The CBC and the Juno Awards

David Young (McMaster University)

Abstract: Through a case study of the Juno Awards, this article attempts to enhance what is known about the crisis facing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC worked with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) on the annual ceremony for the Canadian music industry from the mid-1970s to 2001. An analysis of this time frame gives rise to three arguments about the CBC and the Juno Awards. First, as applied to the Junos, the concept of a promotional state for popular music provides insights into the CBC's crisis. Second, the role of CARAS points to the possibility that outside control has exacerbated the crisis in the CBC. Third, the CBC's response to CARAS' control suggests that the public broadcaster may have contributed to its own crisis.

Résumé : Au moyen d'une étude de cas sur les prix Juno, cet article tente d'augmenter ce qu'on sait sur la crise à laquelle le CBC fait face actuellement. Le CBC a collaboré avec l'Académie canadienne des arts et des sciences de l'enregistrement (CARAS) pour diffuser la cérémonie annuelle de remise des prix Juno du milieu des années 70 à 2001. Une analyse de cette période mène à trois observations sur le CBC et les prix Juno. Premièrement, en ce qui a trait aux Juno, l'idée d'un état promotionnel pour la musique populaire aide à comprendre la crise du CBC. Deuxièmement, le rôle joué par CARAS semble indiquer que des contrôles externes ont aggravé la crise au CBC. Troisièmement, la manière dont le CBC a réagi aux contrôles de CARAS suggère que le radiodiffuseur public a peut-être contribué lui-même à aggraver sa crise.


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Juno Awards were bound together for more than a quarter of a century. In 1975, the English-language arm of the national public-broadcasting service began televising the annual awards ceremony for the Canadian music industry. Over the years, the CBC worked with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) to present the Junos telecast. CARAS is the organization that administers the Juno Awards, and its members come from different facets of the sound recording industry in Canada. The association between the CBC, CARAS, and the Junos lasted until 2001. Due to the longevity of this association, the Juno Awards ceremony provides an opportunity to historically examine some problems faced by the CBC.

As the CBC televised the Junos over a 26-year period, public broadcasting encountered growing problems in Canada and around the world. During the mid-1970s, public broadcasters in various countries started to experience government funding cuts due to the fiscal crisis of the state (Raboy, 1990). By the millennium, it had become commonplace for academic writers to indicate that public broadcasting itself was in crisis (e.g., Ang, 1991; Attallah, 2000; Collins, 1996; Cooper, 1995; McChesney, 1999; Rowland and Tracey, 1990; Taras, 1999). Analysts of the CBC have associated the crisis with particular services; while recognizing that French services and English radio also face difficulties, they have suggested that the principal crisis is in English television (Collins, 1996; Cooper, 1995).

This article aims to enhance what is known about the crisis in the CBC's English television service through a case study of the Juno Awards. Three arguments are made. First, as applied to the Junos, the concept of a promotional state for popular music provides insights into the CBC's crisis. The concept captures the commercial role the CBC began to play for the music industry through its production and broadcast of an awards ceremony controlled by CARAS. Changes in the promotional state draw attention to the impact of neo-liberalism, which generated government funding cuts and the privatization that enabled CARAS to strip the CBC of control over the ceremony's television production. Second, at least with regard to the Juno Awards, outside control exacerbated the CBC's crisis. The control that CARAS held over the ceremony and its television production deepened contradictions in the CBC between public or commercial goals and Canadian or foreign content. Third, the CBC's response to CARAS' control indicates that the public broadcaster has in some ways contributed to its own crisis. The CBC co-operated with CARAS in the pursuit of corporate sponsorship and large audiences, thereby undermining aspects of its public-service mandate. However, the CBC's response was contradictory because the public broadcaster also entered into conflict with CARAS. Along with CARAS' promotional interests and other factors, this conflict helped to bring about the end of the association between the two organizations.

A promotional state for popular music

It is useful to place analysis of the CBC and the Juno Awards within the framework provided by the concept of a promotional state for popular music. This concept is one of three that Cloonan (1999) developed to identify the role of the state in relation to popular music and the sound recording industry. Cloonan distinguished between the authoritarian state, the promotional state, and the benign state. The authoritarian state features "generally strict control of recording, a licensing system for live musicians and strict control of imports" (p. 203). The promotional state faces domination by Anglo-American music and "will try to devise policies, such as radio quotas and promotion of domestic music, to combat this" (p. 204). While the promotional state utilizes state intervention to support domestic popular music, the benign state will "generally leave popular music to the market" (p. 204).

The last two concepts, particularly that of a promotional state, were taken up by the present author in an earlier analysis of the Juno Awards (Young, 2004). I argued that Canada has a promotional state for popular music and demonstrated how it has been connected to the Junos. Canadian content regulations, public broadcasting, and government funding are all components of Canada's promotional state that have had varying degrees of association with the Juno Awards over the years. I further built on Cloonan's work by developing two theoretical perspectives on changes in the promotional state. The first perspective focuses on the impact of neo-liberalism, which reduces the role of the state through government funding cuts or processes such as deregulation and privatization. According to this perspective, the intervention that characterizes the promotional state has decreased in some respects as the market orientation associated with the benign state has increased. The second perspective recognizes that neo-liberalism cannot account for all changes in the promotional state. It holds that, while neo-liberalism serves business interests, the role of the promotional state has increased in several ways that also reflect the interests of private capital.

