The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - CAS­SAN­DRA SZKLARSKI

TORONTO — CMT Canada’s de­ci­sion to stop play­ing music videos will hob­ble a homegrown coun­try scene al­ready strug­gling to com­pete against slicker, bet­ter pro­moted U.S. ri­vals, say Cana­dian mu­si­cians.

The Corus-owned spe­cialty chan­nel stopped air­ing videos Sun­day, as it of­fi­cially shifted pro­gram­ming en­tirely to­ward sit­coms, re­al­ity shows, movies and spe­cial events.

The move isn’t sit­ting well with mu­si­cians in­clud­ing Dean Brody and Tim Hicks, who say they’ve lost a pow­er­ful plat­form to get their music out.

“To see that dis­solve and evolve is go­ing to be hard be­cause it was a big part of me be­com­ing suc­cess­ful in this coun­try,” says Brody. “It’ll leave a big hole.”

Hicks called CMT “in­te­gral” to his ca­reer, not­ing that a fund as­so­ci­ated with the chan­nel helped pay for 10 of his music videos, which gave him na­tional ex­po­sure.

“You’re talk­ing about mech­a­nisms that break artists, get­ting videos and images and talk­ing about the music in front of peo­ple. It’s a se­ri­ous drag but by the same to­ken I un­der­stand too that we’re at a point of time where peo­ple don’t want to wait for their favourite video to come on,” says Hicks, who ex­pects he and his team will have to “get choosier and more cal­cu­lated” in mak­ing videos.

Back when the Cana­dian arm of Coun­try Music Tele­vi­sion de­buted in 1994, it was meant to show­case coun­try music videos and homegrown artists — in fact, its li­cence re­quired at least 90 per cent of its pro­gram­ming be coun­try music videos.

That changed in 2001, when the obli­ga­tion dropped to 70 per cent, and again in 2006, when it dropped to 50 per cent. The con­di­tion re­mained that CMT Canada in­vest in cre­at­ing orig­i­nal homegrown TV con­tent.

Last year, Corus Me­dia won a bid to elim­i­nate its obli­ga­tion en­tirely as it sought greater flex­i­bil­ity to cre­ate and ac­quire pro­grams.

The me­dia giant also tried to spike terms that at least 11 per cent of its pre­vi­ous year’s gross rev­enue pay for Cana­dian coun­try music videos. The Cana­dian Ra­dio-tele­vi­sion and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion ruled it should con­tinue funding the music in­dus­try but re­moved the con­di­tion that it ex­clu­sively sup­port coun­try artists.

A Corus spokeswoman said late last week that CMT’s lineup was “be­ing re­freshed.”

In­deed, the new sched­ule is filled with back-to-back episodes of shows like “Reba,” “Rules of En­gage­ment,” “Last Man Stand­ing” and “Black-ish.”

Ted El­lis, chair­man of the Cana­dian Coun­try Music As­so­ci­a­tion, sus­pects Corus has grander plans for CMT.

He notes the com­pany likely won’t have trou­ble fill­ing hours once dom­i­nated by music videos — Corus has plenty of con­tent thanks to the re­cent pur­chase of Shaw and its suite of spe­cialty chan­nels, which in­cluded HGTV, Food Net­work Canada and His­tory.

“CMT is a very well-dis­trib­uted ser­vice in Canada, it has al­most all English-speak­ing view­ers, so it’s a great as­set for Corus. I imag­ine they could think there’s a bet­ter use for that chan­nel,” says El­lis, a for­mer exec at the chan­nel.

El­lis him­self wres­tled with CMT’s chang­ing iden­tity when he was head of pro­gram­ming at CMT for 12 years, un­til 2015. Dur­ing his ten­ure, the air­ing of music videos dropped to 50 per cent from 70 per cent.

Still, his as­so­ci­a­tion was among sev­eral groups that ob­jected to the re­cent changes, along with the Cana­dian In­de­pen­dent Music As­so­ci­a­tion and the So­ci­ety of Com­posers, Au­thors and Music Pub­lish­ers of Canada.

Corus has in­sisted the changes would not lessen Cana­dian con­tent or spend­ing on homegrown pro­grams. But it would give the com­pany more flex­i­bil­ity in a chang­ing me­dia land­scape, such as the abil­ity to fund more long-form music pro­gram­ming in­stead.


Dean Brody says CMT Canada’s de­ci­sion has erased a pow­er­ful plat­form to get Cana­dian coun­try music out.

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