Thank you, Mr. Chair and distinguished members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
The Stand on Guard For CBC coalition, of which I chair the executive committee, accepts the wisdom of an arm's-length relation between the government of Canada and the CBC/Radio-Canada. Yet we argue a vigorous role for your committee and for the government of Canada vis-à-vis the CBC and de CBC Radio Orchestra. I will tell you why in a moment.
I want to make sure I get to my main points, so I'm going to skip to the end and give you those now.
I'm going to propose, for various reasons, that the president and board of the CBC should be asked to take their decisions far more in the open than they do at present, and second, that your committee is justified to undertake a detailed inquiry into CBC procedures and practice, particularly of the past decade, that it is within your jurisdiction.
The methods of appointment of CBC presidents and board members should be reviewed on a variety of grounds, and general CBC funding should be restored to 1996 levels in inflation-adjusted dollars by 2011.
Those are four propositions I would like to leave with you, which I claim to be within your jurisdiction. I'll repeat them, if you like, later in the meeting.
I have two that I would love to see proposed to the CBC board of directors, if possible. One is that concert and classical music come to occupy about half of all Radio 2 broadcast time and be offered in an all-classical format in prime listening hours. That is our wish. Second is that retention of the CBC Radio Orchestra is a central and prior consideration in rebuilding Radio 2.
I'll offer one or two arguments for some of those points.
The coalition has heard repeatedly that CBC is in the middle of a period of hard times and the CBC Radio Orchestra must go. We take the opposite tack. It would be far better to expand the orchestra's budget, perhaps to $2.5 million per annum from present levels, with annual adjustments for inflation, and have 20 or 30 studio broadcasts each year. At that level of funding, the orchestra would still cost about one-tenth of one percent of overall CBC expenditures and revenues. In return, Canadians would sustain an improved Radio 2 programming and many new commissions of Canadian music.
The difficulty, of course, is that we must persuade the CBC board of directors and the CBC's management team of all this. Where, then, and how should your committee and the Government of Canada intervene in the CBC's affairs?
I want to suggest that the question of overall funding is definitely within the jurisdiction of the committee and the government. That's one way. Another way is to consider how the CBC arrives at its priorities, and whether or not that is done sufficiently in the open, with reasons given to the people of Canada so we can understand their reasoning and arguments as best we can.
Is my time up?
My name is Bob D'Eith. I'm the executive director of Music BC Industry Association. We're a non-profit provincial music industry association. We're devoted to promoting the spirit, development, and growth of the B.C. music community provincially, nationally, and internationally. We provide education, resources, advocacy, opportunity for funding, networking, and a forum for communication. Our membership is approximately 650, with 3,000 people in our e-news database. We represent a broad range of artists from all genres, as well as recording studios, producers, labels, and publishers, so we're very much an overriding organization.
I'm going to deal with all three issues as quickly as I can.
First are the changes to CBC Radio 2. According to the vice-president of the CBC, Jane Chalmers, one-half of the present Radio 2 listeners are over the age of 65, and in an attempt to bring the demographic down to 35, some changes are being made by broadening the playlist to include jazz and contemporary music. Of course, this means some classical programming is being cut.
Obviously, we represent the entire industry from all genres--rock, pop, classical, and jazz--and also from the professional side. We support classical music in all forms and hope this genre will continue to thrive and grow in terms of both historical music performance and modern composition. We're very pleased that Radio 2 is keeping classical music at the core of its playing list, especially from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but we feel broadening the styles of music may lead to a greater appreciation of new works and classical music: if a younger demographic is tuning in to Radio 2, they may be more likely to experience other programming by CBC, including classical music.
We also applaud CBC management for rebranding CBC Radio 2 to include more jazz and contemporary music. We feel the broader range of repertoire will bring more listeners and a broader age demographic to CBC radio, and we feel this is very important in an ever-changing music community.
One of the accusations made in a recent article by a fellow named David Drucker was that CBC Radio 2 will become indistinguishable from commercial radio, and we'd strongly disagree with this contention. Commercial radio right now is extremely tight in the number of artists it's playing. With the changes in the music industry, independent artists are finding it harder to get any radio play whatsoever. Through increasing its range of play, CBC Radio 2 will make it possible for many more independent and emerging artists, who would never have been played on commercial radio, to be able to find airtime.
With regard to dismantling the CBC Radio Orchestra, we feel this is a completely separate issue. The CBC Radio Orchestra is the only orchestra of its kind left in North America and it must be preserved at all costs.
The budgetary argument is not a strong one. I believe there's a $400,000 budget for this orchestra at this point; in overall budgetary terms, that's really not significant, and I don't think that's a great argument. The other point is that we feel maybe certain things could be retooled to make it a more profitable venture. For example, I was talking to the AFM, and they have a contract that allows orchestras to have buyouts on Canadian film productions to play orchestral music. If that were used more by the CBC Radio Orchestra, perhaps there could be other ways for it to make money to sustain itself.
As for CBC's commitment to classical music generally, that's a tough one. I think you have to look at the definition of classical music. It's a very broad term; it ranges from everything from the classics right up to modern experimental composition. Before there can be an assessment of a commitment to classical music, we have to decide what that means and what parts of classical music are important, and I want to make the distinction between the classics and new Canadian musical works.
