How to comply with the requirements related to your radio licence
We have revised the Commercial Radio Policy. Some of the requirements described below may change as a result. We will update this web page accordingly as the changes become effective.
The Commission reviews the compliance record of each station during a licence term before renewing the licence for another term (as well as amendments to conditions of licence, as the case may be). The Commission may also review a radio station's compliance any time it receives a complaint.
In addition, please note that it is important to ensure that your broadcasting certificate issued by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is still valid. You must contact ISED directly for that verification.
Table of regulatory requirements and audited items
In the table below, the regulatory requirements and items are listed according to the type of licence you hold and the requirements that you must comply with.
To assess a radio station licensee's compliance, the Commission generally reviews the following regulatory requirements and items:
- AR – Annual returns
- CCD – Canadian Content Development contributions (including tangible benefits)
- RM – Radio monitoring (programming requirements and submission of documents and audio recordings)
- P/COL – Policies and conditions of licence
- NPAS – National Public Alerting System
- OW – Ownership
- C – Complaints
The (check mark) tells you what information is required and reviewed for each type of licence.
|Type of licence||Type of regulatory requirements|
|Commercial||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark|
|Community/Campus||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark|
|Ethnic||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark|
|Indigenous||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark||check mark|
Instances of non-compliance
Licensees are given the opportunity to comment in writing on the Commission's preliminary findings of apparent non-compliance noted in performance evaluation reports and following the filing of the licence renewal applications. When considering applications for licence renewals or amendments, the Commission questions licensees on the circumstances related to the apparent non-compliance and the actions they have taken to remedy the situation. Subsequently, the Commission imposes sanctions according to the nature of the non-compliance. Each instance of non-compliance is assessed in context and based on factors such as the quantity, recurrence and seriousness of the non-compliance. The Commission also takes into account the circumstances, explanations provided by the licensee and measures taken by the licensee to rectify the situation. Interventions, where appropriate, are also considered in the decision-making process.
In Broadcasting Information Bulletin 2014-608, the Commission sets out the sanctions it may use to remedy a situation of non-compliance. In summary, the Commission may adopt some of the following measures:
- Short-term licence renewal
- Imposing conditions of licence
- Requiring additional Canadian content development (CCD) contributions that are over and above those required by the Radio Regulations, 1986 or by conditions of licence
- Removing the ability to make CCD contributions to discretionary initiatives, such as talent contests
- Requiring licensees to broadcast an announcement regarding their non-compliance
- Imposing mandatory orders
- Non-renewal of the licence
- Suspension of the licence
- Revocation of the licence
When considering applications for licence amendments, the Commission will take into account the above-mentioned factors (i.e. the quantity, recurrence and seriousness of the non-compliance), as well as the connection between the application for the amendment and any instance of non-compliance. For example, the Commission could deny an application for an amendment to a programming requirement for a licensee that is found in non-compliance with the requirement in question.
Call to public hearing
The need to call a licensee to a public hearing will also be determined based on the circumstances, the above-mentioned criteria and the licensee’s response to instances of non-compliance. It should be noted that, at any time during a licence term, the Commission can call a licensee to a hearing following a complaint received during the licence term, or on its own motion in response to other regulatory issues. The Commission could then impose the above-mentioned measures on the licensee as it deems appropriate.
You can call the single point of contact for broadcasting undertakings at 1-866-781-1911 for any further questions.
Information on possible instances of non-compliance
Pursuant to subsection 9(2) of the Radio Regulations, 1986, licensees must submit to the Commission, on or before November 30 of each year, the annual return (including financial statements) for the broadcast year ending on the previous August 31. Failure to file these returns, in whole or in part, by the required date, may result in an apparent non-compliance.
When a licensee files a late, incomplete or inaccurate annual return, its compliance with Canadian content development contribution requirements cannot be fully assessed. Filing the required information on an annual basis not only allows the Commission to properly assess the performance of licensees, as well as their compliance with the regulations and their obligations, but also allows to effectively assess and regulate the broadcasting industry. Annual returns are a key component of the Commission's current monitoring plan and contribute to an authoritative source of statistics on the Canadian broadcasting industry for all stakeholders.
Notice to radio station licensees regarding the filing of annual returns
- In October, Commission staff sends an e-mail and letter by mail to radio station licensees advising them of their obligations to file their annual returns.
- One week prior to the deadline of 30 November, Commission staff usually sends a courtesy e-mail as a reminder of the submission deadline.
- Finally, two weeks following the due date, another courtesy e-mail is sent to licensees that did not file their forms in whole or in part.
* Please note, however, that staff will not consider the fact that a licensee has not received one of its notices as justification for a late filing. The Commission reminds licensees of their responsibility to ensure that the Commission has the station’s correct contact information. To report any changes to your contact information, please submit the changes electronically using the secured service "My CRTC Account" (Partner Log in or GCKey) and clicking “Broadcasting Cover Page” or the “Broadcasting Online Form and Cover Page” located on this page.
