Last week the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission issued a revised policy for campus and community radio stations. One big change is that they have decided to no longer have separate regulatory policies for campus and community radio. Additionally, in the past distinctions were made between various types of community radio stations and between campus stations. These sub-categories (type A and type B for community radio and campus instructional and campus-community for college radio) are also being eliminated:
"The Commission will not licence campus instructional stations in the future and will instead licence all such stations as campus stations in accordance with this policy. All campus radio stations provide training to volunteers. The Commission notes the specific role that stations currently licensed as campus instructional play in training broadcasters who will work for commercial radio stations. The Commission encourages these stations to pursue this goal within the new campus station framework, or through alternative means of broadcasting (e.g. the Internet, closed circuit or carrier current). At their next licence renewal, existing campus instructional stations will have the opportunity to request conditions of licence specific to their circumstances within the campus radio licensing structure."
Other tidbits from this policy include the fact that the Commission doesn't license elementary and high school-based AM and FM radio stations. The policy did state, however, that community radio stations could be housed on their campuses. In their determination they stated:
"The Commission is not convinced that a station associated with a high school or elementary school could provide consistent high quality programming as required under the Act, especially in the summer months when school is not in session. The Commission further notes that the number of frequencies available for radio stations is limited in many markets. The Commission therefore considers that broadcasting by high school or elementary school students would be more appropriate using the Internet."
An interesting part of Canadian broadcast policy is that it requires a certain percentage of "spoken word" programming every week. In the past, campus radio stations were asked to devote 25% of their weekly broadcast hours to spoken word programming. The new policy acknowledges the challenges that stations faced meeting that requirement and has reduced it to 15% of weekly broadcast hours for both campus and community radio stations. Additionally, this spoken word programming must be locally produced.
One of the most confusing aspects of the Canadian policy to me is that they place minimum requirements on the percentages of various categories of music that are played on campus and community radio stations. In order to promote diverse sounds and showcase Canadian artists, stations are required to adhere to a number of genre-based minimums. Categories explained in the policy include popular music ("category 2"), specialty music ("category 3"), pop/rock/dance ("sub-category 21") and experimental music ("sub-category 36").
I'd be curious to hear how radio stations in Canada keep track of all of the genres and sub-genres and ensure that they are meeting the minimum requirements. This is a very different system from the United States, in which radio stations are given much more control over the music that is played over their airwaves. As we've seen in the U.S., commercial stations in particular have been increasingly shortening their playlists and radio has become less and less diverse. To some extent college stations have also followed this model, using it as an assumed pathway to more listeners and a more standardized sound.
If you work in Canadian campus radio, I'd love to hear more from you about the CRTC's policies and if you think they make for better, more diverse stations.