If there is a commitment, we feel there should be more of a commitment to Canadian composition and Canadian composers—I think that's really important—and excellent interpreters like Glenn Gould. That's the role of the CBC, to help people like the Glenn Goulds of this world, and it should continue.
Mr. Chair, I'm sure I'm running out of time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Honourable members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, thank you for this opportunity to comment on the recent and unfortunate decision to disband the CBC Radio Orchestra.
I speak to you as a music educator, and specifically as director of the School of Music at the University of British Columbia, which includes 400 undergraduate and graduate students preparing for professional careers in the concert music tradition. Across Canada, about 4,000 students are enrolled in similar university programs. These institutions are devoted to cultivating the boundless talents and energies of the next generation of musicians in the concert music tradition. Our enrolment numbers indicate that this tradition remains an urgent inspiration to young people today.
We operate in an atmosphere of respect for the long musical traditions of many countries, languages, and cultures, knowing that they are the richest source of nourishment for the musical life of the present and the future. Collectively, our programs produce about 1,000 graduates each year who are active across the country and beyond as professional soloists, orchestra members, chamber musicians, and as teachers in universities and schools. We represent a broad cross-section of Canada's always evolving multicultural fabric, and in particular we represent young adults who want to invest their future professional lives in music more for artistic and cultural reasons than for fame and fortune.
The radio orchestra represents the ideals to which our students aspire. It has been our nation's most eloquent proponent of Canadian music and talent. It has launched the careers of our most illustrious soloists, conductors, and composers and has presented them to the world. Our students look to the CBC for artistic leadership, investment, and endorsement, but the CBC has eroded its investment in the efforts of dedicated young artists, cutting its vibrant young performers and young composers competitions. This gives the younger listening public little chance to hear their amazing peers, and it amounts to a progressive silencing of a vital component of Canadian culture and heritage.
The music students in the nation are ample reason our national broadcaster has a moral duty to reinstate the radio orchestra as an engine of dynamic cultural vitality. There are thousands of students in university music programs and hundreds of thousands in high school bands and orchestras, civic youth orchestras, or taking private lessons. For every garage band, you can find at least as many young players devoted to concert music. The CBC should be a beacon for these young people, and the radio orchestra is the most effective and inspiring way to embody and enact their aspirations. The radio orchestra is the very heart of the radio music mandate of the CBC, and it should never be cut.
In thousands of broadcasts and through visits to northern Canadian communities such as Iqaluit, it has played an instrumental role in creating and sustaining a living musical heritage that is distinctly Canadian, but also reflects the long and diverse historical traditions that meet in a unique way in our nation. The radio orchestra has proved its value and earned its right to continue making relevant, indispensable, and lasting contributions to Canadian culture and heritage.
I am not disputing the social and cultural relevance of popular music in its moment. I am also a consumer of popular music and use it in my courses.
I salute the innovative approach to Canadian indie pop on Radio 3 and the representation of mainstream popular music on Radio One. What concerns me is that programming on Radio 2 is drifting towards a demographic model used by commercial broadcasters.
Commercial radio pinpoints pieces of the demographic puzzle, using music genres as a marketing tool to attract specific groups and pitch products to them. Over time, this approach has increasingly segregated musical genres and styles and has created a false sense that demographic groups have one-dimensional music interests that don't intersect.
CBC management seems to take an uncritical approach to the demographic orientation of commercial stations. Moreover, marketing considerations are irrelevant to the mandate of CBC Radio.
Radio 2 should not fall prey to simplistic ideas about who is listening and what kind of music they want to hear. Radio 2 should not take a supermarket approach and try to appeal to a variety of demographic groups by slotting each one somewhere in the schedule. It needs to have a clear identity so that listeners can rely on it and respect it for its commitment. It should not try to appeal to everyone on a statistical but incoherent basis.
Radio 2 should focus its mission on cultivating national identity and culture in a historical and global context. Let Radio 2 be the voice of Canada's longer musical heritage. That is a noble calling, and it will serve to educate and enrich the public, enhance our nation, and showcase it for the world. The radio orchestra has a vital role to play in this vision of CBC Radio.
Do I have about 30 seconds more?
Friends, Canadians, countrymen, lend me your ears. We are in the right place at the right time. We have the opportunity and the desire to create a new CBC national radio orchestra as an institution for the 21st century that celebrates Canadian greatness in the world's cultural arts.
It has been a privilege to have been the principal clarinetist of this orchestra for 24 years and a member for 35. Yes, we all know I have an intense vested interest in keeping this orchestra alive, but my calling in life goes far beyond that.
I know that subsection 46(5) of the Broadcasting Act grants the CBC freedom from interference in its programming and sets limits on what the government and the heritage minister can do. What you are now considering will be magnificent in its cultural resonance and has nothing to do with programming interference. It can satisfy everyone.
The all-party standing committee, in concert with the minister, can offer the president of the CBC that there is a two-part solution available to you. Mr. Lacroix has it within his power to recommend that the CBC board of directors create a new subsidiary division called the CBC national radio orchestra. In tandem with the creation of this new division, the standing committee can recommend to the minister that she create a special national cultural heritage status for the CBC national radio orchestra and offer seed funding for its operations in Vancouver.
