Full disclosure: I like satellite radio. A lot. I have a receiver in my office and another one in my car. My wife's new SUV has it.
Yes, there are many annoying things about satellite radio--for example, if SiriusXM is now one company, why can't I get all the Sirius channels on my XM radio?--but I find it most uselful as music and information source.
I remember when satellite radio came to Canada back in 2005. Terrestrial broadcasters were (a) secretly afraid that it would siphon off a significant amount of listenership; and (b) angry at what they saw as a regulatory free ride when it came to the issue of Canadian content.
Point (a) never happened. Ratings for terrestrial radio stayed strong, even with all the incentives offered by the two satellite networks and the widespread availability of satellite radio in new cars.
Meanwhile, XM and Sirius lost buckets and buckets and buckets of money, prompting a merger in the US and later here in Canada.
Now SiriusXM's first license term is almost up. They have until August 31 to sort things out with the CRTC so it can be renewed. And here's where it gets tricky.
One of the conditions of granting the original license was a hefty Canadian content development committment. The square-peg-round-hole issue of CanCon was addressed by demanding that the satellite radio companies commit 5% of gross revenues to developing new content.
That's a lot, especially considering that the committment terrestrial radio stations is 0.5%--ten times less. And Sirius XM Canada is not profitable. They say they're losing money at "a disturbing rate."
And it's not like Canadian music development needs more money. We are the envy of the world when it comes to providing financial assistance for our muscians. There are those who say that the various organizations entrused with doling out this cash have more than they can spend. And with the BCE purchase of Astral, tens of millions of new dollars will soon be injected into the system.
(When there's a merger like this, a condition of the sale is to put aside a sizeable percentage of the purchase price for Canadian talent/content development.)
But CanCon is a political minefield. There's not a more contentious amongst broadcasters, artists, managers, labels, publishers and the Heritage Ministry. Any request to back off CanCon obligations is received as not just un-Canadian but downright traiterous. (Trust me: I've had first-hand experience with this culture war.)
Read more about SiriusXM Canada's issues here. Everyone will be watching closely.