La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

CBC Radio 2 Changes Programming - Less Classical More Pop

Yesterday, timed to coincide with Canadian Music Week, the CBC announced changes to its day-time lineup for CBC Radio 2 that will begin after Labour Day 2008. According to a story on CBC News,
The changes were announced Tuesday by Jennifer McGuire, executive director of English programming for CBC Radio.
Radio Two will remain a music station, with an emphasis on classical and boosted Canadian content after the final phase of the redesign, she said.
The plan for weekday programming on CBC Radio Two is:
  • 6-10 a.m.: A music program dedicated to a range of genres, including classical, pop, jazz and roots music.
  • 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: A classical program that will emphasize the most popular and accessible classical music, including Mozart, Beethoven and other favourites.
  • 3-6 p.m.: A drive-home show focusing on vocal music, including many new artists.
The format for the morning program also will continue on weekend mornings, with a different host.
This morning's Globe and Mail reports that
In September, Radio 2 will also launch separate all-day all-classical, all-jazz and all-singer-songwriter stations on the Internet. Radio 3 will remain an Internet- and satellite-based service. However, one petitioner among a vocal group of listeners, musicians and composers who have criticized the overhaul argued yesterday that even an all-classical Web-based service wouldn't rectify the fact that Radio 2's on-air, non-classical programs are moving away from what had been the network's core listeners.
While acknowledging that change always meets opposition, Jennifer McGuire, executive director of radio, said that overall ratings haven't dropped as significantly as anticipated, as some listeners tune out and new ones tune in. She also emphasized that only a tiny fraction - 0.8 per cent - of new Canadian songs get commercial radio play and that the Radio 2 changes will allow for much more Canadian music to be heard, from pop to experimental.
But, "people who like classical music can still find classical music on Radio 2. In fact, it is still the most represented single genre on the service," McGuire said.
The proposed all-day all-classical and all-jazz web stations, already in service on the French CBC, are red-herrings; if someone wants to listen to classical or jazz online, there are already thousands of web radio stations, and one or two more won't make a dent.

The announcement has stirred up passion amongst CBC Radio 2 listeners. Both reports were filled with comments (see G&M comments; comments to the CBC story is at the bottom of the page), mostly lamenting the lost of classical music.
The bigger question is what is the role of a public broadcaster. Supporters of the change put forth the argument that a public broadcaster should serve all of its citizens. The consequence of this argument is that the public broadcaster would end up chasing ratings, as this plan aims to do. Ratings are the currency to justify the broadcaster's existence to its political masters. Historically, the role of a public broadcaster is to offer quality programming rather than follow the motives of commercial media. Favouring quantity over quality is usual a passing fad. Hopefully, saner minds will prevail, one day. Let us know what you think in the comments section or by emailing

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  • Now that the poo bahs at Radio Two have decided to go for numbers vs. quality....then as a citizen / taxpayer i think cbc radio Two ought to fold... and leave that money to Radio One ie. to reeeeel radio-journalism.

    Pandering to getting better ratings is NOT what a public broadcaster is mandated to do .....( .unless they are getting informal pressure from the present day Govt to do that.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 March 2008 at 13:40  

  • As the previous commenter suspects I too suspect the Conservatives had a hand in the CBC radio 2 changes. This was the only station that played serious classical music. There is a commercial French language station that plays Classical but it is popular classical, the kind that your article mentions the CBC will now play in the afternoons. That is okay for a while but I like more serious Classical music - baroque and renaissance for example, contemporary classical, quite a bit of vocal arias and leiders as well and the music of composers such as Mahler and Bruchner. I am going to get my serious Classical music anyway I can and so I have abandoned the CBC and switched over to WQXR - the Classical radio station of the New York Times. I can access it over the internet. They play the music I like. It is very sad that I had to leave radio stations of my own country to find a decent radio statio. So be it I, now am becoming used to America and less averse to the possible eventual realization of Manifest Destiny.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 5 April 2008 at 09:40  

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