This is a timely opportunity to create a renewed vision and a renewed identity for Canada's national radio orchestra under the exciting musical leadership of conductor Alain Trudel. Such planning has to be done now, urgently, to save next season's concerts.
The CBC is also in the process of upgrading its technology base. This is a rare, singular, and challenging opportunity for our public broadcast network. Never in its history will it ever undertake such a change in technology again. Within the context of the complete transition from analog to digital services, in the next four years the CBC has to reinvent its radio frequency structure to emulate the four- or five-channel broadcasting system proven to be so successful in other countries. The model I suggest in my brief would resolve the thorny issue of incompatible programming genres and optimistically anticipate the exciting changes the digital world has to offer.
The radio orchestra is Canada's number one tool of foreign cultural diplomacy. The orchestra is experienced at touring the far north. We can, should, and must do more, and my written submission expands on this aspect of touring Canada and projecting cultural sovereignty in the north.
Put Canada's national radio orchestra to work on the world stages. Let us host joint concerts with the world's superstars like Dimitri Horostovsky, Anna Netrebenko, Cecilia Bartoli, and Rolando Villazon; and our own Canadian superstars like Ben Heppner, Louis Lortie, David Jalbert, Janina Fialkowska, Angela Chang, James Ehnes, Measha Brueggergosman, and Michel Rivard; or future stars like Simone Osborne, and many others.
As a subsidiary, the CBC national radio orchestra could perform bi-weekly television and radio shows in its own specially designated time spot on ETV, FTV, and Radio 2. That would be visionary and awe-inspiring to the youth and citizens of this country. It would be consistent with the historicity of radio orchestra productions.
None of these suggestions interfere with CBC programming content, as they are concerned with distribution and production.
Right now the “wheel of fortune” for the CBC Radio Orchestra has stopped on the “jeopardy” setting. Important decisions must be made on their long-term implications. Will it matter 50 years from now? When dealing with heritage issues of cultural stewardship, it is important and daunting to ensure that it will matter. Cultural development and evolution depend on the stepping stones laid by previous stewards. People in 1938 established the CBC Radio Orchestra because it mattered.
A renewal of that commitment will set the framework for perpetuation of Canadian music for generations to come. The classics are determined by people of a future time. Collectively you, the minister, and the government will make history.
In closing, when the Titanic sank, the orchestra went down with the ship. In an unusual move, in this case, the CBC threw the orchestra overboard first.
Thank you very much indeed for the opportunity to speak to you today. I'm the music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. I've been a music director of Canadian orchestras since 1989. I'm also the principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.
I've worked in popular and jazz music fields. I've made jazz piano recordings that have been played on both the old and the new CBC. I'm also conductor and host of the New York Philharmonic's annual Summertime Classics festival at Lincoln Center.
My concerns are with CBC Radio 2 as a public broadcaster on the FM network. I do not include the developmental work on the web, such as podcasts, although I have given talks for the CBC in this format.
There's no legal role for Parliament to determine what is broadcast on CBC radio, but I believe this heritage committee should be concerned about Radio 2's current broadcasting policies, which have undergone a wholesale change without proper public debate and due scrutiny.
The Vancouver Symphony plays for over 200,000 British Columbians every year. In B.C. there is no alternative classical radio station to Radio 2. The CBC's Radio 2 is the traditional home of classical music on Canada's airwaves. Broadcasts by our orchestras and solo artists are part and parcel of the heritage of Radio 2--until now.
On Easter Sunday morning, a performance of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor was followed by a song from Johnny Cash. Such a lurch of programming would guarantee failure at any box office in the real world. This style of programming, however, forms the core of the new schedules on CBC Radio 2 and is providing needless duplication of material that is already broadcast on other networks.
Protesting financial problems, the CBC dismantled its own celebrated 70-year-old radio orchestra, an institution born of the need to promote Canadian talent and new music. Then a few days later the network managed to find several thousand dollars to print a self-congratulatory full-page ad in The Globe and Mail newspaper. I think there are some self-evident points there.
Pink slips are handed out to distinguished radio hosts without regard for their long-standing commitments and to the way they enjoy long-term relationships with listeners. Famous names have been unceremoniously ditched with announcements laced in Orwellian double-speak about new pursuits and tremendous service. Most listeners are aware of what's going on. The network is openly pursuing an ageist agenda that seems to believe it will seduce new listeners in the 35- to 50-year-old age bracket, although exactly how that is to be done remains to be demonstrated.
Self-promoting advertisements enter our programs. In the style of commercial radio, the network mantra is endlessly chanted: “Everywhere music takes you.” As a distinguished Canadian opera singer said to me recently, “It takes me to the off button.”
In controlling the debate about Radio 2 programming, CBC has censored its own blog sites. In May 2007, when I submitted a comment to the CBC blog, it was never posted. When I asked why, I received an e-mail from a senior CBC director who wrote: “I'd be more than happy to post most of what you wrote, but do need to edit one line and want your approval to do that. We're not trying to censor you.”
Numerous independent web discussion and information sites have blossomed since it became evident that CBC wished to control the discussions on its own site, discussions that were often highly critical of Radio 2's direction. I've no idea why CBC should be afraid of open and critical debate. The lack of public discussion has caused pointless friction between Radio 2 and its customarily loyal audience.