Each of these two perspectives is useful for addressing circumstances pertaining to the Juno Awards. The theoretical idea that the role of the promotional state has been expanding to assist private capital helps to account for various developments over the past two decades. For instance, it explains the emergence of federal government funding devoted to the independent sector of the industry and organizations such as CARAS (through the Sound Recording Development Program and later the Canada Music Fund). It similarly explains provincial or municipal government involvement in funding the Junos, funding which grew after the academy began encouraging competitive bids by Canadian cities for the rights to host the ceremony (Young, 2004). Such developments are important, but the position that the promotional state has been contracting under neo-liberalism also has some theoretical value. It helps to account for certain changes in the CBC's role with regard to the Juno Awards. The privatization of the ceremony's television production generated control by CARAS. Combined with government funding cuts, CARAS' control subjugated the CBC to the promotional interests of the academy until those interests were better met through another broadcaster. Before engaging in analysis of these circumstances, it is first necessary to provide some background on the Junos and the early years of the ceremony.

The beginnings of the Juno Awards

The Juno Awards had their beginnings in the mid-1960s with the emergence of RPM Weekly, Canada's first music trade magazine. The magazine was started in 1964 by Walt Grealis, a former record company promotional representative. Along with his friend Stan Klees, a record producer, Grealis soon came up with the idea of using the trade periodical to conduct a poll. In December 1964, the periodical's subscribers were invited to vote on notable Canadian artists and industry figures in a poll called the RPM Awards. The results were published later that month along with some editorial commentary from Grealis. The RPM Awards became an annual feature of the magazine, but there were no actual awards for the winners and no ceremony. That eventually changed, as did the name of the awards; the RPM Gold Leaf Awards were presented to the winners of the December 1969 poll at a reception in Toronto during February 1970. Klees designed the awards, which took the form of metronome-shaped trophies ("The Juno Awards 25th Anniversary," 1996).

In the further evolution of what became the Juno Awards, Canadian content regulations were the first component of Canada's promotional state to be associated with the ceremony. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) and its chair, Pierre Juneau, had proposed Canadian content regulations for radio in February 1970. After a public hearing in April of that year, the regulations were finalized and set to come into effect during January 1971 (CRTC, 1971). The decision to implement CanCon regulations led to a name change for the RPM Gold Leaf Awards. RPM Weekly held a contest in May 1970 to name the trophies that had been designed by Klees, and the winning entry suggested that they be called the "Juneau" to honour the CRTC chair for helping to support the Canadian music industry. Although Grealis liked this idea, he had wanted a name that was shorter and easy to remember. Consequently, the name was changed to "Juno" ("The Juno Awards 25th Anniversary," 1996). At the first Juno Awards ceremony in February 1971, Grealis presented Juneau with a special award that named him the Music Industry Man of the Year ("Record Industry Honors Juneau," 1971).

Even in 1971, the music industry was considering whether there should be a television broadcast of the Juno Awards. The Canadian Composer suggested that, unlike the Grammy Awards in the United States, the Junos were not seen as being important enough to put on television ("Juno Awards Honor," 1971). However, the ceremony soon took off as a major event for the industry (Batten, 1972), and the matter of a television broadcast became a central issue.

The CBC, CARAS, and shifts in control

A television broadcast was crucial to the promotional interests of the music industry, and it led to two shifts in control. The initial shift involved control over the awards ceremony, and it was generated by conflict over whether or not the Juno Awards should be on television. Once the ceremony was on television, another shift involved control over the television production.

Control over the awards ceremony

As the Juno Awards developed and became more prominent in the early 1970s, conflict emerged between Grealis and the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) over the issue of putting the ceremony on television. The CRIA wanted the Junos on television so that the awards could be used as a promotional vehicle, and the organization pressured Grealis to arrange a broadcast. Grealis resisted because he believed that his Canadian music awards ceremony was not yet ready for television (Martin, 1974, 1975).

The conflict over a television broadcast of the Juno Awards eventually led the CRIA to establish its own awards ceremony. In January 1974, the CRIA announced its plans to start the Maple Music Awards. The winners in many of the proposed categories would be based on the highest sales, and two categories would be for international performers (Adilman, 1974; Martin, 1974). This reflects the orientation of the CRIA, which primarily represents the interests of the major foreign labels in Canada and therefore regards record sales to be more important than whether the music is "Canadian" (Wright, 1991). At the time the new ceremony was announced, the CRIA was close to concluding negotiations with CTV to televise the Maple Music Awards a month after the Junos were held in 1974 (Adilman, 1974).

Realizing that it was not workable to have two awards shows for such a small industry, Grealis backed down and made some concessions to the CRIA so that the organization would drop its plans for an alternative ceremony. To begin with, he agreed to get the Junos on television. Grealis also agreed to establish some sales-based awards, including awards for international artists. Finally, he agreed to give the music industry more involvement in the Junos ("The Juno Awards 25th Anniversary," 1996). The Canadian Music Awards Association (CMAA) was quickly formed to administer the 1975 Juno Awards in co-operation with Grealis. The CMAA included representatives of the CRIA as well as other music industry associations (Martin, 1975). In the process of arranging a television broadcast, Grealis and Klees held discussions with both CTV and the CBC. Klees eventually secured a deal with the CBC through some contacts that he had at the public broadcaster ("The Juno Awards 25th Anniversary," 1996).

The music industry tried to ensure its promotional interests by taking control of the Juno Awards away from Grealis. The industry-oriented categories that Grealis had created, such as Canadian Content Record Company, were dropped at the 1975 Juno Awards in favour of categories that had a promotional role for recordings or artists and would help to encourage sales. After the 1975 ceremony, the CMAA transformed itself into a more permanent organization known as the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). CARAS members, rather than subscribers to RPM Weekly, would now decide on the award winners. With the formation of the academy, Grealis was reduced to being its consultant (Martin, 1975). Grealis had little say in his capacity as consultant, and he became concerned about what CARAS was doing with the Junos (Goddard, 1976). Nevertheless, in 1977, Grealis signed a contract that formally gave CARAS control over arranging the Juno Awards. Grealis still retained the rights to the Junos, but his association with the ceremony ended in 1984 when the rights were bought by CARAS ("The Juno Awards 25th Anniversary," 1996).

