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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The new 2

A comment from the last post:

"Is anyone aware of the changes at CBC radio 2? What do Edmonton Symphony supporters think?"

The new CBC Radio 2 schedule is here. From what I can see, there are two major format changes, the first being Tom Allen's morning show, changing from a classical music format to "a deep blend of new and established artists across musical genres in a mix you won’t hear anywhere else" (except maybe CKUA). This is the show I listen to in the mornings during the week when I wake up and get ready. Yesterday I heard music from The Magnetic Fields, Rufus Wainwright, Calexico - all artists that I like. So while I liked Tom's old show, I'll probably continue to listen to his new one. I find it different, not necessarily better or worse.

The second change is, of course, the replacement of Jurgen Gothe's DiscDrive with a new show focusing on Canadian singer-songwriters. Now, DiscDrive is one of those shows that carries a lot of nostalgia for people - I grew up listening to DiscDrive. Although I haven't tuned in much recently, in many ways it seemed like the show was moving towards the singer-songwriter direction anyways - whether by Jurgen's choice or from higher up, I'm not sure. Perhaps they decided to rip the band-aid off, rather than slowly peel it away.

In between those two shows is another new show, but it is still focused on classical music - not really sure how different it will be from what was there before.

I think the thing that concerns me, and many other people, is that it feels as if CBC is homogenizing their programming to "appeal to the masses". Unfortunately, this means they sound that much like everyone else. While I understand CBC's mandate to represent all Canadians, I think it can fulfill that mandate by first and foremost presenting educational and thought-provoking programming - something that public broadcasters do best, since they're not only concerned with ratings and the bottom line. It doesn't have to be all classical, all the time, but right now, pop music and singer-songwriters can be heard pretty much everywhere and anywhere. While entertaining, I'm not sure the new programs will distinguish themselves as particularly challenging.

Another concern is the decline of the amount of specifically Canadian classical music that will be heard on CBC. While Canadian pop music is well represented on commercial stations, if for no other reason than to meet CANCON (Canadian content) requirements, there are very few options for hearing contemporary Canadian composers' works, and fewer and fewer options for hearing Canadian orchestras and classical artists. Now, among all the changes at Radio 2, they have launched 4 online music channels, one of which is dedicated to Canadian Composers. I think that's awesome! But at this point, it's kind of like the consolation prize. Online listening is much more intentional than listening to the radio, so instead of being "out there" for anyone to hear, the music will be heard by people who already have a strong interest in that specific genre.

All that being said... although I don't have hard numbers, I imagine that traditional radio listenership is dropping, with competition from satellite radio, web streaming, iPods, and all the other distractions that didn't exist 20 years ago. In the end, if CBC is indistinguishable from commercial stations, I predict it will grow even less popular, as I have little faith it can compete in the same way. And then it will be retooled yet again...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I am the original commenter who suggested you write on this topic. Thanks for taking me up on the suggestion. I am surprised there aren't more (any!) opinions on this issue. This is a pretty big deal for classical music - and not a good deal. Are Edmonton classical music lovers not concerned? Or perhaps no one reads the blog?! (No offense intended) I thought the ESO website would be more of a hub for the Edmonton classical music lover.
In any case, if you or any of your readers are interested, there is a fairly organized effort to restore the CBC and to make arts funding more of an issue in the upcoming election, apropos your more recent post. The folks at
standonguardforcbc/ have compiled a list of supporters, along with a fairly detailed history of the whole CBC radio 2/CBC radio orchestra debacle in the last year. I urge concerned classical music lovers, and the ESO, if it hasn't already done so, to get involved and support this effort. The longer we let it go, the less likely anything will change.