As the great Canadian violinist, James Ehnes, pointed out in The Globe and Mail last week, the CBC's decision to program classical music in the fall between 10 and 3 on weekdays seems particularly inappropriate and misguided.
The VSO performs for 50,000 children every year and is about to open a state-of-the-art music school in downtown Vancouver. Last week the Government of Canada announced renewed and special financial support for the training of young Canadian artists, yet none of these children will hear any classical music on Radio 2 during the week, since classical music will be broadcast only during school hours.
My youngest daughter is seven years old. She's been learning the cello for the last two years. A few months ago she played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at a family party. Her tiny hands pressed all the strings as her bow found the sounding points on the instrument and she entered the world of self-expression afforded by the language of music. She dreams of playing in our local youth orchestra, but unfortunately CBC Radio 2 has nothing to offer her and, worse still, gives the impression from its new scheduling that it couldn't care less about this age group.
Within Radio 2 itself there is a widespread lack of confidence in the direction among staff members who are too afraid to speak out. Given the management's reluctance to accept criticism, staff are afraid to engage in real internal debate. The new fall schedules, presented as the future of the network, are barren and devoid of detail. We have no idea what's going on. It's time to take stock and re-engage the audience before the present policies dismantle what's left. A rejuvenated, curatorial concept would embrace rather than alienate Radio 2's core listeners and could revitalize the network.
In closing, independent broadcasters must listen to their shareholders. Radio 2's shareholders are the Canadian taxpayers. Until there is a full and open debate about the future of CBC Radio 2, the current dispute must rumble on, as the role of the public broadcaster is so unclear.
Thank you for listening to me.
I have no connection with the music industry, with the orchestra, or with the CBC. What I am is someone who has been listening to CBC Radio my whole life, and I'm disturbed, really, by the changes that have been occurring and the changes that are posited.
I live, incidentally, in a small community that is approximately an hour and a half outside Vancouver.
I have six points that I want to make briefly, from my own perspective as a listener. The first one is that it is hard for me to overestimate the importance of the CBC nationally. It's an institution of critical importance, similar perhaps to the railway in the late 19th century. It provides a means of communication in a diverse and spread-out nation that is of great importance, and it's a lifeline in remote communities.
This is an institution that should be supported wholeheartedly by the national government, but over the years, it has been my observation that the CBC has gradually suffered more and more from what I consider to be unwarranted budgetary cuts.
My second point is that it should be a matter of real importance that the most senior management people at the CBC should be people with a very significant commitment to artistic excellence; again, in terms of the changes that are occurring, that appears to me to no longer be the case.
Thirdly, in my opinion, Radio 2 should maintain a focus on serious music. This does not mean a constant reiteration of the top 100 classical hits. There are, in fact, other channels available for that, if it's what people want. Classical music itself is not a monolith; it's not one genre. It has also been my observation that in the past, Radio 2 has not treated it as a monolithic manner. Classical music, to me, is music that covers many centuries, including the present one, and covers many styles. What it is, however, is music that has real intellectual content, most of which has stood the test of time and is performed by musicians of very high calibre. This music often offers challenges to listeners, and it is fit that it does so on this network: it is culture that is worth passing on.
Fourthly, the CBC should have a commitment to the promotion of serious Canadian musicians. Where's the next Ben Heppner or James Ehnes going to get a leg up? It's really regrettable that CBC Records will no longer be assisting artists of this calibre. That, in my opinion, is an abnegation of its responsibility.
Pop performers have other outlets and venues. I don't think Avril Lavigne needed a leg up from the CBC.
It's also interesting that in the recent protests that have occurred, artists who do work in other genres, such as John Mann of Spirit of the West, and the bluesman, Jim Burns, have come out against the changes that are being posited.
With respect to the CBC Radio Orchestra, this is a wonderful ensemble, with a grand history and a small budget. Reaching out to different communities and providing performance venues for new composers and performers is one of the things this orchestra does. I understand that recently they were in the north to great acclaim. It's a terrible shame that any consideration is being given to getting rid of this national institution.
Finally, Radio 2 should not be drifting towards the lowest common denominator, and in spite of what the promotional ads say, to my observation—and I listen every day—this is in fact what they're doing, and it's going to get worse in the fall. The group they're targeting, as far as I can see, is already extremely well served by private radio.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
When I joined the CBC in 1976 as head of radio music, there were CBC radio orchestras in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Halifax. They produced dozens and dozens of studio and remote recordings a year. The stereo network, now called Radio 2, was almost totally dedicated to classical music. CBC Records was established, and not only accelerated the careers of Canadian artists and ensembles nationally and internationally, but also provided an ongoing program source of Canadian music and musicians.
A few months ago, after 30 years, CBC Records stopped making classical recordings. Ironically, the announcement came just before a CBC recording of the Vancouver Symphony with Bramwell Tovey and Canadian violinist James Ehnes won a Grammy Award, perhaps the most important and prestigious award in the world of recording.
When I moved to television in 1984 as associate head of arts, music, and science, CBC TV regularly presented a panoply of performance and visual arts. Programming included operas, operettas, musicals from the Stratford Festival, concerts, recitals, ballets, modern dance programs, and profiles of performers and creators. Every Thursday night there was a program highlighting one of our arts disciplines. Such programs are now very, very rare on CBC Television.
