|Photo by Glen Gower|
I’ve been talking to several local radio insiders about Ottawa’s commercial radio formats, playlists, etc. One interesting regulation that I learned about is called the “hit/no hit” rule. This is related to, but completely separate from the CANCON rules regulating the amount of Canadian content played on the airwaves. Here’s a description from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the government body that regulates radio broadcasting in Canada. (Emphasis is mine.)
In the Commission’s 1975 policy “FM Radio in Canada – A Policy to Ensure a Varied and Comprehensive Radio Service”312 the concept of monitoring and regulating the ratio of hits to non-hits that are broadcast on each commercial FM radio station was introduced.
The basic concept was to increase diversity on the air waves, and to encourage the air-play of new and emerging Canadian artists. The hits/non-hits policy applied to all FM stations that broadcast popular music. They were required to maintain the level of hits below 50% of popular music selections broadcast during a broadcast week. The policy was enforced through incorporation of this commitment into a licensee’s Promise of Performance, which became a condition of licence.
Over time the Commission has reduced, by stages, the application of this policy. In 1990 the CRTC exempted French-language stations from the hits policy. In 1997 the Commission reduced the impact of the rule for most commercial radio stations, but continued to apply it to English-language commercial radio stations in Montreal and Ottawa. This was done in an attempt to level the playing field between French-language and English-language broadcasters who were competing for listeners and advertisers in those bilingual markets. The concern was that if the French-language FM broadcasters in those two markets were also required to play 65% French-language vocal selections they would be at a competitive disadvantage with their English-language counterparts, if they were no longer restricted to a level of “hits” below 50%.
What qualifies as a hit?
- “Hits” include any song that’s appeared on the mainstream Top 40 list in Canada or the U.S. at any time in the past few decades.
- There’s a big exception: Canadian songs that are can-con eligible and have been a top 40 hit the last year can be played without counting against the “hit” quota. (But if they’re older than one year old, they count as a hit.) This is to encourage more new Canadian content on the air.
- The quota applies between 6am-midnight.
Radio stations can program their 50% “non-hits” during overnight or evening hours when fewer people are listening. As long as they don’t go over 50% hit song limit during a seven day period.
Any local radio / industry people who can add some context or insight to this rule? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
See also: Ottawa Radio Guide
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