Canadian content

From Academic Kids

Canadian content or can-con refers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission requirements that radio and television broadcasters (including cable TV networks) must air a certain percentage of content that was at least partly written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada. It also refers to that content itself, and, more generally, to cultural and creative content that is Canadian in nature.

For music, the requirements are referred to as the MAPL system. Following an extensive public hearing process organized by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the MAPL system was established as a way to define and identify Canadian content in pieces of music for the purposes of increasing exposure of Canadian music on Canadian radio through content regulations governing a percentage (25%) of airplay that is to be devoted to Canadian music. The percentage was increased to 30 per cent in the 1980s, and to 35 per cent in the 1990s.

However, certain stations -- specifically those playing formats where there may be a limited number of Canadian recordings suitable for airplay, such as classical, jazz or "oldies" -- may be allowed by the CRTC to meet Canadian content targets as low as 20 per cent.

Before the MAPL system was established in 1971 Canadian music was regarded with indifference on Canadian radio. This was a major hurdle for Canadian musicians since it meant that they could not gain attention in their home country without having a hit single in the United States first. Even after MAPL was implemented, in the early 1970s some radio stations were criticized for restricting their Canadian content to off-peak listening hours, in program blocks mockingly known as the "beaver hour".

The MAPL system has had a huge impact and has proven to be highly successful and largely responsible for the rise of Canadian artists to national and international stardom since 1971.

The television show SCTV created the 2-minute long "Great White North" sketch with the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie to both fufill and make fun of the Can-con rules, as the sketch was loaded with Canadian stereotypes. It became the most popular segment of the show and the characters, played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, would be featured in comedy albums, film and commercials.

How the MAPL system works

To qualify as Canadian content a musical selection must generally fulfill at least two of the following conditions:

  • M (music) -- the music is composed entirely by a Canadian.
  • A (artist) -- the music is, or the lyrics are, performed principally by a Canadian.
  • P (production) -- the musical selection consists of a live performance that is
    • (i) recorded wholly in Canada, or
    • (ii) performed wholly in Canada and broadcast live in Canada.
  • L (lyrics) -- the lyrics are written entirely by a Canadian.

There are four special cases where a musical selection may qualify as Canadian content:

  • The musical selection was recorded before January 1972 and meets one of the above conditions.
  • It is an instrumental performance of a musical composition written or composed by a Canadian.
  • It is a performance of a musical composition that a Canadian has composed for instruments only.
  • The musical selection was performed live or recorded after September 1, 1991 and, in addition to meeting the criterion for either artist or production, a Canadian who has collaborated with a non-Canadian receives at least half of the credit for both music and lyrics.

This last criterion was added in 1991, to accommodate Bryan Adams' album Waking Up the Neighbours. Adams had collaborated with British record producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, and as a result, the album did not qualify as Canadian content under the existing rules. After extensive controversy in the summer of that year, the CRTC changed the rules to allow for such collaborations.

A major motivation is the fear that without a regulatory system, independent Canadian popular culture would be swallowed up by that of the neighboring United States. However, many Canadian artists complain that radio stations meet their CanCon quotas by playing artists who have already achieved popularity first in the United States, although some proponents of the system credit it for the success of artists such as Avril Lavigne.

Some people believe that Can-con was a major contributor to the decline in popularity of 50,000 watt radio station CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, starting in the mid-1970s.

Some other countries employ similar systems. For example, Australian broadcasters are required to broadcast a certain percentage of Australian content alongside international content.

The name of 1980s Canadian music group Kon Kan is derived from "Can-con".

The MAPL logo

Missing image

Every radio station in Canada must meet Canadian content quotas, therefore, placing the MAPL logo on album packaging and on the compact disc itself increases the chance that the music will receive airplay in Canada. The MAPL logo is a circle divided into four parts, one part for each of the four "MAPL" categories. The categories in which the music qualifies are black with a white initial M, A, P or L. The categories for which the music does not qualify are in white, with a black letter.

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