In November, the 70-year-old CBC orchestra will play its last concert. When the former conductor, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, heard the news, he wrote to me and asked, “Who will now fulfill an equivalent function for the new generation of Canadian composers and music lovers, I wonder, and what will now become of all those professional musicians? It's a sad day.”
Radio 2 has significantly reduced a number of orchestral concerts, chamber music recitals, choral concerts, arts profiles, and CBC competitions in its schedule. Let me give you some convincing evidence. The CBC's historical annual financial commitment to the Canadian branch of the American Federation of Musicians, the AFM, was cut in the last negotiated agreement from slightly more than $10 million—which was about what it was when I was head of music 20 years go—to just over $5 million. I recently heard from the AFM that the CBC is currently about $2 million short of meeting this reduced target. Think about that for a moment. With an annual budget of about $1.5 billion, the CBC, our national broadcaster, spent about $3 million on Canadian musicians. I don't know what percentage of the Canadian Heritage department's arts budget the CBC's annual grant comes to, but I have to ask, do you still think this is an effective investment in the arts and artists of this country?
CBC's parliamentary mandate says, in part, “to actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression”. Compared with the past, there isn't very much flow and exchange going on any more. By September, the only classical music available on Radio 2 will be between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when most Canadians are at work or at school. What a way to develop a taste for classical music in future generations.
Look at some of the other things the current CBC Radio executives have done recently. Last year they cancelled Two New Hours, the weekly radio program that showcased and discussed for more than 30 years the music written by Canadian composers and performed by Canadian artists. They have suspended the CBC young composers competition. They have suspended the CBC young performers competition. How many young Canadian musicians and composers will miss the career impetus their participation in these competitions provided in the past? Where in the fall schedule are the programs that many thousands of Canadian listeners rely upon to bring both Canadian and international artists into their homes? This is especially important to those who have limited access or no access at all to live performances in their communities.
The head of radio music promises that starting in September, Radio 2 programming in the morning and evening rush hours, the heaviest hours of the day, will be filled with recordings of the thousands of songs by Canadian songwriters that are not recorded or broadcast by commercial radio stations—probably for very good reasons. The head of radio music and the vice-president in charge of radio and television don't seem to realize that these programming changes will drive away their dedicated listeners, who will not be replaced, let alone exceeded, by new listeners.
I think it's necessary for the government to devise a way in which the CBC can be more effectively held to account. The current situation demonstrates that CBC executives feel free to disregard the concerns not only of listeners and viewers, but also of the Canadian Heritage department. Perhaps Canadian Heritage can consider suggesting to Mr. Lacroix that the present executive director of radio and television—and it's a bad idea, anyway, to combine the two positions—should be replaced by somebody who understands public broadcasting and who knows something about music and the arts.
Thank you to the panellists for taking the time to prepare those presentations and for their clarity.
I'm a visitor to this committee. I've had the privilege of being here at the last meeting and at this one. As I did at the last meeting, I will disclose my bias as a former Vancouver junior youth orchestra member, as someone who went the Courtney youth music camp three times, and as someone who played in the cape arts board orchestra for a short time.
My summary includes the three issues people are talking about: the funding for the CBC, saving the CBC Radio Orchestra, and the programming on Radio 2. That's probably very simplistic.
I understand this committee has already reached a unanimous recommendation around increasing funding and including funding for infrastructure, so I'm not going to ask about that.
Saving the CBC Radio Orchestra, which I'm fully in favour of and I think is a very important issue, has been debated here in terms of whether this committee even has the ability to recommend specific programming. Certainly the Radio 2 programming decision is one that some members of the committee believe is outside the terms of the committee's work.
However, the principle of publicly supported radio--like CBC--or publicly supported broadcasting is I think clear. It has a mandate to do those things that commercial broadcasting won't do. I mean, that's the point of public dollars being spent on anything, whether it's policing or defence or heritage. It's to provide the things the market won't provide. That seems to me a clear principle.
I would like to ask the panellists this question. If you were to present to this committee one or two very clear principles that they could take forward to the minister and government and say, “These are clear principles that express the mandate of CBC”, principles from which would flow logical decisions around the CBC Radio Orchestra and the foundation of classical programming that most of you are looking for, what might those be?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to everybody for being with us this afternoon.
It is clear that for somebody who wants to promote arts and culture, it is interesting to listen to people who tell you they'd like to see an orchestra be more active and to hear on the radio waves more classical music. At the same time, other people tell us that the commercial radio does not broadcast certain other types of music that they would also like to hear on the public air waves. It is very interesting to see all that activity around promoting culture, arts and music.
Yet, we must clarify something. A few statutes govern Radio-Canada, and one of them is very clear. Radio-Canada enjoys total freedom from Parliament. The committee is not allowed to interfere with the daily management of the corporation. I'm trying to find a way to, on one side, fulfil your expectations and on the other, respect the law. I will make a suggestion and you tell me if it makes sense.
After a study made by the committee, we prepared a report which was dealing with the mandate of Radio-Canada in the 21st century. In this report, we asked the government to prepare a memorandum of understanding with the corporation in which the budgetary items of the corporation would be clearly identified and which would specify the type of services that we wish to offer to the public. This kind of memorandum could mention your concerns. Would it be important for those to be clearly identified and that funding be provided for that?