To submit your annual return, you must access the required forms through the Data Collection System (DCS) by logging into My CRTC Account.
Data Collection System (DCS)
In order to reduce the regulatory burden placed on the industry, the Commission introduced an online data collection system in January 2004. The system provides a secure and encrypted connection between the Commission and the entity providing data. Broadcasting licensees are required to use this system to file their annual returns.
Access the Data Collection System (DCS)
- Log into the DCS with your My CRTC Account login (GCkey) or Sign-In Partner.
- Select "Forms" [on the left-hand side in desktop view; select the triple lines at the top right in mobile view].
- Forms assigned to your entity will be displayed: select “View forms” to access the form.
For help accessing DCS, contact us using the online form or call the DCS Help Desk at 1-866-845-6036.
Licensees of radio stations must complete the following DCS forms by 30 November of each year:
- Form 1110 – Radio Station Financial Summary (and other forms, as applicable, explained in the frequently asked questions on broadcasting annual returns).
- REBP Reporting Entity Profile – Broadcasting
- Form 1411 for the National Public Alerting System (NPAS)
Period covered by the annual returns
The Commission notes that annual returns must cover the broadcast year, which begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August of the following year, irrespective of the accounting or taxation year-end of the licensee.
Annual returns, which are due on 30 November of each broadcast year, must be submitted in proper form and must include the necessary supporting documentation. Supporting documentation must:
- Clearly indicate the name of the recipient of the Canadian Content Development (CCD) payment;
- Indicate the amount paid and the cheque and/or invoice number; and
- Include copies of cancelled cheques or receipts, as well as documents supporting the eligibility of the initiative.
In the Revised Commercial Radio Policy 2022-332, the Commission sets out the parties and initiatives that are eligible for CCD funding. An initiative the Commission considers ineligible will result in non-compliance, and the shortfall will have to be paid to eligible initiatives even if the funds have already been contributed.
Canadian Content Development (CCD) Contributions
Broadcasting Information Bulletin 2009-251, Clarifications regarding Canadian content development contributions made by commercial radio stations
Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2014-459, Simplified approach to tangible benefits and determining the value of the transaction.
A CCD contribution is a financial contribution made to support, promote, develop and provide training to Canadian talent.
Under subsection 15(2) of the Regulations, commercial radio licensees with revenues of over $1,250,000 are required to make an annual contribution to eligible Canadian content development (CCD) initiatives (referred to as basic annual contributions to CCD).
Subsection 15(5) also requires the payment of a percentage of the basic annual CCD contribution to FACTOR or MUSICACTION and to the Community Radio Fund of Canada (45% and 15% respectively).
In addition, some licensees are also subject to specific conditions of licence requiring them to pay a certain amount in addition to basic requirements. These requirements are generally listed in the broadcasting decision for the current licence term.
The Commission considers it appropriate to require the payment of tangible benefits when there is a change in effective control of a radio programming service.
For commercial radio undertakings (see Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2022-332 and Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2014-459), tangible benefits must generally amount to a minimum of 6% of the value of the transaction and be allocated as follows:
- 3%, 60% of which should be directed to the Radio Starmaker Fund and 40% to the Fonds RadioStar;
- 1.5%, 60% of which should be directed to FACTOR and 40% to Musicaction;
- 1% to an eligible CCD project at the discretion of the purchaser; and
- 0.5% to the Community Radio Fund of Canada (CRFC)
In addition, under the Simplified approach to tangible benefits and determining the value of the transaction (Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2014-459), the Commission expects licensees to ensure the ongoing compliance of the stations and that outstanding benefits and other contributions are paid. Failure to make payments or report those made may result in non-compliance instances.
Radio monitoring – programming requirements and submission of documents and audio recordings
Regulatory programming requirements
Radio station licensees must comply with a variety of regulatory programming requirements depending on the language of the station, the commitments made by the licensee, the market the station operates in and the type of licence held. Compliance with these requirements is verified through performance evaluations that may take place at any time during the licence term.