Control over the television production

Initial control by the CBC

Public broadcasting and government funding were, respectively, the second and third components of Canada's promotional state that became attached to the Juno Awards. Through both radio and television, the CBC had long played a promotional role for Canadian musical talent (Young, 2004). A television presentation of the Junos added another element to that role. However, in relation to the Junos, the CBC's promotional role took on a more overtly commercial quality; the public broadcaster was airing an awards ceremony that had become a promotional vehicle controlled by the music industry through CARAS. CARAS indirectly benefited from government funding to the CBC, but the academy began to enjoy its own government support during the early 1980s (Young, 2004). The federal Department of Communications provided grants to CARAS through its Cultural Initiatives Program, and the Toronto-based academy obtained additional funding from the Government of Ontario through its Ministry of Citizenship and Culture ("Acknowledgments," 1986).

While CARAS held control over the awards ceremony, the CBC exercised control over in-house television production of the Junos. The academy arranged the ceremony (which involved selecting the venue, selling the tickets, etc.), but the CBC made determinations regarding the telecast and its preparation (Goddard, 1977). A CBC spokesperson indicated that the corporation had earmarked no more than $100,000 to produce and televise the Junos in 1975 (Adilman, 1975). The first telecast was an hour-long show that had been pre-taped (Goddard, 1975). The 1976 Juno Awards ceremony became a live 90-minute special. According to Mel Shaw, then the president of CARAS, it was the CBC that made the decision to expand the show to an hour and a half (Goddard, 1976).

For the first several years that the Juno Awards ceremony was on television, print media journalists generally had a harsh reaction to the show and the way the CBC handled it. The 1976 Juno Awards prompted Richard Flohil (1976) to write: "Most people agree that the show itself was lousy - an example of CBC overkill . . . . The CBC will have to learn not to smother the whole thing in a massive 'production'" (p. 46). Similar remarks were made by other writers (for example, Mann, 1975; Musselwhite, 1981).

These critical media assessments of the ceremony, and the control that the CBC had over its television production, did not go over well within CARAS. According to one record company executive who commented on the 1981 Juno Awards, "the problem is that the CBC has taken the show away from us" (quoted in Goddard, 1981, p. C9). Bruce Allen, a well-known manager of several Canadian recording artists and a member of CARAS' board of directors, argued that the Juno Awards ceremony had been negatively affected by the CBC's hold on its production. He indicated that "it hasn't improved as much as it should have from year to year, but I think that's because of the restraints the CBC has put on it budget-wise" (quoted in Canadian Press, 1983a, p. B6). While Allen and other members of CARAS were dissatisfied with the CBC's control over television production of the Junos, neo-liberal policy soon enabled the academy to strip this control away from the public broadcaster.

Privatization and control by CARAS

In relation to the Juno Awards, the decreasing role played by Canada's promotional state first became apparent when the CBC's television production of the ceremony underwent privatization. This neo-liberal initiative stemmed from the Applebaum-Hébert Committee's recommendations for cultural policy in the early 1980s. The committee had indicated that, with the exception of news operations, the CBC should eliminate its in-house television production and instead acquire programs from independent production companies (Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee, 1982). The notion of having the CBC rely more on independent production was soon taken up in a new broadcasting policy established by the federal government (Department of Communications, 1983).

Since CARAS regarded the CBC's control over television production of the Juno Awards to be problematic, the organization embraced the opportunity presented by the neo-liberal turn in broadcasting policy. The academy decided in the mid-1980s to shift from in-house production of the Junos by the CBC to independent production by private companies. CARAS president Peter Steinmetz stated that, as a direct response to the views of its members and years of negative media commentary, "the Academy has decided to assert itself and take on greater control over the creative elements" (quoted in "Interview," 1984, p. 2). However, Steinmetz noted that this control was only possible due to the federal government's "thrust towards independent production" (quoted in "Interview," 1984, p. 2). As an independent production, the Junos would qualify for financing under the Broadcast Program Development Fund (Canadian Press, 1983b).

CARAS moved to independent production of the Juno Awards after production ties to the CBC were no longer in effect. A co-production agreement with the CBC ended in 1983, leaving CARAS free to pursue other options in preparing the show (Canadian Press, 1983b). A committee of CARAS officials drafted a document to guide independent companies in their bids for the 1984 ceremony (LaPointe, 1983). After examining the bids that came in, CARAS settled on Concert Productions International (CPI). CPI was primarily involved with concert promotion, but the company also engaged in video production. After arranging for CPI to produce the ceremony, the academy reached an agreement with the CBC to continue broadcasting the show ("Juno Preparations," 1984).

Having limited the CBC to broadcasting, CARAS also relied on independent production for a program that would precede and promote the 1984 Juno Awards. Plans for the program were established by the academy's Promotion Committee. This was one of several working committees, each of which included a member of CARAS' board of directors so that decisions could be represented to the board for approval ("Interview," 1984). While the Promotion Committee worked on the pre-Juno special, arrangements were made with the CBC to televise it ("Bridging the Time Gap," 1984). The board later entered into an agreement with D'Allan Productions to make the one-hour show. CARAS News (the academy's newsletter) described the show as "an ambitious and novel approach to promoting the Juno Awards and its nominees, as well as promoting the general awareness of the Canadian record industry" ("Fall TV Show," 1984, p. 3).