According to what we heard last Tuesday, some people would like to create a third radio station that would broadcast all the music genres but classical music. All this cost money. Giving more funding to the CBC orchestra, as suggested M. Bruneau, might cost more money.
Could this type of memorandum be something like a safety rail which would help us know clearly where is Radio-Canada/CBC going, so that we don't find ourselves in the situation we have now, where it seems you learned at the last minute that because of a lack of funds, some services must be cut?
I refer back to my written submission, of which you have a copy. It covers that. Acknowledging the quest for a seven-year memorandum of understanding for the CBC to get a more predictable funding basis is a laudable thing. But I feel that your committee has been sidelined a little, in that you're giving CBC what it wants without the necessary controls.
I sympathize immensely with what you've done, and I admire that report, which I've read, but look at the date of it. It was submitted to Parliament in February, which means all the work was done before that. Leading up to that, it must have been tacitly understood that CBC's various successful programs, such as the CBC Radio Orchestra and other classical presentations, would continue, because your report calls for building upon the strength and successes of CBC's endeavours to date.
You submitted your report, and lo and behold, all these cutbacks happened in very Draconian swiftness after March 27. As a committee you should be a little stunned about this, and you should look to possibly withdrawing your report for clarification--or the government should send it back to you for clarification, given the amount of public outrage about these changes in the past month that antedate your report.
The difference between an independent orchestra like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or a broadcasting orchestra is quite clear within the profession, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to underline it, because for the layperson or for people involved in the broadcasting industry, it's often very unclear indeed.
An independent orchestra like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra operates on a subscription season basis whereby people invest in the subscription of their choice for a particular series or type of music during the course of the year. Our budgets are mapped out two years in advance and they're according to guest artists who come into the city.
We have Richard Kurth here from UBC. What actually happens is that when his students leave UBC.... Before Ben Heppner, for example, arrived on stage with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or arrived on stage with the Metropolitan Opera, he had to undergo a period of development. He was singing in local choirs here in Vancouver that were actually broadcast on CBC Radio. Young composers who have emerged from UBC and who have emerged from some of our other campuses across the country had their teeth cut, as it were, at the CBC composers competition, played by the CBC Radio Orchestra.
Incidentally, I conducted this orchestra only once, but it was as part of this particular project, and one of the works went on to win a prize at the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Paris that same year.
A radio orchestra operates a mandate that's really producer-based. So the radio producers would help to drive the repertoire choices, the promotion of Canadian talent, and the promotion of Canadian content.
Measha Brueggergosman, for example, who now is a world-famous artist with a Deutsche Grammophon recording contract, made her first recording with CBC Records. Our own recording of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra that was made with CBC Records, as you've already heard, has won a Grammy. But the CBC Radio Orchestra has made, I would guess—although I don't know actually, but I would imagine—more records for CBC Records than anybody else, of Canadian content. The entire heritage aspect of Canadian music has been performed and played by the CBC Radio Orchestra in its traditional role and function as a tool of the CBC.
A CBC radio orchestra does not have to worry about box office restrictions, but then, of course, that opens the question, if that's the case, why do we need one? Why not have the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra that is open to box office restrictions? But the functions are very different. The development of composers and the development of young artists within a studio context is something that all major concert-music-producing broadcasting organizations—for want of a better collective noun—have done. So a radio orchestra's function is something specific I think to Canadian music and young Canadian artists.
The VSO is very much an international profile organization; we're doing a tour of China and Korea this year. But the CBC function is something for the airwaves and has that particular curatorial thought.
If I could just liken it, for example, to the National Gallery of Canada, which contains sections of national and international masterpieces, but also contains, of course, rare copies of Group of Seven art and Canadian art, the function of the National Gallery in that respect is something that one wouldn't expect perhaps from something that was more commercially based around the country.
The CBC Radio Orchestra looks after our Canadian heritage specifically.
Thank you. Welcome to the panel.
I just want to underline with Ms. Murray, Mrs. Fry, and Mr. Siksay that as Vancouver residents you will eat your hearts out; I had dinner with Mr. Tovey just last Thursday night and had a very nice time.
My point is that I wanted to reiterate for the benefit of the members of the panel in particular that whether we are on the government side or the opposition side of this table, we are all in this thing together. I think there's a comedian who says that too.
We're looking at an issue here about which, for example, Mr. Tovey did say today is “without proper public debate and due scrutiny”. In our committee we are wrestling with something Mr. Malo alluded to.
I wonder if I could go through an exercise here with you that hopefully we're going to do with all our panels. I wonder if I might get, if it's possible to get, a yes or no answer to the following question: is it your desire to see this committee, the government, or the minister intervene on this issue and direct the CBC in its programming relating to Radio 2 and the orchestra? Could you answer yes or no?
A witness: Yes.
Hon. Jim Abbott: Are there any noes?
It seems to me that what Bramwell said a moment ago about the inability or the unwillingness--at any rate, the incapacity--of the president and the board to listen to Canadians is really the key question.
It would be the same for any other crown corporation. If you go back to the glory days of the 1950s, when we were creating many a crown corporation and Canada was creating one crown corporation after another, the question always was how they would be governed. It was not just how they would be paid for by public tax dollars, but how they would be governed.
