a twenty-four hour Canadian music television station, a satellite
to cable programming service, was launched nationally in September
1984. In a satellite to cable structure that relied for its success
on the massive penetration of cable coverage of urban Canada, MuchMusic
was part of the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission) regulated
introduction of specialty services on cable two years after the
introduction of pay television. Similar to its U.S. counterpart
MTV, MuchMusic was instrumental in setting the national agenda of
Canadian popular music tastes. The predominant format of the station
was and continues to be videoclips of artists or music videos received
from record companies free of charge. A French sister station, MusiquePlus
was established in 1986 primarily for the Quebec market.
MuchMusic bears the marks of its creative origin. The station's
managing team was connected to the syndicated New Music program
(1978 - )developed and sold by Citytv of Toronto. The executive
producer of the New Music program and the original owner and manager
of Citytv in Toronto was Moses Znaimer. Along with John Martin,
Znaimer designed the "live" emphasis of the set of MuchMusic that
has made MuchMusic so distinctively different from both MTV and
most of the rest of Canadian television. The set of MuchMusic is
the actual video paraphernalia of a television station and is inherently
studio-less. The video jockeys or VJs negotiate themselves around
the various machines, lights and screens to chat with the technicians
and producers between their introductions of new videos. Indeed,
because of this exposure technicians have even moved into before-the-camera
roles. The intention behind this design is to structure an environment
that resonates with the youthfulness and exuberance of popular music
itself. The set, which often moves with portable cameras to exterior
locations, produces a sense of immediacy and spontaneity that, through
its weekly reach, has captured the sought-after demographic of youths
and young adults in Canada.
is owned and operated by CHUM Limited of Toronto and the name itself
is a play on the corporate name. CHUM operates the only private
radio network in the country and has successfully owned and operated
a number of music oriented radio stations. CHUM also is the owner
of Citytv (purchased in 1981 from Moses Znaimer), a Toronto based
free-to-air UHF station that has been distributed by cable to most
of Southern Ontario, the most heavily populated region of the country.
The background in music broadcasting allowed CHUM to successfully
win the licence of the first and only English language music television
station in Canada. The facilities of Citytv in Toronto served as
the first home for MuchMusic.
"the nation's music station", MuchMusic gradually moved to a format
that allowed it to target and promote itself like other television
services. Originally a flow service that resembled radio in its
seamless quality, MuchMusic relied on its mixed rotation of videoclips
and the personalities of the vjs to maintain the audience. Later,
however, the station began making identifiable programs that would
at least allow it to garner the free publicity of listings in TV
program guides and to sell portions of time for specific advertisers.
It still maintains eight hours of programming which is taped and
repeated three times to fill the 24-hour schedule. In the 1980s
these programming blocks included the Pepsi Powerhour and
the singly sponsored Coca-Cola Countdown. The "spotlight"
feature also transformed the mix of rotations of current music into
a half-hour retrospective on an individual artist's or group's career.
To coordinate with a slightly different demographic of daytime listeners,
MuchMusic programmed a show called "Mushmusic" that showcased softer
and more romantic ballads. Other programs also coordinated with
and competed with the rest of television. A late night weekend program
called "City Limits" attempted to showcase the more avant-garde,
alternative visuals and music. In a more primetime evening slot
a shorter segment, "Combat du Clip," was programmed; here a returning
favourite videoclip faced a challenger clip.
licence requirements have also posed problems for what kinds of
programming are included under the definition of music. In the mid-1980s,
MuchMusic was not allowed to show movies, even those with a musical
theme or premise. It was likewise questionable whether television
programs such as The Partridge Family or The Monkees
could be shown on the station. In recent years there has been a
relaxation of what constitutes music programming and this has allowed
MuchMusic a freer hand in organizing a schedule that maintains its
key marketing demographics of youth and young adult. Regulatory
requirements have demanded, however, that a greater range of musical
material be part of the national music television station. Hence,
MuchMusic programmed the country music half-hour Outlaws
and Heroes. The CRTC has likewise continued to maintain that
the station must stick close to its licence mandate: its top -rated
program of 1993, the cartoon series Ren and Stimpy, did not
meet a minimum musical content rule and was ordered removed.
Courtesy of MuchMusic
its inception, MuchMusic has also provided a percentage of its revenues(
currently 5% of its gross revenues) for the production of Canadian
independent music videos. The company, Videofact Foundation produces
clips for emerging popular music groups in both English and French
and has spent 6 million dollars to produce 820 videos in its first
ten years. The production of Canadian sources allows MuchMusic easily
to surpass its 10% Canadian content quota established in consultation
with the CRTC. This connection to a national popular culture is
differently constructed than that produced by public broadcasters
such as the CBC. MuchMusic's stance is thus more outward than inward
looking. It has actively sought out other markets for its program
package. Currently it is available to over four million cable subscribers
through various services in the United States. It has a reach that
includes both the United Kingdom and parts of Latin America. The
station has been negotiating for inclusion on DBS (Direct Broadcast
Satellite) services for greater coverage of a complete North America.
The station format/concept has been sold to New Zealand and MuchMusic
has showcased well in Europe, often outdrawing its more established
success at forming a national youth audience has ensured its economic
survival in the multichannel Canadian television environment and
has allowed it to claim in its most recent licence renewal application
that it has provided "a state of mind for a generation." Its 1994
reach of 5.6 million Canadian households and its pretax profit of
almost 6 million indicate that it has successfully forged a national
music culture. Its recent forays into international broadcasting
indicate its ability to negotiate the increasingly global television
economy by providing a clearly branded and identifiable channel.
Flint, Joe. "MuchMusic Confirms Rainbow Coalition." Variety
(Los Angeles, California), 24 May 1994.
David. "Videomusic: The Converging Interests of Promotional Culture."
In, Sansom, Gareth, editor. Watching all the Music. Working
Paper in Communications. Montreal: McGill University, 1987.
and Much More." Montreal Gazette (Montreal, Canada), 29 August
Steve. "Ten Years of MuchMusic." Cablecaster, September 1994.
Diane. "The Show Moves On: MuchMusic and TSN Bid For New Viewers."
Maclean's (Toronto, Canada), 4 September 1989.
Programming in English; Citytv;
Music on Television;