Despite the emphasis on independent companies, the CBC was soon drawn back into production of the Juno Awards in a limited and subordinate way. Since CARAS had not been happy with some aspects of CPI's work on the 1984 show (LaPointe, 1985), the academy decided not to give independent producers complete responsibility for the ceremony in subsequent years. Instead, while independent firms were involved, there were also co-production agreements with the CBC. When the CBC became involved in production again during 1985, Steinmetz spoke of "a renewed spirit of co-operation" (quoted in Quill, 1985a, p. D18). This co-operation continued into the 1990s. Although CARAS and the CBC usually came to one-year agreements, the strength of their co-operation was cited as a reason that they signed a two-year agreement in 1993 ("CARAS and CBC Sign," 1993). Although referred to as co-production agreements, the arrangements were not as equitable as this term implied. Within the hierarchical committee structure of CARAS, the CBC and the independent production firm that had been hired for a particular ceremony were given representation on CARAS' TV/Talent Committee. The activities of the various committees that worked on the Junos, including the latter committee, were supervised and co-ordinated by CARAS' executive producer. Once the TV/Talent Committee had selected and confirmed the talent for the ceremony, the independent production company worked out the details of the show ("Behind the Scenes," 1999). The CBC then supplied the crew that worked with the company to put on the television broadcast (Foley, 1999).

Control by CARAS and contradictions in the CBC

There has not been much research on the issue of control over television production. When the issue has been addressed, the focus has often been on the control exercised by advertisers. In the American context, research on the early years of television has addressed the control that advertisers had over the programs they produced and the efforts of networks to strip advertisers of this control (Barnouw, 1978; Boddy, 1987). In the Canadian context, at least with regard to the CBC, the situation was different; advertisers wanted a say over the television programs the CBC produced in the 1950s and 1960s, but the public broadcaster largely managed to fend off these efforts at control (Rutherford, 1990). However, other pressures were created by the emergence of the Juno Awards ceremony on the CBC in the 1970s and its shift in the 1980s to independent production under the control of CARAS.

The control that CARAS held over the Juno Awards ceremony and its television production had significant consequences for the CBC. The academy's control combined with its promotional interests to deepen long-standing contradictions in the public broadcaster between public or commercial goals and Canadian or foreign content. This can be seen through an analysis of corporate sponsorship and audience research in relation to the Junos.

Corporate sponsorship

After the CBC's television production of the Juno Awards underwent privatization, the decreasing role of Canada's promotional state was also reflected in the ceremony through a shift from government funding to corporate sponsorship. In the mid-1980s, as the neo-liberal agenda of the federal Conservative government led to the reduction of public spending, various cultural organizations tried to supplement their dwindling government support with money from private corporations. Under these conditions, corporate sponsorship became a burgeoning development (Klein, 1999).

The role of CARAS and the CBC

It was in this context that CARAS extended its revenues from government funding and other sources to corporate sponsorship. The non-profit organization's revenues had principally come from membership fees, receipts from the annual dinner held before the Juno Awards ceremony, and government grants. However, in the budget-cutting climate of the mid-1980s, CARAS officials became concerned about the stability of government funding (Stern, 1986). This compelled the academy to pursue corporate sponsorship, an option that had been investigated by the Promotion Committee ("Promotion Committee Report," 1984). CARAS officials approached Molson Breweries and worked out a deal with the company in 1985. The three-year deal gave the academy total funding in the six-figure range while Molson received acknowledgment as a sponsor in CARAS News and on the CBC's telecast of the Junos (Rowland, 1986; Stern, 1986). Molson later extended its commitment to the Juno Awards beyond the initial deal ("Molson," 1992). The company was for many years the sole corporate sponsor of the Junos, but CARAS began using multiple sponsors in 1996 ("Juno Show Sponsors," 1996).

The CBC also eventually turned to corporate sponsorship as a way of dealing with reduced government funding, and CARAS enjoyed the public broadcaster's co-operation with regard to sponsorship of the Juno Awards. When a series of cuts to its parliamentary appropriations began in the mid-1980s, the CBC initially tried to compensate for the budget shortfall by seeking more advertising revenue (Mandate Review Committee, 1996). However, the CBC also tried to secure more revenue by establishing a corporate sponsorship department in 1990. Over the next few years, the department ran sponsorship programs for corporate clients such as Coca-Cola and IBM. The emphasis was on selling associations with short-term programming (McElgunn, 1993). In this context, by 1994, the CBC had started to see the Juno Awards as an ideal vehicle for launching new sponsorship campaigns (Van Den Broek, 1999). When CARAS shifted to multiple corporate sponsors in 1996, the CBC began working closely with the sponsors selected by the academy. For example, after Eaton's became one of the sponsors for the 1999 Juno Awards, the CBC's corporate sponsorship department hooked up with the company to co-produce some spots that aired during the telecast (Van Den Broek, 1999).

Public and commercial goals

One long-standing contradiction in the CBC is between public and commercial goals. The corporation is associated with both "public service objectives" and "commercial imperatives" (Mandate Review Committee, 1996, p. 37). In relation to television, this contradiction takes many forms. It is apparent, for instance, in the CBC's structure (a combination of public stations and private affiliates). However, the concern here is with how the contradiction is tied to the CBC's content; while providing a public service through its programming, the CBC has had to adopt a commercial approach by running advertisements to support the programming. This is an old problem for the CBC, but the Juno Awards ceremony offers new insights by drawing attention to promotional culture and outside control.

As circumstances involving the Junos indicate, the complexities of promotional culture altered the contradiction between public and commercial goals. The contradiction was no longer simply between the programming and the advertisements that surround it. Although the Juno Awards helped the CBC fulfill some aspects of its public-service mandate (by providing entertainment programming that focused on Canadian culture and talent from different regions of Canada), the programming was from the beginning a promotional vehicle designed to serve the commercial interests of the music industry. Therefore, the contradiction also existed within the programming itself. In this sense, the commercial side of the contradiction was enhanced by corporate sponsorship. The ceremony featured the sponsorship of specific awards by corporate entities such as Levi Strauss and Co. Canada ("Levi's Fit Entertainer of the Year," 1996) and Blockbuster Video Canada ("Blockbuster Rock Album," 1998). At times, corporate sponsorship even seemed to partially dissolve the contradiction between spot advertisements and CBC programming by creating a continuous promotional thread. This can be illustrated by one of the spots for Eaton's on the 1999 Juno Awards; it showed Natalie MacMaster shopping at the department store for the dress she would wear to the Junos, and MacMaster was seen live on the ceremony performing in the dress she selected immediately after this spot aired about 50 minutes into the telecast.

