CBC’s Radio Two is being run into the ground,
writes Howard Knopf
The devastation of CBC Radio Two in the last year by a small cadre of senior and middle managers after decades of distinguished history is a travesty that is becoming a tragedy.
By HOWARD KNOPF
Never before in Canadian culture has so much damage been done to so many by so few so fast. The devastation of CBC Radio Two in the last year by a small cadre of senior and middle managers after decades of distinguished history is a travesty that is becoming a tragedy. And it will soon get even worse. If this isn’t decisively reversed now, many children - especially those outside of the big cities - are going to grow up in
By fiat of elite CBC management, dead European classical composers will be all but purged from the airwaves. Living serious music composers will be marginalised unless they have broad appeal, like Phillip Glass or Marjan Mozetich. Forget about the more challenging modern masters like Elliott Carter, R.
As a result of CBC management’s plan to abandon the “over 50" audience in its doomed mission to win the hearts, minds and ears of a younger generation, we’ll soon hear lots of Feist and countless lesser wannabe song writers and performers. We’ll hear CanCon Old Gold that is too worn out for commercial radio, such as BTO, Lighthouse and Anne Murray. These will be the new “classics.” We’ll also hear much more Old Gould, which is always good for Canadian flag waving. Just what the downtown
Out with the old elite. In with the new elite, who will include the very successful commercial musicians and record companies who recently signed a very expensive ad in the Globe and Mail, clearly suggesting the answer to the question of “cui bono” (who will really benefit) from all of this.
Speaking of elites, the elite few that are now running Radio Two (into the ground, in my opinion) want us to believe that all music is equal. But it isn’t. Popular music is rarely really “good” music that will endure and become classical. Much of it is part of the junk and fast food of modern culture.
Pierre Juneau did a great thing for Canadian commercial music with the Canadian content requirements. But let us not gild the lily by turning the CBC into a second rate commercial network. That would not only be contrary to the Broadcasting Act. It simply won’t work because CBC doesn’t have the skills to make it work.
One of the yet unexplored ironies of this sad Canadian version of a cultural revolution is that this exercise in inverse elitism may end up actually costing the CBC a lot of money, despite the stated goals of CBC management to the contrary. For example, CBC has just killed off the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, the last remaining jewel in a crown that was once acclaimed throughout the world. No less than Igor Stravinsky, the giant of all twentieth century serious composers, chose to use the long gone CBC Symphony Orchestra in
CBC claims that eliminating its
Moreover, here is what CBC is not telling us. In dumbing down to five hours a day of “classical” music (in the middle of the day when almost nobody can hear it), CBC will greatly increase its airtime for copyright protected music (music not in the public domain). This means that CBC’s copyright tariff costs will surely increase. At last report, the CBC was paying almost $1.5 million a year to SOCAN as of 2005 for its radio activity alone - for the use of repertoire that historically has included a lot of public domain classical music. According to
Whatever calculation may have been in place before will likely now change. Someone will probably do some arithmetic on the back of an envelope and suggest that CBC should double or treble or increase even more that amount of $1.5 million a year in view of the fact that the dreaded (dead for more than 50 years) European composers will be taking up very little time now on the CBC’s subsidized radio network. CBC will likely agree rather than offend
So the small saving realized from killing off the last radio orchestra in
Even though SOCAN takes in well over $200 million a year, very little of this money goes to serious music composers in
One hears that even very well known “serious” composers in
It is true that the world has survived admittedly more drastic cultural revolutions. However, even so, what is happening on
Moreover, bad as this is, some are cynical enough to see the possibility of an even bleaker future unfolding than is now apparent. This could entail the possibility that, in the longer term, Canadian listeners/taxpayers will become so turned off that they will beg to eliminate or privatize CBC radio. Then, in typically Canadian fashion, the Government might even end up having to pay an opportunistic party to take over the surely very large liabilities for salaries, severances, and other items that the accountants and lawyers will surely come up with. We could then see a national version of Moses Znaimer’s CFMZ.
Enough said. Whatever happens, Canadian taxpayers will soon end up paying much more for much less.The current disaster in
By the way, Ben Heppner grew up in
Howard Knopf is an Ottawa cultural curmudgeon, former CBC recording artist, formerly fervent CBC Radio Two listener, and copyright lawyer.
The Hill Times