The following is a sample of the programming requirements that are subject to compliance audits:
|Regulatory Requirement||Broadcast week (Sunday to Saturday from 6 a.m. to midnight)||Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|Canadian popular musical selections (content category 2Footnote 1)||Commercial, campus and community stations: Minimum of 35% or specific condition of licence||Commercial station: Minimum of 35% or specific condition of licence|
|Canadian special interest musical selections (content category 3Footnote 2)||
|Canadian musical selections from content subcategory 31 – ConcertFootnote 3||Commercial stations: Minimum of 25% or specific condition of licence|
|Canadian musical selections from content subcategory 34 – Jazz and bluesFootnote 4||Commercial stations: Minimum of 20% or specific condition of licence|
|French-language vocal music from content category 2Footnote 5||French-language commercial, campus and community stations: Minimum of 65% or specific condition of licence||French-language commercial station: Minimum of 55% or specific condition of licence|
|Musical montagesFootnote 7||Commercial station: Maximum of 10%|
|Local programmingFootnote 8||Commercial FM stations: One third of the programming or specific condition of licence|
|Spoken wordFootnote 9||
|Specialty formatFootnote 10||Commercial FM stations:
|Canadian musical selections during ethnic programming periodsFootnote 11||Ethnic commercial stations: Minimum of 7%|
|Ethnic programmingFootnote 12||Ethnic commercial stations: Minimum of 60%|
|Third-language programmingFootnote 13||
|Number of ethnic groups served and number of third language offeredFootnote 14||Ethnic commercial stations: Specific conditions of licence|
Evaluation of Canadian musical selections
Radio stations must broadcast a minimum amount of Canadian musical selections during a broadcast week. The Commission defines a Canadian musical selection in the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the Regulations). Within these regulations, four elements are used to qualify songs as being Canadian: music, artist, performance and lyrics (MAPL).
Please see the MAPL system for more information on this topic.
In order to allow the Commission to verify a radio station's compliance with its requirements to broadcast Canadian musical selections, radio station licensees must identify all Canadian musical selections in the documents provided to the Commission.
When a radio station is subject to a performance evaluation, Commission staff verifies whether the musical selections identified as Canadian comply with at least two of the four MAPL criteria. When additional information is required to determine if a musical selection is Canadian under the MAPL system, staff will request it from the licensee. The following are examples of documents that are considered acceptable evidence under each of the MAPL system conditions:
- Copies of album liner notes (music, lyrics);
- Studio recording invoices (production – recording);
- Letters from artists attesting to their involvement in creating a musical work (music, lyrics);
- Copies of valid passports (artists, composers, authors)
Evaluation of the category and subcategory of musical selections
During a performance evaluation, staff audits the category and subcategory of musical selections broadcast, in order to take it into account when auditing the percentage of Canadian musical selections broadcast. This is also done when a radio station must broadcast music from a specific musical subcategory.
For example, a radio station that has a condition of licence to broadcast jazz, blues, classic, folk or religious music must ensure that a minimum percentage of the musical selections broadcast corresponds to these musical genres.
Please refer to Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2022-333 for the different content categories and subcategories for radio.
Evaluation of hits
The policy regarding the broadcast of hits applies to English-language campus stations.
English-language campus stations must broadcast a maximum of 10% of hits during the broadcast week.
A hit is defined as “any musical selection that, at any time, has reached one of the Top 40 positions in the charts used by the Commission to determine hits.”
On the other hand, Canadian selections that enter the Top 40 will continue to be considered as non-hits for one year from the date they first enter the Top 40.
In addition, selections performed and aired live, or contained in a live performance recorded primarily for broadcast use will not be counted as hits.
Evaluation of musical montages
During a performance evaluation, Commission staff verifies the duration and composition of the musical montages broadcast by a commercial radio station. The licensee must ensure that no more than 10% of the station's programming is devoted to broadcasting musical montages in a broadcast week. In addition, musical montages must be consistent with the definition of a montage in Broadcasting Information Bulletin 2011-728 and, to be considered as a Canadian musical selection, with it must be consistent with the definition in paragraph 2.2(11) of the Regulations.
A montage will be considered a Canadian musical selection or French-language vocal music broadcast in its entirety if:
- The total length of excerpts of Canadian or French-language musical selections from category 2 accounts for more than 50% of the total length of the montage.
- The total duration of time of the montage is at least 4 minutes.
- The montage is not a collection of complete musical selections but rather musical excerpts.
- The montage has a common easily identifiable theme.
Submission of documents and audio recordings
When a radio station undergoes a performance evaluation, the licensee must provide Commission staff with the following materials for the given broadcast week:
- Cover letter
- Audio recordings
- List of musical selections
- Self-assessment report
- Program log
- Attestation (attestation to the accuracy of the contents of the program log)
- List of montages (if applicable)
- Cue sheet (list of musical selections broadcast during a syndicated or acquired program) (if applicable)
- Answers to any questions relevant to the evaluation of the station
Generally, the licensee must provide the requested materials within two weeks of receiving the request for information.
Subsection 8(5) of the Regulations states that a licensee must retain at all times a clear and intelligible audio recording or other exact copy of all matter broadcast, for four weeks from the date of the broadcast; or, where the Commission receives a complaint or for any other reason wishes to investigate it and so notifies the licensee, for eight weeks from the date of the broadcast.
In addition, subsection 8(6) of the Regulations states that, the licensee must immediately furnish the Commission with a clear and intelligible audio recording at its request.