At least in the case of the Junos, the contradiction between public and commercial goals was affected by outside control. The cause or severity of the contradiction within the CBC is of course more commonly attributed to other factors. These include pressure from the CBC's private affiliates for more commercial programming; inadequate government funding for the CBC or cuts to this funding; and the corporation's response to such conditions (Mandate Review Committee, 1996). However, as noted earlier, CARAS also faced the prospect of diminishing government funding. Under these circumstances, the academy utilized its control over television production of the Juno Awards to inject corporate sponsorship into the content of a program that was shown on the CBC. The contradiction between public and commercial goals was therefore exacerbated by CARAS' outside control.

Audience research

The CBC's approach to audience research was pushed in a particular direction by neo-liberal policy. Based on analysis of reports produced by the CBC's audience research department since the 1950s, Eaman (1994) concludes that the public broadcaster has mainly focused on either audience feedback or audience maximization. From the mid-1960s onward, audience feedback was obtained in part through an "enjoyment index" for measuring audience reactions to CBC programs. The CBC has also long been interested in audience maximization, which is assisted by research on audience size and composition, but the corporation was pushed further in this direction by the neo-liberal agenda of the federal Conservative government during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Government funding cuts forced the CBC to adopt a more commercial orientation in which audience size affected programming decisions (Mandate Review Committee, 1996). Former CBC president Tony Manera (1996), who was highly critical of the impact that reduced parliamentary appropriations had on the CBC, acknowledged that large audiences were needed to draw revenue from both advertising and corporate sponsorship.

In the case of the Juno Awards, the growing emphasis on audience maximization was also affected by factors other than neo-liberal policy. While government funding cuts and the consequent need for advertising or corporate sponsorship revenue compelled the CBC to provide programming that would draw large audiences, additional external pressures came from the promotional interests of CARAS and this organization's control over the Junos.

The role of CARAS and the CBC

Before addressing these issues more specifically, it may be useful to examine the television ratings for the Juno Awards. The ceremony has been televised every year since 1975 (with the exception of 1988, when there was no ceremony in order to facilitate the switch from a fall to a spring date). This extended period makes it possible to identify trends in the ratings. Brian Robertson, the president of CARAS from 1977 to 1983, noted that the telecasts of the late 1970s "regularly got 2 to 2.2 million viewers" (quoted in "Academy Formed," 1995, p. 8). As Table 1 indicates, such ratings were sustained in the early 1980s and have occasionally been reproduced since then (in between often long stretches when they dipped to lower levels).

Table 1: Reported television ratings for the Juno Awards, 1982-2003
Broadcast Date Television Network Viewers (millions) Data Source
April 14, 1982 CBC 2.1 LaPointe, 1985
April 5, 1983 CBC 2.2 LaPointe, 1985
December 5, 1984 CBC 1.4 LaPointe, 1985
November 4, 1985 CBC 2.3 CBC, 1986
November 10, 1986 CBC 1.6 O'Connor, 1987
November 2, 1987 CBC 1.4 Bastien, 1989
1988 No ceremony
March 12, 1989 CBC 1.6 "Juno Ratings Up 88,000," 1990
March 18, 1990 CBC 1.7 "Juno Ratings Up 88,000," 1990
March 3, 1991 CBC 1.2 Canadian Press, 1992; LeBlanc, 1993
March 29, 1992 CBC 1.4 "Juno Ratings Up," 1992
March 21, 1993 CBC 2.2 "Junos Pull in Viewers," 1993
March 20, 1994 CBC 1.5 Littlejohn, 1994
March 26, 1995 CBC 1.4 Grealis, 1995
March 10, 1996 CBC 2.3 CBC, 1996
March 9, 1997 CBC 1.5 CBC, 1997
March 22, 1998 CBC 1.7 CBC, 1998
March 7, 1999 CBC 1.2 "Junos Draw 1.2 Million," 1999
March 12, 2000 CBC 1.1 "The 2000 Juno Awards Show," 2000
March 4, 2001 CBC 1.1 CBC, 2001
April 14, 2002 CTV 1.4 "CTV Telecast," 2002
April 6, 2003 CTV 2.2 Powell, 2003

After acquiring production control over the Juno Awards in the mid-1980s, CARAS tried to achieve its promotional interests by drawing two types of audiences. Large audiences were crucial to the promotional and commercial goals of the academy. As a member of the Promotion Committee stated: "We try to ensure the largest possible audience and the greatest consumer interest in the show and translate that into retail sales for Canadian music product" (quoted in Druckman, 1987, p. 37). While the academy wanted to attract large audiences, it also wanted to attract audiences made up of young people (the main purchasers of recorded music). CARAS was therefore interested in research on audience size and audience composition. However, in its efforts to acquire young audiences, the academy even made use of the CBC's research on audience reactions. One instance of this involved the 1984 Juno Awards. CARAS News reported that viewers in the 12-17 age group gave the ceremony "an astonishingly high 73 per cent enjoyment index rating, the highest of any CBC television show since the Corporation devised the rating system 20 years ago" ("Looking Forward," 1985). On the basis of this, the academy considered skewing the 1985 Juno Awards to teenagers (LaPointe, 1985).

