Last week, on February 21, Pierre Juneau died. If you've already heard this news (or read this post) then you are probably also aware that Juneau made many contributions to the cause of Canadian culture, that he was the first head of the CRTC, and as such he implemented Cancon rules for radio in 1971 which lead to the Gold Leaf Awards being renamed the Juno Awards in his honour. A new era of Canadian culture was born, the indigenous music industry was saved from the onslaught of American imports and finally able to grow strong...
A great achievement, but not a smooth one as is often portrayed. Before the regulations were passed radio stations were, surprise, extremely resistant to the idea of any content regulations -- local talent wasn't good enough, content rules were akin to soviet censorship, stations would die of insolvency if they didn't match American radio formats, and so on.
Even once the regulations came into effect (January 18, 1971), broadcasters found new sources for complaint: now Canadian talent was good enough, but production quality sucked (lots of hiss, a "sound right out of 1945"), there wasn't enough Cancon of the types of music needed (rock is a teen fad!), the record companies' output dried up and they weren't promoting Cancon aggressively enough, or in the right way, or something.
Record companies were also accused of misrepresenting, perhaps deliberately, some albums or groups as Canadian when they weren't (of course, stations were blamed equally for feigning ignorance when they very probably knew better). Then came a huge battle over whether the Copyrght Board should make broadcasters pay royalties to records companies for the use of sound recordings and was it ethical that stations were setting up their own record and publishing companies?
All of these matters were reported on in RPM, the now-defunct trade journal that devised the MAPL system and founded the Gold Leaf Awards. From its beginning in 1964, RPM was a dedicated advocate for Canadian music and a major agitator for the later Cancon regulations. It published frequently on the subject, hitting a peak with a series called “Legislated Radio: A Licence to Make Money?” This may not sound like much now, but the idea of Cancon regulations was so controversial at the time that the author of the series, RPM co-founder Stan Klees, remained anonymous for a long time after its publication for fear of being blacklisted out of the industry.
At least once Juneau tried to acknowledge RPM while they were in middle of honouring him. During his acceptance speech for 'Canadian Music Industry Man of the Year,' Juneau, apparently stunned by the lengthy standing ovation he received, said "I shouldn't be here to receive an award, I should be here to give an award. . . to RPM." Indeed, if it wasn't for RPM's efforts, it's hard to say if the Canadian music industry on its own would have presented an equally compelling case for Cancon to the CRTC.
In my own little tribute to Juneau and Cancon, I made last night's show 100% Cancon including a bunch of hits I discovered via Library and Archives Canada's RPM chart archive. Some unexpected hits - such as the "Ontario Place Theme Song" - had to be left out because I couldn't find usable recordings in time, but if you'd like to hear what was included, you can stream the podcast here or here for about the next month.