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.


7 Comments so far

  1. Clark Funnell on April 2, 2008 4:28 am

    This really makes me angry. I was lucky enough to have parents that played CBC radio in the house while I was growing up. Listening to the CBC played a major part in shaping my intellect, my worldview, and my identity as a Canadian. I decided I wanted to play the violin after hearing one played on Radio 2.

    I still wake up every weekday morning to the sound of Here’s to You, spend afternoons with Jurgen Gothe, and play the music quiz with Rick Phillips on weekends. The fact that these programs won’t exist any more scares me. They are to be replaced by what?

    The CBC is not going to become ‘cool’ by gutting the core programming on Radio2. Radio2 will never be the ‘easy-listening’ popular station for ‘key demographics’. Striving to make it so is an insult to CBC listeners and to Canadians in general. This is public broadcasting, not muzak!

    One of the stated priorities of the CBC is to “Ensure the sustainability of CBC/Radio-Canada’s Canadian schedules”. Introducing a hodge-podge of new programs intending at swaying a younger audience is an invitation for failure, for continued programming changes, and for a sad decline in programming quality.


    Thanks for posting this Maayan.
    My angry letters are in the mail.

    Don’t even get me started on the CBC Radio Orchestra…

  2. Anonymous on April 2, 2008 6:02 am

    sure this is terrible

    maayan, what was worse was last year (i think) they cut the Saturday night cbc radio 3 show – the only good indie-rock program in the country.

    The reasoning behind it wa sthat they wanted to play bad elevator jazz instead (or something along those lines.)

  3. Reka on April 2, 2008 6:38 am

    This is TERRIBLE!! I’m with Clark… this is pretty much all my parents listen to and have ever listened to on the radio, and I have no idea what the CBC expects them to listen to now… definitely not the new programming they’ve already started introducing. To paraphrase my parents on the new(ish) show “Tonic” one evening:
    M – “What the hell are we listening to?”
    D – “Oh, it’s just the CBC, trying to be all things to all people”
    M – “… it’s not working”
    D – “No kidding.”

    How exactly do they plan to get rid of ALL their excellent (and recognizable) hosts, and still keep any listeners at all? I know Jurgen Gothe has talked me down from road rage many, many times during rush hour traffic… what am I supposed to do without him and his soothing radio voice?

    See, I quite like Feist, but I get my fill through Radio 3 with internet and podcasts (which I love) and her albums (which I went out and bought). We cool young “key demographics” tend to get our music from new media, not radio. Who exactly are they trying to appeal to with these changes? Argh!

  4. Matthew Naylor on April 2, 2008 4:49 pm

    I have to say that I disagree, although it pains me to say so.

    My life was CBC. Radio One admittedly, but my childhood was steeped in Arthur Black, Bill Richardson, Barbara Budd and Mary Lou Findlay.

    We have to accept that the CBC should change. I am against the elimination of the Orchestra, which was something really unique about the CBC, but why shouldn’t people be exposed to some new Canadian music; varieties enrich us.

    They should NEVER do away with Classical music on the CBC, but I don’t think its a bad thing that there is less of it – CBC is a public broadcaster, and it makes our nation and our government relevant to a whole lot of people. Why then should we not try and adapt to attract as many people as we can to join in what I have always considered to be come kind of aural celebration of the Canadian experience?

  5. Anonymous on April 2, 2008 7:57 pm

    if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. why do we even need the change?

  6. Mark Latham on April 3, 2008 12:15 am

    A voter-funded media system can help resolve the debate about what programming should be supported with public funds. It’s a long way from UBC to a national VFM competition, but we’ve started on that path.

    Media contestants are free to offer anything they think voters will support, from political insight to a classical orchestra. The consensus voting systems we use in VFM are designed for supporting public goods, so will produce different fare than the private-sector media.

    I explained the principles further in this FAQ, this interview, and this paper (pages 24-30).

  7. Tomzilla on April 3, 2008 6:22 am

    There is a petition at http://www.SaveCBCOrchestra.com

    In 3 days, the petition has been signed by 3000 people without much media attention.

    Forward the URL to friends and family.

    SaveCBCOrchestra.com is well coordinated and has been in touch with other groups including the Orchestra and national media.

    As long as we keep momentum, the media will report the petition and the comments by angry signatories.

    Please sign the petition at:



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