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Radio Edit: Canada Should Stop Peeking Over Musical Border
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By Kamloops This Week

In the early 1970s, Canadian radio began using the Canadian Content (CanCon) system, meaning every radio station must broadcast a certain amount of music (usually 35 per cent) that was produced, written or performed by Canadians. Before this, Canadian radio was essentially the same as American radio, broadcasting the same music and artists you would hear in the United States.

The system was brought in to protect our culture from the massive influence that our American neighbours had upon Canada. And, for the most part, the system has worked with radio.

You can hear many homegrown artists on our airwaves and our country continues to produce excellent Canadian musicians.

However, before the system really took off in the 1970s, Canadian artists had to go south of the border to get their music produced and heard. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are excellent examples. While many musicians produce CanCon right here in Canada, there is still an unfortunate tendency for us to look to the States for Canadian culture.

Call it a leftover of colonial thinking.

Somehow, despite the vast cultural history and variety our country has, we still tend to think of culture coming from Canada as somehow inferior to the culture of the U.S., or even the United Kingdom.

In the early days of CanCon, commercial radio was reluctant to support our own culture. Even today, it takes a Canadian artist hitting down south before they’re truly adopted here.

Take Justin Bieber, for example. He was discovered by American producer Scooter Braun and recorded his first professional material in Atlanta.

It wasn’t until he was an established star in the U.S. that he was embraced by Canadian radio. The trend has continued. If you take a look at the Top 40 charts for the U.S.
and Canada, you’ll see the same Canadian bands on each chart: Drake, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes.

It’s pretty rare to see a Canadian artist on the Canadian charts who hasn’t hit in the States. Our homegrown talent on Canadian commercial radio that is all but unknown in the States is a fairly short list. It includes The Tragically Hip, Jann Arden, Hedley, Blue Rodeo and others.

It’s an unfortunate holdover from our beginnings of finding our own culture, but commercial radio still has to make money, so it goes with what’s popular, which means going with what the U.S. thinks is good.

But, with our 150th year since Confederation, shouldn’t we be prouder of our own culture?

Shouldn’t we stop peeking over the border and asking “Do you like this?” before we start to support it?

Steve Marlow is program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to

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