It seems to me that the president and the board--and the way they're appointed--are at the centre of this thing. Their unwillingness to listen may have to do with the way they're appointed. Their lack of interest in serious long-term cultural and historical concerns that Canadians have may have to do with that.
You have it within your power to do something about the way presidents and boards of the CBC are appointed. It's also within your power to ask--and, indeed, to insist--that their reasoning be made much more explicit than it is, so that we can criticize it and interact with that reasoning. At the moment, we don't have that power.
Actually, I wanted to thank you for coming.
I think, Bram, that you have probably explained better than anyone else I've heard the difference between using the CBC Radio Orchestra and other regional symphony orchestras for guest performances. I hadn't heard that explanation; I think it's a very good one.
I am hearing from most of you the idea that we should look at the CBC Radio Orchestra as an infrastructure piece and not a programming piece. I also note that Bob D'Eith mentioned the fact that it could find ways of funding itself through film production, etc.
Do you believe, then, that if we looked at the CBC Radio Orchestra as an infrastructure piece and as being able to make itself financially stable, it could fund itself along the way? And do you see it as a distribution arm for Canadian music down the road in its production capacity? That's the first question.
The second question, actually, is about something that Mr. Sunter talked about. In our review of the CBC, we suggested that as we increase their funding, we would actually look at writing a new memorandum of understanding. Do you believe this memorandum of understanding could therefore seek to provide greater accountability for the CBC through asking them, every time they want to make substantive changes, to have public consultation?
If I may, Dr. Fry, I think that last point is absolutely crucial. There must be some public consultation.
There was internal dialogue. There were management consultants brought in. I was actually consulted privately by these management consultants about the state of the network—not about the changes, but about the state of the network—before the changes were announced. But I was as astonished as anyone when the changes were brought about.
I don't think anybody in this room denigrates for one moment different genres of music. There are many different types of music. All kinds of music need to be played on our airwaves. I think there are difficulties with the fact that everything is trying to cram itself onto Radio 2, and what we desperately need, I think, is the opportunity to have dialogue.
Political interference is a bad thing for the CBC, no question about it. I don't think anybody here thinks it's a good idea at all. However, I'm a member of the public, and it's my democratic right to say what I damn well please to CBC, and they must listen to it. But they have no format to do so; and that I think is the cornerstone of what many of us feel is....
I'll let somebody else address the question of the CBC orchestra.
I'm not sure that anyone in this room feels they have the expertise to answer such a question. But might I raise one particular red flag here, and then perhaps dive under the table for cover?
At the moment, we have Radio-Canada playing on our airwaves, which is a wonderful thing. It came on about six or seven years ago. However, there is often a duplication of style of music between Radio-Canada and CBC Radio 2.
Would it be beyond the realm of your committee to suggest at some particular point that perhaps they might even talk to each other to ensure that the listening public does have the alternative? Those of us who actually speak both languages can flip back and forth, and even people who can't, can enjoy the music on Radio-Canada. At the moment, we have unnecessary duplication all over the place.
Maybe I can add to that about digital and analog.
Part of my preparation for this was to discuss with a technology expert that very issue. I had to omit it from my brief because it was far too long in the 10 pages. However, the idea came up, why not divide the country in half? Arbitrarily, anything south of Winnipeg gets converted to digital.
The CBC is faced with an international effort to convert to digital by a certain year. The United States, by February 2009, has to do that and will do that. The CRTC has set a soft deadline of August 27, 2011.
Again, Bob D'Eith's point is that not everybody will be in a position to receive that digital. The digital transition must and will happen. The only arbitrariness is about the date.
The unique problem Canada faces is this extraordinary geography that no other country has—except Russia, probably. The transition to digital in the northern areas will have to take longer.
I submit to you that you might want to consider putting together a plan that calls for a hybrid system of analog and digital. I know your report covers it and suggests to that end and the expense thereof. Any switch of technology is a costly transition, whether it's coal gas to electricity, and so on. Society has undergone many technology changes and will continue to do so, and we must help the CBC in that regard.
Thank you to all of you for taking up our offer to speak to us today.
I must confess my own bias. My own family, as well as my four daughters, have all been raised and weaned on classical music. Two of my daughters have graduated with piano and violin performance degrees from university. The girls have also been weaned on people like Jurgen Goth, Eric Friesen, and Howard Dyck, who bring a Canadian perspective and flavour to the music we hear.
I'm concerned. I think you're finding lots of sympathy for your position, at least the six of you who are very upset about what's happened with the classical music programming and with the CBC orchestra.
That having been said, I want to return to the issue that's perhaps the most problematic and is the elephant in the room: the fact that probably the best this committee can do is provide a report with very strong recommendations to the CBC. The minister and our government are likely in a similar situation. We cannot compel CBC to act in a certain manner. They have that programming independence.
Let me throw this out to you. Let's assume we come out with a report that makes very strong recommendations--and that looks more and more likely to be case--and CBC says, “You know, thank you for that report, but we know better. We've done the research and we've done the statistics; we have a plan, and we're going to implement that plan.” Where do we go from there?
There was a suggestion from Mr. Abbott. Are you willing to actually make statutory changes to allow for more intervention on the part of government and/or this committee? I think your general feeling was that we don't want to go down that road.
