Tuesday, April 1, 2008

UBC school of music takes a stand against CBC Radio 2 butchering

I admit, this is a topic that I would have written about regardless of the UBC angle. I'm that angry over it. And you should be too. Our wonderful public broadcaster needs to listen to its listeners, for once.

CBC management, with the wisdom of it's lobotomized-gerbil brain trust, decided last Thursday to disband the CBC Radio Orchestra, the last remaining radio orchestra in North America. This move follows closely on the heels of a major overhaul of the Corp's Radio 2 programming away from its core classical programs towards more "diverse" music. Basically, all the best classical programs from the morning and evening primetime slots have been axed, to be replaced with poppy "easy-listening" largely Canadian content. Classical programming will be relegated to daytime hours when most people are at school and work.

This morning around 10:00, 150 people gathered outside the CBC to protest these changes. Among them were UBC students and faculty from the school of music, who had their classes cancelled this morning in order to attend. Read about the protest HERE, and see a couple photos on Tod Maffin's CBC blog HERE.

The "Save Classical Music at the CBC" facebook group summarizes the changes announced for Radio 2:

Gone are Music & Company - Tom Allen's morning show, Here's to You - Catherine Belyea's (Formerly Shelley Solmes') all-request show, Studio Sparks - due to the venerable Eric Friesen's "retirement", and Disc Drive - Jurgen Gothe's popular drive-home show after almost 30 years. These changes come on the heels of last years round of cuts to vital programs such as Danielle Charbonneau's much-loved Music for Awhile; Larry Lake's new composer showcase Two New Hours; Symphony Hall - Canada's live orchestra recording showcase; The Singer and the Song - Catherine Belyea's excellent Classical vocal program; Northern Lights - the overnight Classical program beloved by Night Owls everywhere; The reformatting of In Performance- a primarily classical live performance show into the much-reviled Canada Live - a uniformly non-classical and completely unfocused hodge-podge of World music, soft pop, and sort-of Jazz; and the controversial replacement of veteran Howard Dyck from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera after many years of great service.12. The CBC axing the Radio Orchestra one day citing lack of resources, and the next day buying hugely expensive full-page ad in the Globe and Mail to convince us how wonderful everything is going to be in their Brave New World.
This isn't including changes that have already occured, including the cancellation of Rick Philips's wonderful Sound Advice, Two New Hours, the axing of the classical division of the CBC record label, and plenty more. You can get the full list of the denuded classical programs HERE.

All this is to snare elusive and desirable "demographics" and convert them to CBC listeners. Apparently, classical music is only enjoyed and appreciated by retired grandmas, and the rest of us "key demographics" are just way too cool for it. Instead, we would like to listen to Leslie Fiest and Joni Mitchel ad infinitum. Eugh. Jeffery Simpson and Russel Smith had a good articles about all this in last week's Globe. The McGill Daily also reported on it. I agree with Mr. Simpson that CBC is only relevant and worth the investment as long as it caters to Canadians' intelligence and high culture. Diluting Radio 2's classical offerings in a race to the bottom with commercial radio is a lack of foresight of the worst kind. I think it's undeniable that CBC needs another national FM frequency for a wider variety of popular and world music - and that's originally what CBC Radio 3 was envisioned to be. Unfortunately, that idea was also demolished by another foresight-deficient president (Rabinovitch) only leaving a sort of internet residue - and we're paying for it now. It's sad to see Radio 2 being re-directed to straddle both missions - because it won't do a good quality job at either.

If you want classical music to stay, make your voice heard. I've written a letter to my MP, and various members of the CBC brass. Find contact details on the facebook group.