Monday, April 14, 2008

CBC, Copyright and the Canadian Cultural Revolution

This is for those who care about the decimation and devastation of classical and serious music now underway at CBC Radio Two, Canada's once proud national and entirely subsidized radio network that used to be devoted to non-commercial and culturally important content.

The CBC has a long standing tradition of “negotiating” its tariff obligation with SOCAN rather than rolling up its sleeves and actually going to the Copyright Board for a contested hearing. SOCAN is probably much better at this game than CBC. The bottom line is that CBC at last report was paying something in the order of $1.5 million a year to SOCAN as of 2005 for its radio activity alone (to be exact, $1,486,836 for 2005) - for the use of repertoire that historically has included quite a lot of public domain classical music. According to Canada’s Copyright Board, in 1998 the percentage of “protected” music played on CBC radio overall was somewhere between 21% and 24% of its broadcast day. Clearly, this percentage will now rise substantially.

Whatever calculus may have been in place will likely now change. Someone will probably do some scribbling on the back of an envelope and suggest that CBC should double or treble or more that amount of $1.5 million a year in view of the fact that the dreaded dead white European male composers who have been deceased for more than 50 years will be taking up very little time now on the five hours a day of “classical”music permitted during the middle of the day on Canada’s subsidized national radio network. CBC will likely agree, rather than offend Canada’s commercial music elites and have to go the trouble of actually having a hearing at the Copyright Board, which it hasn’t done for a very long time. CBC in fact now seems to be pandering to Canada’s commercial music elites in a very big way.

So the saving of somewhere between $300,000 and $1,000,000 realized from killing off the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra will likely soon vanish in increased SOCAN payments alone. Not to mention NRCC - the record companies’ and performers’ collective that is trying to play catch up with SOCAN and which will also benefit from the banishment of the dreaded dead white European male composers’ music and recordings of old and/or foreign orchestras and other “classical” ensembles - but in ways that are rather more complex than this brief comment allows for.

And needless to say, most if not all of these extra tariff costs will go the commercial music interests that CBC seems to think require subsidized airing on Radio Two.

I’m going to do more on this. If anyone cares to let me privately know what they think about SOCAN’s treatment of serious music composers in Canada, I’m all ears.



  1. What passes for a trackback to the Inside the CBC blog...


  2. Thank you for enlightening us on this. We look forward to hearing more. Would love to hear management rebutt these - My bet is they will avoid doing so because they have no argument.
    Sincerely, Isaac Bull, outraged symphonic musician and (once) proud CBC Radio Two listener.

  3. Brilliant piece - thanks! You have exposed the financial rationalizations of management as total b.s. Mao would love the cultural revolution they are trying to foist on us. I am all the more determined now to persist in fighting on behalf of the CBCRO.
    Bill Horne
    Wells BC

  4. Thanks for your posting. I am not content with a purely financial explanation to the proposed cuts. I think the current govts' desire for majority "rule" is so great that they are trying to create a cultural classist divide in Canada, à la Howard in Australia. The silent majority 'blue-collar workers' vs the 'hoy-paloy'or some such stupidity. After all .. 1.5 M$ is a proverbial drop in the ad mans bucket.Stay vigilant