeals by private TV broadcasters, modified its proposed regulations during the period October 1, 1971 and September 30, 1972 as follows: (1) Prime time was set at 6:00 p.m. to midnight when a 50 percent CanCon quota applied, (2) The limit on programs from a single foreign country was set at 45 percent over the whole broadcast day.

1971(Oct): Private TV broadcasters became subject to a 50 percent CanCon quota over the whole broadcast day and from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. There was a 35 percent ceiling on foreign programming from a single source, 40 percent during prime time (Grant, 1973, p. 188). The quota is calculated over each broadcast year.

1972(Jan. 18): Implementation of the first CanCon quotas for musical selections for AM radio stations were implemented. (1) the quota was set at 30 percent measured to "be scheduled in a reasonable manner throughout the period 6:00 a.m. to midnight," (2) A "Canadian" musical selection had to meet two of four criteria in the MAPL scheme (but only one of four in the first year), (3) The definition of a "Canadian composer," etc., was based on citizenship.

1972(June): The CRTC made two changes in the CanCon rules for TV stations: (1) While all stations had to have 60 percent CanCon over the whole broadcast day, private broadcasters could have a 50 percent quota during prime time, 6:00 p.m. to midnight. (2) The CRTC said it would replace the quota on programs from a single foreign country with co-production guidelines (Grant, 1973, p. 189).

1972(Oct 1): The CanCon quota for TV broadcasters became 60 percent for the whole broadcast day, including 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. There was a 30 percent limit on any single foreign country, which also applied during the same two periods (Grant, 1973, p. 188).

1973(Jan. 18): For AM radio stations, at least 5 percent of the musical compositions in each broadcast day must be composed by a Canadian or the lyrics written by a Canadian. This provision was promoted by the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada (Grant, 1973, p. 191).

1979: CanCon quotas were first applied to FM radio stations, but at a lower level than AM stations.

1979: The CRTC renewed CTV's network license on the condition that it schedule 26 hours of original Canadian drama in 1980/81 and 39 hours in 1981/82; at least 50 percent had to be entirely domestic rather than co-productions (Collins, 1990, p. 77). This decision was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. It was the first move to put CanCon requirements into a broadcasting license. See 1985 below.

1983(Feb): Pay-TV went on the air in Canada, offered through cable TV companies. The stated objectives included increasing the diversity of programming available to Canadians, and making available high-quality Canadian programming from new sources by providing new revenue for Canadian producers previously unable to gain access to Canada's broadcasting system (Collins, 1990, p. 83). Minimum CanCon quotas were specified, as were CanCon expenditure requirements (half of which were to be spent on Canadian drama. The requirements proved to be excessive and several licensees went bankrupt or were allowed to be reorganized (Collins, 1990, pp. 84-86).

1983: The first specialty channels were licensed by the CRTC. They were also made subject to varied CanCon requirements.

1983: Telefilm Canada begins to provide funding for "high-quality Canadian programming" through direct subsidies and "tax breaks."

1984: The CRTC increased the credit for Canadian drama to 150 percent under certain conditions (i.e., 10 points), and where the broadcast started between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. (See CRTC, Public Notice 1984-94).

1985(April): In Public Notice 1985-82, the CRTC announced that it proposed to supplement CanCon regulations by relying "on the use of conditions of license over and above the minimum regulatory requirements, to stimulate improvements in Canadian television programs" (Collins, 1990, p. 77).

1991: The new Broadcasting Act included all means of telecommunications in the definition of broadcasting.

1991: The CRTC's "FM Policy for the Nineties" increased CanCon quotas for FM to the same level as AM stations. (30%)

1993(Dec) The CRTC modified the criteria for a "Canadian" musical selection to allow one Canadian "point" where, in a case involving collaboration between a Canadian composer and lyricist and a non-Canadian, the Canadian was credited, according to a recognized performing rights society, with at least 50 percent of the contribution to the combined composer and lyricist collaboration. The amendment applies only to the musical selections recorded or performed live on or after September 1, 1991 (Chater & Robertson, 1996, p. 27).

1995: CRTC creates the Cable Production Fund, financed by "voluntary contributions" by the cable TV operators.

1995: Several suppliers of DTH satellite services were licensed, but all were required to contribute 5 percent of their gross revenues to the Cable Production Fund.

1996: The CRTC eliminated the significant benefits test for distribution undertakings (previously 10 percent of the value of transaction).

1996(Aug): The Government of Canada's "Convergence Policy Statement" made it clear that all broadcasting distribution undertakings, including new types of services, will be subject to essentially the same rules governing contributions to Canadian programming. Also, their basic package of services is to have "a predominant Canadian choice."

1996(Sept): The Canada Television and Cable Production Fund is announced in September by the Minister of Heritage. It is funded at $200 million per year, including the Cable Production Fund and Telefilm Canada funding.

1997(July): The CRTC licenses 5 Video-on-Demand services and imposes CanCon requirements on them. Most independent observers argue that VOD does not fall within the definition of broadcasting in the Broadcasting Act since the programs are not available for reception by the public as the definition states.

1998: Effective January 1, all broadcasting distribution undertakings are required to contribute 5 percent of their gross revenues to the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund. Larger cable systems may instead use part of the amount to finance the mandated community channel (see CRTC, "Broadcasting Distribution Regulations," December 22, 1997).

1998(Jan): Telephone companies can now hold a broadcasting license. If they offer cable TV services they will be subject to CanCon requirements. NBTel was the first to apply and received a licence in June 1998, effective in 1999.

1998(Feb): Heritage Minister Sheila Copps extends the Canada Television and Cable Production fund to 2002.

1998(June): Heritage Minister Sheila Copps announces $30 million in subsidies over five years (a "Multimedia Fund") to support Canadian content for Internet sites, CD-ROMs, and other multimedia projects created by private companies (Saunders, 1998). The money will is for interest-free loans for up to $250,000 to cover up to 50 percent of the development, production, and marketing costs of "commercially-viable, culture-oriented, Canadian Multimedia products," according to the Minister (Saunders, 1998, p. A1). The idea is to put Canadian content on the Internet and to create jobs in an independent, new-media industry. The money is to create original cultural products and "edutainment" materials.

1999(Jan): Radio stations are required to increase the CanCon quota from 30 to 35 percent, including 35 percent between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The CRTC permits greater concentration in the ownership of radio stations in individual markets. See CRTC Public Notice 1998-41, April 30, 1998.

You can contact us at the above email address for any comments or information requests. Please report any dead links or technical problems.

If you know someone who would be interested in this web page, please enter their email address below, and we will forward this URL to them:
Email Address:
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 20, 1999.