Monday, March 31, 2008

Complaining about the CBC

A reporter from the Concordia University newspaper is writing an article, and asked me:

What are the main issues with the CBC?
What you hope to accomplish with the protest?
Why is important that the CBC have an orchestra?
Why is it important that the CBC play classical music?

Here's what I replied:

The main issues that people are having with the CBC are that they are canceling several long-running and popular shows, that they'll play less classical music, and that they're disbanding their 70-year-old CBC Radio Orchestra.

I think it is important for the CBC to play classical music. Many people, including me, have been turned on to classical music through CBC Radio 2. Many people throughout Canada enjoy listening to classical music, and have either no local classical station, or a poor one. (I don't like the local classical station here in Montreal.) CBC Radio 2 is/was a way for people who live in small towns or remote areas - places with no local orchestra and not much access to live classical concerts - to hear classical music recordings and recorded concerts.
I myself stopped listening to CBC Radio 2 when they did a big programming change in March of last year. They got rid of several of my favourite programs. They put on more pop/jazz programs (and many people argue that the main jazz program doesn't even have a lot of good jazz on.) From what I heard, they replaced knowledgeable musically-educated radio show hosts with hosts who don't even always know how to pronounce composers' names (I can't personally attest to this as I no longer listen to CBC Radio 2.)

One of the shows they cancelled last year in March was Two New Hours, a program featuring new "classical" music (usually Canadian.) I heard that after that show was cancelled, the CBC recorded fewer contemporary-classical music concerts. The CBC also stopped holding the Young Composers Competition a few years ago. This competition was a good way to launch the careers of Canadian composers. Since the CBC no longer broadcasts Two New Hours, or holds the composers' competition, The CBC Radio Orchestra is/was a way for Canadian composers to have their music heard, since it often played and commissioned recent music by Canadian composers. I'm an amateur composer, and I have many friends who are professional composers, so I understand how hard it can be for a composer to have his/her music performed.

People might argue that a whole lot of Canadians don't like contemporary classical music, so why broadcast it on CBC radio? I think that a lot of Canadians do like contemporary music. I came to contemporary music through CBC radio. I think contemporary music should be given a chance. Heck, I once played an atonal piano piece at a church, and the church members loved it.
Now the CBC's contemporary music radio show plays a bunch of pop music, with the occasional contemporary classical piece.

The CBC claims that their decision to get rid of the CBC Radio Orchestra is financial, but the author of the InsidetheCBC blog says "Anyone who has been in business understands that you always have the money if it’s a priority. What the CBC really means is this: 'We have the money, but we have chosen to make this decision.' " (source:

Facebook groups have been started, both to protest the changes being made to the CBC's programming, and to protest the disbanding of the CBC Radio orchestra.

The people in charge of the CBC say that they'll still play a lot of classical music, so people don't need to worry. However, this classical music will be limited to 2 or 3 shows on the weekend, plus "accessible and popular" classical music from 10 AM to 3 PM on weekdays. I think I'd get bored of "accessible and popular" classical music pretty quickly. One thing I used to like about CBC Radio Two (especially recorded-concert programs like In Performance, Symphony Hall, and Two New Hours) was that they often played music that challenged me. I found that by keeping an open mind, I learned a lot about all kinds of classical music.

I don't listen to CBC Radio 2, but I protest the changes because the CBC will be playing even less classical music after the upcoming programming changes, because I used to enjoy listening to some of the shows that they're cancelling, and because I think it is important for CBC audiences to have access to classical music.


Anonymous said...

As a CBC radio executive, I noticed your blog posting and wanted to respond to a couple of the points you've raised.

I hope, of course, to convince you that Radio 2, which you say you never listen to, is a service you can and should turn to for relevant, high-quality music that speaks to you.

First, we agree that classical music is important, which is why it will remain the predominant genre Radio 2 will offer. (And in addition to providing this over the air, we're significantly increasing what's available at I invite you to take the time to explore a bit of it. We'd welcome your feedback.

Yes, it's true that we've made some programming changes, and we'll continue to do so when we introduce some new shows in September.

It's our view (and the view of thousands of Radio 2 listeners, local and national musical organizations, composers, musicians and songwriters we've spoken with over the last several years as part of this process) that there's room on a national public radio service for more than just one kind of music.

In fact, we believe we have an obligation to Canadians to represent the creative and musical diversity available in this country.

You've written that we cancelled the Young Composers Competition. You should know that we're working on a new approach to showcase emerging classical performers. We'll have more to say about that in the near future. We also have a national choral competition scheduled for spring of 2008. We fully intend to expand the opportunities for youth development to include the work of composers, singer/songwriters and others.

We absolutely agree with you that the music of contemporary classical composers has a place on Radio 2. This will continue.

And while we recognize your disappointment about the difficult decision we've just made about the CBC Radio Orchestra in Vancouver, we came to that decision specifically because we realized we could use that money to bring more music to our audiences by pursuing initiatives with existing musical organizations, in Vancouver and elsewhere. As we said to the members of the orchestra last week, we hope very much to continue to have a relationship with them.

We're not attempting to duplicate what the commercial radio stations are doing-- quite the contrary. We think there's a huge amount of wonderful, high-quality music created by Canadians that never gets an opportunity to be heard in this country. We're going to make that happen, for the benefit of all Canadians. In fact, when our new programs are introduced, we will have increased our overall Canadian content by something like 20 percent.

I hope very much that you'll give Radio 2 a chance.

Chris Boyce
Interim Director of Programming
CBC Radio

Muzition said...

No, I will not give Radio 2 a chance. I gave up listening to it last year, and the changes CBC is going to make in September are only a greater reason to keep me away from it.

I've heard your spiel before, Chris. It didn't convince me then, and it won't convince me now.
But nice try anyways.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Good on you, Emily.

I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the Ruckas for Radio on Friday. Sounds like it was a good event, nationwide, though.