Following receipt of such a request, if the licensee does not provide a copy of the audio recording for the selected week or provides an incomplete copy, Commission staff will not be able to conduct an exhaustive review of the information indicated in the list of musical selections, the self-assessment report and the program log used to verify the radio station's compliance with its regulatory requirements.
Consequently, failure to provide an audio recording or the filing of an incomplete recording will result in the station being placed in apparent non-compliance under subsection 8(5) of the Regulations. The steps to be taken to remedy the situation will then be addressed in the licence renewal process.
It is therefore essential for the licensee to ensure that a copy of the audio recording of the programming broadcast by the station for the requested period be retained and provided to the Commission upon request.
The information that must be included in the list of musical selections
Subsection 9(3)(b) of the Regulations lists the information that must be included in the list of musical selections. If the radio station's list of musical selections does not contain all of this information, the licensee must explain why.
The licensee must ensure that the provided list of musical selections accurately represents the selections that were broadcast during the monitored week.
If the radio station broadcast a syndicated or acquired program during the monitored week, the licensee must include all of the musical selections broadcast in the list of musical selections, in addition to providing a copy of the cue sheet for the program in question.
Required numbers in the self-assessment report
The self-assessment report is used to provide the number of musical selections broadcast on a daily and weekly basis during the broadcast week and the period from Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the purpose of verifying the station's compliance with the broadcasting requirements for Canadian and French-language selections, depending on the content category (categories 2 and 3), as applicable.
The numbers in the self-assessment report should be representative of the actual number of musical selections that were broadcast on a daily and weekly basis.
Required information in the program log
Subsection 8(1) of the Regulations lists the information that must be included in the program log. If the radio station's program log does not contain all of this information, the licensee must explain why.
The licensee must ensure that the program log provided accurately represents the programming that was broadcast during the selected broadcast week.
Policies and conditions of licence
The Commission reminds radio station licensees that it is important to comply with the requirements set out in the Broadcasting Act, the Radio Regulations, 1986, regulatory policies, information bulletins and their conditions of licence.
Please see Key radio regulatory documents and policies for more information on this topic.
Compliance with National Public Alerting System (NPAS) requirements
Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2014-444 and Broadcasting Orders 2014-445, 2014-446, 2014-447 and 2014-448, Amendments to various regulations, the standard conditions of licence for video-on-demand undertakings and certain exemption orders – Provisions requiring the mandatory distribution of emergency alert messages, 29 August 2014.
This section describes the conditions that broadcasters must meet in order to comply with the conditions to participate in the National Public Alerting System (NPAS).
Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2014-444 states that broadcasters must implement a public alerting system on all stations that immediately broadcasts all audio alerts received from the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination (NAAD) system, which:
- Establishes a data link between stations and the NAAD system;
- Sets up the public alert system for each of its transmitters;
- Broadcasts public alerts on transmitters serving the area targeted by the alert; and
- Takes reasonable steps to ensure that alerts issued comply with the specifications set out in the most recent version of the document providing guidance on the general presentation of images from the National Public Alert SystemFootnote 15.
In addition, a radio station entity is NPAS compliant if it meets the following requirements:
- It can broadcast intrusive alert messages in the event of an emergency.
- It implements a process to maintain, test and update the broadcasting equipment for emergency alert messages.
- It participates in publicly visible tests, in accordance with the test schedule.
- Testing is done at least once and up to twice a year;
- It submits annual returns to the CRTC by 30 November (i.e. Form 1411 “Report on the implementation of the Emergency Alert System”) for the past broadcast year:
- Confirmation of compliance with Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2014-444;
- Confirmation of participation in semi-annual public alerting testing;
- A summary of the current financial costs attributable to the NPAS system;
- A summary of complaints, comments, concerns or questions received in response to the alerts distributed; and,
- Details of any problems encountered regarding the distribution of alerts or test alerts.
With respect to ownership, licensees must comply at all times with the directions to the CRTC, specifically the Direction to the CRTC (Ineligibility of Non-Canadians) and the Direction to the CRTC (Ineligibility to Hold Broadcasting Licences). In addition, the Commission’s prior approval is required for any change in effective control of the licensee and for any change in ownership that requires the issuance of a licence to another licensee. Prior approval or Commission notification may also be required for certain changes in ownership, if they are above the thresholds set out in the Regulations.
To ensure compliance with the ownership requirements, all licensees must file their ownership information and related documents annually through the Commission's web-based Data Collection System (DCS).
Finally, further information on ownership is available in the Commission's ownership guide. To obtain a copy of the guide, please contact the Commission's Ownership and Acquisition group.
As part of the licence renewal process, the Commission will review and assess the complaints that were filed with the Commission during the current licence term and verify whether they have been resolved.
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