A founding father of the promotion of Canadian culture, Pierre Juneau was born into a working class family in Verdun, now part of Montreal, in 1922. After graduating from the University of Montreal, he studied at the University of Paris where he met Pierre Trudeau, with whom he co-founded the dissident political magazine Cité Libre upon returning to Montreal.
He was the representative to the government of the Jeunesse Étudiante Chrétienne (JEC) at the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS) Centre for International Documentation and Information (CIDI) in 1947. He is considered as one of the key men behind the creation of IYCS which today is present in over 80 countries with millions of members.
He began landscaping the Canadian media frontier in 1949 at the National Film Board, where he held titles of secretary, assistant regional supervisor in Quebec, chief of international distribution, assistant head of the European office, and eventually rose to become head of its French language production.
From there, he was a co-founder of the Montreal International Film Festival and served as its president until 1968, when Trudeau’s Liberals offered him the job as chair of the CRTC (Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission) in 1968, tasked with the promotion and protection of Canadian culture through non-print media – radio and the still blooming television industry. He was the architect behind the Canadian music industry’s very foundations, establishing regulations, dubbed Can Con, which forced radio stations to play 30% Canadian music. Stipulations stated it had to be played during the day and night when people were listening, angering many independent radio stations across the country.
A song had to meet three of the two of the four criteria to be considered ‘Canadian’: Music, Artist, Publisher, Lyrics (MAPL), though throughout its history, several loopholes were exploited by non-nationals over the years. Content regulations also led to the birth of a widespread Canadian recording industry, in audio, video, and arguably later film. as the only recording studios were in Toronto and Montreal. Because of their distance and lack of availability, many artists across the prairies, including Wes Dakus & The Rebels, Barry Allen, and Southbound Freeway had to travel to Clovis Studios in New Mexico to record.
Junea helped establish the first actual national awards ceremony for the Canadian music industry. Based on his Canadian charts & music publication, when Walt Grealis formed the first RPM Awards in 1964, results were simply surveys of readers in ballots for various categories. There was no actual gala, rented room, red carpets, or even particular national coverage, until forming the first and only Gold Leaf Awards in 1970.
The first Juneau celebration took place at Toronto’s St Lawrence Hall on Feb 22, 1971. Winners included Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, and The Guess Who. A year later, the awards were renamed the Junos, and Juneau received the newly created Music Industry Man of the Year award.
As CRTC chair, he also insisted on 80% Canadian ownership of radio and television networks and the fledgling cable industry. At the time, foreign ownership of Canadian media was the norm across the country, and the main anglophone station in Montreal was British-owned, and both the main anglopone and francophone stations in Quebec City were American owned.
Trudeau wanted Juneau in his government and appointed him as Communications Minister in 1975, even though he hadn’t been elected as an Member of Parliament. Juneau was forced to leave his post within a few months after losing a byelection, but later became a civil servant in the communications department. That same year, he was awarded the Order of Canada.
He served as the president of the CBC from 1982 to 1989, during a changing in the tide in the broadcasting industry. Following suit after the BBC and CNN, he presided over the launch of the 24-hour national network’s all-news channel, CBC NewsWorld.
Juneau clashed with former PM Brian Mulroney over budget cuts to the CBC, and over the government’s decision to split his job into two – a part-time president and a full-time chair of the CBC. He politely declined to step aside until his seven year term ended in 1989. He popped up again in ’94, when fellow Trudeau-friend PM Jean Chretien hired him to spearhead a government inquiry into the future of the CBC, which had seen its impact dwindle over recent years due to a changing market and emphasis put on advertising.
After retiring from the CBC, he founded the World Radio and Television Council, a non-government organization supported by UNESCO. He also taught in the communications department of the University of Montreal, and held doctorates from several other institutions across the country.
Junea died in his Montreal home at the age of 89 on Feb 21, 2012 one day before the 41st anniversary of the first Juno Awards, then named the Juneau Awards.