Blogs & Comment

Radio is sinkin’, man, and I don’t want to swim

Canadian radio stations are raking in an increasing amount of dough while reaching fewer people every year. Does that sound like a sustainable business?


Last month, I broke down and bought a car stereo to replace the factory model that came with my 2003 Toyota Corolla. Given that the car is eight years old, the stereo didn’t yet have the necessary inputs to properly connect an iPod. I’d therefore been relying on one of those crappy FM transmitters that plug into the iPod, which not only result in crackly sound, but you also have to continually adjust the reception because of shifting FM stations in different towns and cities.

I shelled out for the new stereo, a simple $99 model from Pioneer, simply because I can’t take Canadian radio anymore. On the one hand, there are all the ads – since the CRTC allows radio stations to air as many as they want, the amount has been climbing and climbing. That’s good news for radio revenues, which are also climbing and climbing, but bad news for your sanity while driving.

On the other hand, there are the CRTC’s Canadian content requirements. At least 35% of popular music radio stations’ content must be Canadian each week, with a further 35% requirement for Monday to Friday between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. If you like rock music like I do, that means you pretty much get The Tragically Hip every hour, on the hour. And let’s just say that’s one band I can’t stand. I would actually rather listen to my car explode than have to hear New Orleans is Sinking one more time.

Since I got the new stereo, my iPod has been on non-stop. I’ve ventured back to radio once or twice just to hear what was up, but got disgusted and switched back quickly.

Evidently, I’m not alone. Radio listenership is plummeting. According to the most recent report from Statistics Canada (from 2008), Canadians are listening to two fewer hours of radio per week than they did a decade ago. Moreover, adult contemporary was the most listened-to form of music, while kids barely tuned in to the radio at all. Translation: only older people are listening to the radio.

This means that, thanks to CRTC regulations combined with a plethora of other options (such as iPods), radio stations are raking in an increasing amount of dough, yet they’re reaching fewer and fewer people every year. Does that sound like a sustainable business? Most definitely not.

That takes us back to last week’s post about the possibility of the CRTC regulating the likes of Netflix and YouTube. Rather than looking at expanding CanCon requirements to new businesses, the CRTC should perhaps be examining how its rules are inevitably going to hurt old media. I, for one, won’t go back to radio unless stations cut back on playing ads and weak Canadian music.