CARAS had co-operation in pursuing its promotional interests because the CBC needed to attract the same types of audiences. The CBC faced and continues to face pressure to justify its existence by being popular among viewers or listeners, including the young people that public broadcasters have had difficulty reaching (Collins, Finn, McFadyen, & Hoskins 2001; Murray, 2001; Taras, 1999). In relation to the Juno Awards, this had several consequences. First, since the Junos provided the basis for drawing teenagers, the corporation joined with CARAS in adopting strategies to increase the number of these viewers. For example, both organizations favoured a 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot for the 1985 Juno Awards (rather than the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. slot used in 1984); as CARAS and the CBC saw it, more of the 12-17 age group that produced such a high enjoyment index score a year earlier would likely be in control of the television set at an earlier hour ("Juno Update," 1985; LaPointe, 1985). Second, the CBC also utilized strategies to pull in large audiences. For instance, when the ratings for the 1986 Juno Awards were lower than expected, the corporation tried to increase the ratings for the 1987 ceremony by adding more pre-show promotional spots (Canadian Press, 1987). Third, the CBC attempted to secure its own promotional advantages from audiences for the Junos. Ang (1991) notes that audience research for public broadcasters "tends to be used as a form of public relations, as a sustainer of legitimacy" (p. 146). The annual reports produced by the CBC are promotional documents that include references to the audiences for certain broadcasts or even lists of the most popular programs and specials. In this context, the ratings for the Juno Awards sometimes appeared in the corporation's annual reports.

Canadian and foreign content

Another long-standing contradiction in the CBC is between Canadian and foreign content. The CBC was intended to focus on Canadian issues and stars, thereby countering American and other foreign influences (Taras, 1999). However, at times in its history, the CBC has utilized American programming to draw large audiences and compete with other broadcasters (Rutherford, 1990). The contradiction between Canadian and foreign content was also associated with the Juno Awards, but it stemmed from the actions of CARAS rather than the CBC. Holding control over the ceremony, CARAS pursued its interest in large audiences by getting foreign performers to make appearances on the Junos.

The participation of foreign performers became more frequent over the years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, foreign artists were rarely seen on the Juno Awards. For example, since the inception of the sales-based international categories in 1975, no winner had been present until 1980, when a member of Supertramp arranged to be on hand to accept the group's Juno for International Album of the Year (Farrell, 1980). However, the 1985 Juno Awards marked a turning point. That ceremony featured Tina Turner, who had been enjoying a comeback and was nominated for International Album. In addition to presenting the Juno for International Single, Turner performed her own latest single and joined Bryan Adams in a duet of "It's Only Love" (Quill, 1985b). Peter Steinmetz, then the president of CARAS, later noted that "the Bryan Adams/Tina Turner event galvanized the industry and put the Junos through the roof on the ratings scale" (quoted in "CARAS Anniversary Tribute," 1995, p. 5). In fact, the audience of 2.3 million for the 1985 show remains one of the largest for the Junos (Table 1). In an effort to replicate the size of this audience, CARAS persuaded many other foreign artists to appear on the Juno Awards during the late 1980s and early 1990s. For instance, the 1990 ceremony included performances by Rod Stewart and Milli Vanilli. It also included Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Areosmith as presenters (Anderson, 1990). However, putting foreign artists on the Juno Awards was not a successful strategy for increasing the ratings. Between 1986 and 1991, the largest audience for the Junos was the 1.7 million that tuned in for the 1990 telecast (Table 1).

The practice of having foreign acts on the Juno Awards became a controversial issue within the Canadian music industry. While some within the industry did not mind this practice, others were opposed to it ("Juno Ratings Up 88,000," 1990). One of the strongest objections came from Walt Grealis, who had established the ceremony to celebrate Canadian talent. In the column he wrote for RPM Weekly, Grealis (1990) suggested that foreign artists were a "crutch" the CBC relied on to boost the ratings for the Junos. His views generated a strong reaction from both CARAS and the CBC. Grealis later used his column to publish letters he received from these organizations. CARAS president Peter Steinmetz (1990) wrote that "it is our policy to permit international performers on the Juno Awards in certain circumstances" (p. 4). Responding to Grealis' implication that the CBC required CARAS to have foreign artists on the Junos, Steinmetz indicated that "CBC has never made such a demand of CARAS" (p. 4). However, he went on to claim that foreign artists appeared on the ceremony because "CARAS and the CBC both recognize that it is in their best interest and in the best interest of the Canadian music industry that the audience to the Juno Awards be as large as possible" (p. 4). Carol Reynolds, the creative head of TV variety at the CBC, took issue with the latter point while making it clear that the CBC was subject to CARAS' control. Reynolds (1990) wrote that "the CBC has never asked for foreign acts on the Junos. In fact, we endorse an all-Canadian lineup. Our role is to support the decisions that the CARAS industry talent committee make" (p. 4). While the CBC disagreed with the approach taken by CARAS, the public broadcaster was not in a position to do anything about it.

The importation of foreign talent for the Juno Awards was also a political issue within CARAS. After experimenting with the 1992 Juno Awards (by making it the first all-Canadian show in years), the academy attempted to gauge opinion on the issue through an internal questionnaire. The questionnaire was completed by 220 of the (estimated) 1,500 members the academy had at the time, and it included an item that asked whether a foreign artist should be on the show. In response, 45% answered with an unqualified yes. Another 15% said "yes, if there was a connection to Canada or the artist was nominated," while 4% said "yes, but to present only." However, 29% said no ("How Can We Improve the Juno Awards?" 1992, p. 1). The views of the remaining 7% were not mentioned in CARAS News, but these members of the academy probably indicated that they did not have an opinion. Although the results must be interpreted cautiously due to the low response rate, they suggest that a significant majority within CARAS favoured a role for foreign performers on the Junos. Nevertheless, when Dave Charles replaced Steinmetz as CARAS president in 1992, he fought for and secured an all-Canadian approach. The 1993 and 1994 Juno Awards, which were prepared under his leadership, reflected this orientation (Grealis, 1994). Charles' approach was therefore very much in line with that of the CBC. Indeed, as Charles told Grealis (1992), the CBC was a broadcaster he believed in and one he wanted CARAS to stay with.

