TRUCE DECLARED IN THE CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC WAR
(FORTUNE Magazine) – The Canadian trade war is over, and that is music--American country music--to the ears of Canadian television viewers. Trade war? Canada? Correct.
Seems that in January, Country Music Television, co-owned by Westinghouse's Group W and Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment, was kicked out of Canada after ten years on the air. The channel got the boot by Canada's FCC equivalent to make room for a homegrown startup called the New Country Network, featuring Canadian country artists such as Shania Twain and Michelle Wright as much as U.S. stars Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire.
The Canadians, always worried about being Americanized (heck, they've already lost ice hockey), created a loophole in NAFTA that exempts cultural businesses, anything from dance troupes to cable channels.
It takes two to tango, said CMT, which banished Canadian pickers who lacked U.S. recording contracts, such as George Fox, Charlie Major, and Prairie Oyster.
One victim was British Columbia's Patricia Conroy, whose song "Somebody's Leavin' " started getting radio play in the U.S. in December. The video got only a week of air on CMT before it was banned. The song then stalled on the country charts. Conroy's agent, Tim Rathert, says the boycott cost her about $750,000 in lost sales.
In June, after some saber rattling by the U.S. Trade Representative, CMT's owners agreed to acquire a 20% stake in an entity called Country Music Television (Canada), supplanting the New Country Network. Says Phil Lind, vice chairman of Rogers Communications, part owner of the new CMT: "It was kind of silly to have this issue come between the two countries."
The issue isn't dead. Other U.S. media interests that backed CMT in complaining to the U.S. Trade Representative aren't happy about lack of U.S. access to Canadian markets. They claim the Canada-first policy costs more than $700 million annually in revenue. CNBC, for instance, is limited to 12 hours of programming daily--and no Geraldo Rivera. Other protesters include Court TV, EMI, HBO, and the Weather Channel. Please, let's let Canada keep its weather.