Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The execrable CBC Radio 2 blog

There were CBC rallies in Toronto and British Columbia on May 24 (last Saturday.) These rallies were to protest the changes being made to CBC Radio 2, and the disbanding of the CBC Radio Orchestra.

Here's an excerpt from Bramwell Tovey's speech from the Vancouver rally:

"In seeking to control the debate about Radio 2 programming the network has ruthlessly controlled its own blogsites. In May 2007 I submitted a critical comment to a CBC blog concerning changes at Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. The comment was never posted. When I asked why, I received numerous telephone messages and then an email from a senior CBC manager:

“Let’s talk further about what we’re trying to achieve. I’d still be more than happy to post most of what you wrote, but do need to edit out one line, and want your approval to do that ….We’re not trying to censor you.” (sic)

Numerous independent web discussion and information sites have emerged, such as www.standonguardforcbc.ca and on Facebook, since it became evident that CBC wished to control the debate which was often highly critical of Radio 2’s direction."

It seems that whenever I try to post a negative comment about any of the CBC Radio 2 radio shows on the CBC 2 blog, it doesn't get accepted. I tried to post what I thought was a fairly innocent-sounding comment, on an entry about In the Key of Charles: "Wow, they never had anything like this on Symphony Hall." Did the CBC Radio 2 blog editor realize, er, I mean, think that this was a back-handed compliment? Or has the CBC blog editor just gotten used to seeing my name on the posts, and automatically not accept them? :P

I've heard from other people about their blog posts getting "censored" (not accepted.) And no less a person than Bramwell Tovey got censored. Boy, do I hate the CBC Radio 2 blog.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech? I know, freedom of speech has been used as an excuse by many people to say horrible things, but really, surely a few negative comments about radio shows aren't so horrible they shouldn't be published?

By the way, I recommend reading Bramwell Tovey's entire speech, as it is excellent.


Emlyn said...

This was my reaction to Richard Stursberg's dismissive mass email reaction to our massive email campaign at the beginning of April. Keep up the fight!

