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Satellite Radio — They Sold Us Out

By Christopher Moore | November 30, 2005

Satellite radio launches in Canada tomorrow, December 1. They were in such a rush to get it launched and start collecting those subscription revenues that they seem to have made a hash of it. But you may not be missing much. Sounds like Satellite Radio is going to be Global for radio.

In Canada we support domestic cultural production. And we should. Left to itself, the commercial marketplace would largely shut out Canadian voices. When music producers in New York or LA needed a new band, they would go to New Jersey or the Valley, and indeed there’s lots of good music there. But economies of scale dictate that a Canadian band would only get in if it moved to LA and sounded like the band LA wanted.

Pretty much, that’s the situation in movies: distribution controlled from LA, so you are hardly allowed to see Canadian movies, because they don’t get made.

Radio has been a lot better. We welcome the world’s music. But the radio distribution system in Canada is Canadian and abides by Canadian rules. Canadians make the choices, and they include Canadian voices among all the others. Lots of the voices that start here go out to the world.

Same with books. We welcome the world’s books, but the publishers that are here and employing Canadians to make the choices get support and encouragement to offer Canadian books as well as all those imports. Canadian books emerge — and the best of them go all over the world.

Even TV. We get the best of all the world’s television. God knows we have terrible Everybody Loves Raymond channels that coin it by rebroadcasting the feeblest in American television. But the distribution system — private channels, public channels, cable channels, digital channels — is based here. We don’t get American HBO directly, but Showcase or CTV or the Movie Network pick up their offerings. That way we support a Canadian television industry, and so we get to see some Canadian work as well as the foreign stuff.

With satellite radio we blew it. We went for a continental distribution system that will be run by American providers in exchange for their promises to create a little Canadian ghetto on the side. We could have built a Canadian system just like the Canadian cable and satellite TV systems and used it to support a Canadian industry. But we went for the branch plant.

And now that Satellite Radio can break CanCon rules, obviously all the other radio stations will demand and no doubt receive the same privilege. More money for the broadcasters. Less scope for a Canadian music scene.

I’ve been listening to that new Van Morrison CD, “Magic Time.” Old Van sounds like an angry paranoid at times, but I keep hearing one lyric of his. “They sold me out, they sold me out. For just a few shekels, they sold me out. They sold me out.”

For more on satellite radio, check www.songwriters.ca‘s news section.

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