The final years of the Juno Awards on the CBC

While the control held by CARAS and the contradictions in the CBC continued, growing problems led up to the end of the association between the two organizations. Three sets of problems were crucial: further conflict between CARAS and the CBC; labour disputes at the CBC, which threatened the promotional interests of CARAS; and fewer promotional opportunities for CARAS through the CBC (compared to private broadcasting).

Further conflict

There had been co-operation between CARAS and the CBC over the years, but there had also been conflict. This conflict often involved different visions for the Juno Awards. As noted earlier, the dissatisfaction of CARAS with the CBC's approach to producing the ceremony led the academy to secure creative control through independent production. The organizations also had fundamentally different approaches to the issue of foreign talent on the Junos (at least until Charles took over as CARAS president in 1992).

Much of the conflict stemmed from the nature of the two organizations. CARAS represented a private industry and its promotional interests, while the CBC was a broadcaster with a public-service mandate. The CBC often worked with CARAS to fulfill the latter's promotional objectives, but the contradictions sometimes resulted in disagreements. Although Charles was an advocate of Canadian content and the CBC, even he pointed to tensions between CARAS and the public broadcaster that were rooted in their divergent orientations. Referring to the CBC, Charles stated: "They are experts in television. We are an industry association. We make sure they get the right talent, but every now and then the two collide where you have disagreements on what acts should go on the show" (quoted in Grealis, 1994, p. 15). Lee Silversides replaced Charles as CARAS president in 1994, and disagreements also flared up under his leadership during preparations for the 1998 Juno Awards. There were conflicts between CARAS and the CBC over various aspects of that show's production, including seating availability due to the CBC's broadcast needs in the venue. The CARAS board of directors believed that Silversides was not handling a number of issues well, including arrangements with the CBC, and it is perhaps not surprising that the CARAS president announced his resignation less than a month after the Junos were held in March 1998 (LeBlanc, 1998a). Silversides was succeeded as CARAS president by Daisy Falle. Falle had been with the academy in various capacities since the 1970s, and she had a reputation for working well with the CBC (LeBlanc, 1998b).

Eventually, the problems associated with the 1998 Juno Awards were sorted out. After the ceremony that year, there were three meetings between CARAS officials and CBC executives. During these meetings, the two organizations discovered that many of the difficulties they had with each other stemmed from miscommunication (LeBlanc, 1998b). Over the summer of 1998, CARAS and the CBC worked out a new co-production agreement. The three-year agreement called for the CBC to televise the Juno Awards in 1999, 2000, and 2001 ("Junos on CBC," 1998).

Labour disputes

From the perspective of CARAS officials, labour disputes at the CBC had posed difficulties on several occasions. Over the years, the Juno Awards ceremony had intersected with a few disputes between the public broadcaster and its workers (Canadian Press, 1986; "Fear CUPE," 1976). CARAS officials worried about the potential impact on the Junos, but even a short strike in 1986 never actually affected the ceremony or telecast.

It was a strike in 1999, the first year in the new three-year agreement with the CBC, that generated the most concern within CARAS. The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Union of Canada represented 2,000 striking CBC camera operators and technical staff. CEP workers had walked off the job a few weeks before the Juno Awards ceremony was to be held, and the union was preparing to picket the CBC's telecast (Foley, 1999). CARAS took several steps to deal with the situation. First, the academy announced that the ceremony would go ahead since it was an independent production. Second, in order to handle the telecast, CARAS hired a non-CBC crew. Third, CARAS looked into the possibility of having the show televised by another network (Potter, 1999). It never came to this, however, because CARAS and the CEP union reached an agreement that would enable the Juno Awards to go ahead on the CBC without picketing; union members would staff an information booth at the venue and hand out leaflets about their dispute with the corporation, but they would not set up picket lines (Mahoney, 1999).

The television ratings for the 1999 Juno Awards were low, and CARAS blamed this on the strike. The ceremony attracted an audience of 1.2 million. CARAS president Daisy Falle said that, "had there not been a strike to deal with, we're confident the figure would have been much higher" (quoted in "Junos Draw," 1999, p. 2). The low ratings damaged CARAS' promotional opportunities, but the academy contended that the ratings were themselves the product of promotional problems generated by the strike. Falle indicated that, when the strike began, the CBC had produced only one of several planned promotional spots for the ceremony. Since the rest of the spots were not produced, she argued that the public was not fully aware of the talent that would be appearing on the Junos ("Junos Draw," 1999).

Fewer promotional opportunities

In 2001, CARAS decided to shift the Juno Awards telecast from public to private broadcasting. After its three-year agreement with the CBC ended, CARAS granted CTV the broadcast rights for the 2002 and 2003 Juno Awards. The academy also gave CTV first right of refusal on future ceremonies ("Strike Up the Band," 2001). CARAS selected Insight Productions, an independent firm that had been behind several Juno shows on the CBC, to prepare the 2002 ceremony on CTV. This marked only the second time (and the first since CPI in 1984) that an independent production company had been given full responsibility for the Junos ("2002 Juno Awards," 2002).

CARAS made the shift to CTV because the CBC offered fewer promotional opportunities. Although the CBC's chances for another co-production agreement were likely hurt by the occasional resurgence of conflict with CARAS and (especially) the latest labour dispute, the key reason for the shift goes back to the promotional interests that have been at the core of the Junos from the beginning. CARAS was not getting what it wanted out of the CBC. To be sure, since the academy had been chasing after young audiences for years, its officials were happy that deliberate efforts to aim the ceremony at these viewers (through the line-up of performers) had paid off for the 2000 and 2001 Juno Awards; the number of young viewers grew for both ceremonies (Brown, 2001; "The 2000 Juno Awards Show," 2000). However, the size of the audience for these ceremonies was even lower than when the strike occurred in 1999 (Table 1), and this was a matter of concern to CARAS officials (Brown, 2001; LeBlanc, 2000). Furthermore, although most broadcasters had seen their audience share dropping since the 1980s due to the impact of new technologies and services, the CBC had been hit harder than CTV in the 1990s (Mandate Review Committee, 1996). Finally, while the CBC wanted to establish specialty services to soften the impact of audience fragmentation and secure a place in the multichannel universe, the public broadcaster was rarely granted specialty licences by the CRTC (Manera, 1996). As a result, the CBC had few venues through which to promote the Juno Awards. In the meantime, CTV had become a dominant player in the provision of specialty services (Taras, 1999).