Dear Mr. Stursberg,

I am delighted that you chose to respond to my comments regarding the changes taking place to CBC Radio2. I would in turn like to comment on your email message. Firstly you write '"Most contain some variation on the
theme "we love Radio 2 just the way it is, don't change a thing."' I heartily disagree with this point of view. I have been unhappy with the continuous deterioration of Radio 2 programming for years already. Your current overhaul is just another step in the gradual 'dumbing down' of what was once on of the world's leading classical music broadcasters. If you know the history of the institution that pays you an enormous salary to manage it then you would understand that CBC radio enabled some of the greatest musicians in the world to come to Canada in the between 1950 and about 1995 singularly placing Canada on the map in the classical music world and registering some of the greatest performances of the twentieth century (many of which are still bought yearly by thousands on the black market or through various asian distributors). I am sure you well know that Stravinsky, Britten, Szigetti, Michelangeli, Szeryng and Menuhin to name but a few performed and recorded in Canada under the auspices of the CBC. The CBC that supported original programming, contemporary music and serious classical music used to connect high culture in Canada. Public airwaves are for high culture this is a fact that must not be ignored. With dwindling representation of serious music on CBC throughout the 90s classical music in Canada has suffered one serious setback after the other when radio should have been a strong line of defence for suffering orchestras and struggling music festivals, not to mention living Canadian composers. You claim to broaden perspectives, well add a new radio station to do so if it is necessary or leave this to the free market. Do not destroy high culture for base low quality 'Canadian Content' popular music that can find its own local audience. Serious music is in need of defence in the 21st century and public airwaves are a way to educate, inform and raise national and cultural values. Every country in Europe has a nationally funded classical music radio station. Every European country. Many European countries also have other nationally funded stations that broadcast popular and light music but a staple of public radio in Europe is a classical/serious music radio station devoted to classical, contemporary/classical and serious ethnographic folk music. You talk about broadening genres and horizons when clearly folk/pop/rock/bluegrass/blues/singer-songerwriter are all variations on a theme. Mere pedantic distinctions when compared with say Rennaissance/Baroque/Classical/Romantic/Late-Romantic/Post-Romantic/Impressionist/Expressionist/Aleatoric/Serial/MInimalist/Neo-Classical and undefined Contemporary music. These are all genres worthy of being heard. The chance one will he hear any of them in Canada has been diminishing for years as the CBC has continually shifted programming towards popular genres of music and the usual 'light' classics or 'popular' classics. The shrinking time for classics will now almost solely focus on 'popular' classics. Shows like Tom Allen's and Jurgen Goethe's do not even come close to feasibly representing classical music as an art form. These shows were already so populistic that eliminating Tom Allen can hardly be seen as a negative development. Where is Rick Phillip's one of the only commentators on CBC to devote serious time to discussing music and performance and Larry Lake? How will Canadian composer's across Canada and separated by thousands of kilometers be connected with what other's are writing. The answer used to be 'through the CBC'. Your joke about being 'saddened' by the loss of the CBC Radio Orchestra irks me the most. You sir know full well that the CBC has run the orchestra out of existence by continually reducing its work load to such a negligible level that it was no longer feasible ('a luxury we can no longer support') to continue its operation. I tell you know, re-esablish the radio orchestra and give a full seasons worth of work to be broadcast on the CBC as well as regular appearances across Canada as a "national broadcasting orchestra". In Europe every single country has at least one radio orchestra! Germany has about 5, England 3, the Netherlands 2! It should be the mandate of the CBC to have a radio orchestra as well as broadcast all the other orchestras across Canada that's why you used to have programs like "in performance" and "symphony hall" to broadcast daily serious classical music concerts from across Canada. Not long ago the afternoon as well as evening programs broadcast serious concerts now not a serious concert is to be found. Who wants to listen to an evening program where the genre of concert changes nightly seemingly as randomly selected as throwing darts and often serving up half-hearted 'folkish-cutesy' concerts that are so out of tune that one wishes to break one's radio! And what about the hours of programming. Your new 'broad-minded' shows which are probably supporting by the way mostly established Canadian pop/folk musicians and giving a huge handout to their well-to-do record companies, instead of investing in serious music are going to be broadcast in the morning/mid-afternoong/early evening. Precisely the time when classical music must be represented so that young people especially children have an opportunity to hear it. Now you have banished classical music to a time slot when only the elderly/retired or unemployed will be listening. This I construe as a grave attack upon serious music. Turning to your dismissal of criticisms that CBC for many years now has not held a national performer's, composer's or otherwise competition is saddening. "We are also currently working on an alternative, higher impact approach to showcasing emerging classical performers, so please stay tuned. And finally, we are expanding opportunities for youth
development so that they now include singer/songwriters, folk and roots music." Ok sorry what is not 'high impact' about a national competition? Again every radio station in Europe showcases its nation's performers and composer's if not through a radio competition at least the live broadcasting of a competition of that kind. This reaches a wide audience and expands career opportunities for a nation's musicians, it is devastating to see you dismiss these possibilities off hand. Stay tuned for what? Some youth development for folk et al. genres where enough kids are doing well enough and supported by their communities if they have real talent. What are you suggesting some kind of folky version of "Canadian Idol" for CBC. Do you have any notion of how many young talented Canadian classical musicians and composers are totally unknown in Canada but have active performing/composing careers in the U.S.A. and Europe? I would estimate thousands. This is a number that is growing on a yearly bases. As classical music culture is further destroyed by your CBC's full frontal assault on the medium and the young Canadians that could represent its future in Canada hundreds of serious young Canadian classical performers and composers leave Canada for good.
To briefly summarize what I have written it is painfully obvious to anyone in the music business that your programming decisions in line with your predecessor's decisions for the past 10 years represent a continual destructive trend to downsizing classical music in Canada out of existence. To further my point, your lack of respect and I would assume knowledge of the CBC's tradition in the world of serious music is astounding. Mr. Stursberg on one of your work day coffee breaks I beg you, go down to the CBC archives and find the movie Glenn Gould made with Leonard Rose or Yehudi Menuhin or Oscar Schumsky or find Szeryng's Beethoven Concerto with the old CBC Quebec Radio Orchestra (also downsized out of existence) and tell me that such beautiful music making does not bring tears to your eyes! How did it happen, the CBC made time and space for it to happen....

my sincerest regards,

Emlyn Stam

Muzition said...

Thanks for sharing your response, Emlyn. It's excellent.

I also think CBC 2 has been deteriorating for a while. I was kind of sad when Take Five was replaced by Here's to You and Studio Sparks.

Nowadays I can't stand Radio 2.