The role of these factors was noted by representatives of both CTV and CARAS. Ed Robinson, CTV's senior vice-president of comedy and variety, stated: "We offered a few things I take it the CBC was not able to match, a lot of that being promotions and our specialty channels" (quoted in Young, 2002, p. 2). CARAS president Daisy Falle confirmed the importance of such issues. Partly because CTV would provide promotions for the Junos during its Academy Awards telecast (in an effort to increase the audience for the ceremony), Falle explained that the academy was enthusiastic about bringing the Juno Awards to "a whole new audience on the CTV network and on their specialty channels as well" (quoted in "Strike Up the Band," 2001, p. 3).

CARAS met with promotional success in its move to CTV. The network is one property of Bell Globemedia, and this corporate convergence provided several promotional outlets for the 2002 Juno Awards. Among the outlets were CTV shows such as Canada AM; programming on specialty channels, including TSN; the online portal Sympatico; and The Globe and Mail (Young, 2002). The director of special events at CTV indicated that, through this massive promotional exposure, "our goal is to raise the profile of the event and get the biggest audience yet" (quoted in Young, 2002, p. 2). CTV did not reach this goal with its first broadcast of the Junos in 2002, but the network came close with the 2.2 million viewers who watched the 2003 Juno Awards. That audience approached the record of 2.3 million, and (for the first time) the Junos had more Canadian viewers than the Grammy Awards (Powell, 2003).


Through a case study of the Juno Awards, this article has attempted to deepen what is known about the crisis in the CBC's English television service. Many causes of the crisis have been suggested in the literature on Canadian public broadcasting. Scholars on the right of the political spectrum have attributed the CBC's problems to technological changes, declining audiences, and other factors that purportedly undermine the rationale for public television (for example, Cooper, 1995). Academics on the left have preferred to discuss public television's difficulties in relation to factors such as privatization, government funding cuts, and other consequences of neo-liberalism (see, for example, McChesney, 1999; Raboy, 1990). This article built on the work of the latter academics while using the Junos to highlight additional issues that have negatively affected the CBC. Three sets of issues and arguments were addressed.

To begin with, through historical developments pertaining to the Juno Awards, it was suggested that the concept of a promotional state for popular music offers insights into the CBC's crisis. The notion of a promotional state is useful for interpreting political economic developments associated with the sound recording industry in Canada, but it also lends another dimension to analysis of the CBC and its difficulties. Since the 1950s, the CBC's English television service has played a promotional role for Canadian musical artists through specials and variety shows. However, with the advent of the CBC's production and broadcast of the Juno Awards in the 1970s, this promotional role became more explicitly commercial. After all, the ceremony was controlled by the music industry through CARAS and specifically designed to meet the industry's promotional interests. In some respects, the promotional state had a decreasing impact on the Juno Awards during the 1980s as neo-liberalism started to affect the CBC. Neo-liberalism generated government funding cuts and the privatization that enabled CARAS to strip the public broadcaster of control over the ceremony's television production. Now that CARAS has even taken away the CBC's role of broadcasting the Junos, it is necessary to ask difficult questions about the CBC's remaining and future status as part of a promotional state for popular music. As the history of the Juno Awards illustrates, the CBC has done much to satisfy the private promotional interests of the sound recording industry. However, the public potential of the CBC's promotional role has been largely unfulfilled. Can the CBC provide a non-commercial vehicle for the equitable exposure of music from various regions and cultures in Canada? Is it possible to restructure the promotional state and the place of the CBC within it? The promotional role of public broadcasting has not received much attention from researchers, and even Wernick (1991) had little to say about it in his extensive analysis of promotional culture. However, like other issues pertaining to the nature of a truly public and democratic broadcasting service, the impact of promotional culture deserves more analysis since it is part of the crisis facing the CBC.

It was also argued that the case of the Juno Awards demonstrates how outside control has exacerbated the CBC's crisis. CARAS' control over the awards ceremony and its television production deepened contradictions in the CBC. It magnified contradictions between public or commercial goals and Canadian or foreign content. These contradictions have been long-standing problems for the CBC, but the key issue here is how they were enhanced by outside control over the corporation's programming. It is unclear whether the CBC's history features any other instance of the kind of control that the academy held. Apart from some research on the role of advertisers in the early years of television, studies have not considered this issue. In relation to the external pressures that have contributed to the CBC's crisis, further research is needed on the existence and implications of outside control.

Finally, through circumstances involving the Juno Awards, it was pointed out that the CBC has in some ways contributed to its own crisis. The CBC co-operated with CARAS in the pursuit of corporate sponsorship and large audiences, thereby undermining aspects of its public-service mandate. However, the CBC's response to CARAS' control was contradictory because the public broadcaster also engaged in conflict with the academy (especially over the issue of having foreign performers on the Junos). In combination with CARAS' promotional interests and other factors, this conflict helped to foster the end of the CBC's association with the awards ceremony. All of this reinforces the argument that it is necessary to consider how public broadcasters have contended with the crisis facing them (Rowland & Tracey, 1990). Critical researchers have often focused on neo-liberalism and other external pressures when examining the crisis in the CBC, but the public broadcaster's internal actions and potentially contradictory response to external forces must also be studied.


I would like to thank the Arts Research Board at McMaster University for a grant that supported my research on the Juno Awards. I would also like to thank Melissa Dmetrichuk, my research assistant. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this article.


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