Are you suggesting that the current board be fired? If not, other than some of the structural and governance changes suggested by one of you, where do we go from there?
I'll throw that open to one or two of you to comment.
Might I echo that point?
At the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, we're federally funded--very well, as a matter of fact--through Canada Council, the B.C. Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver. There's no direct censorship on the kind of programming we do, but there is certainly a great deal of pressure brought to bear on us, particularly by Canada Council. On the other hand, there is the constant obligation for dialogue to justify the spending of public money by these three levels of government.
There seems to be a profound--and I use the word advisedly--lack of accountability at the CBC. These mandarins are, let's face it, all nice bureaucrats with fat pensions, unlike the freelance musicians they rely on for the broadcasts. These people seem to have no accountability--not to the taxpayer and certainly not to the Canadian government. Yes, they should be free of influence, but where is the accountability?
At the present time, with this self-confessed hit for listeners between the ages of 35 and 50, as I've already said in my statement, we have not seen any kind of presentation by the CBC that embraces the over 100,000 children across the country who learn musical instruments and who count as children. There are probably over a quarter of a million, maybe even over half a million, who sing in choirs across the country; there is no programming for them. There is no programming for young people. Education of young people is out the window. There is no accountability. There's no pressure on them to have to respond to such a request.
You asked whether or not you should fire the lot at the board. It seems to me that's an attractive proposition, I must say.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Dr. William Bruneau: But, really, our problem is that we can't even tell whether it's the board that took the decision. It's possible that Stursberg, Steinmetz, et al, have manipulated the board. How could we ever figure it out? We can't read the minutes. We're not invited to the meetings of the board. It's very difficult to find the exact mailing address of Mr. Lacroix. We're doing our best to keep in touch and to get in touch with board members, but it's remarkable that in an enterprise as large and as important to us as that, we have so little access. It's astounding.
The point about who controls whom is a central one in the governance at CBC, and it must be of interest to your committee too.
Gene Ramsbottom's suggestion about how to get out of this is part of this picture, too, it seems to me. You don't have to fire the whole board, although you might want to, if you wanted to take that as step one and step two in revising the techniques of governance and the bylaws. That's reasonably attractive.
Gene had a suggestion too.
Thank you very much to the witnesses for being here.
It is somewhat illuminating that the witnesses who are appearing here all believe that they have the opportunity to speak as Canadians to the CBC in whatever damned way they want, I think I heard said. And I accept that, but I also see this as an opportunity or engagement exercise for you to express yourselves to them through us as a parliamentary committee.
Now, we have the capacity as a parliamentary committee.... I'm from Fredericton, New Brunswick, and if go back to when they cut the one-hour news at suppertime, I wasn't a member of this committee, but I came here as a visiting member because I was so upset we would lose our one hour of CBC news, and we got that restored. Now if we can see the opportunity to change a decision about the news broadcast made by the CBC, and get it done—and I can assure you that we did get it done—it strikes me that it was probably more difficult than trying to convince the CBC that they shouldn't disband the orchestra.
In terms of questions about the appropriateness of intervention, I find that we're selling ourselves short in terms of what it is we can do. No, we cannot compel the CBC to do anything, but that isn't to say we cannot influence the outcomes appropriately. I think it is an appropriate position for the committee to take. We're talking about their budgets in our other reports. On major decisions, I think we can appropriately say this, and I think we'll have some reaction as a result. I think we need to work with the government, the minister, and the department to convince them that they can support our intervention that says this is a wrong-headed decision. They're not compelling anybody necessarily to do anything. They're simply saying, look, we have an interest in this as the minister of Canadian Heritage and as the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and I have an interest as a Frederictonian, New Brunswick Canadian. We have a right to say this in the same way that you do, and we can do this. We sell ourselves short by simply throwing up our hands and saying, it's a done deal, the ship has sailed, let's move on. I think that sells us short.
I'd like your response.
CBC changed Radio 2's Classics and Beyond apparently for two reasons. First, they felt the audience share the radio station had was not sufficient and was declining. The second reason was that they felt the focus exclusively on classical music was to the detriment of other genres of music, especially newer genres that have been emerging on the Canadian music scene.
In light of the reasons they've given, does anyone among you know what the audience numbers have been for Radio 2? Were they truly declining over the last number of years? Have the recent changes made to Radio 2 in fact increased the Radio 2 audience? I know the changes haven't been fully implemented--they're supposed to be fully implemented by this coming September--but there have been some changes made to Radio 2.
First, do you have any sense of the audience share of Radio 2 over the years and whether it has significantly declined? Have the changes they've made recently in fact increased the audience share?
Those are my first questions to the people in the room.
I don't have any official statistics, but I did see the figure of 3.5% of market mentioned in a recent response from one of the vice-presidents of CBC. Including illegal channels or channels I'm not supposed to get, I counted 18 different channels on my FM dial in the car; if you divide 100% by 18, 3.5% isn't actually so bad. One of the problems, of course, has been the underinvestment in the organization, and also the fact that CBC Radio 2 has seen an enormous number of changes at the top in terms of chief executives or vice-presidents, as they're called.
What really needed to happen under the old CBC was a clearer curatorial role, and actually we saw a lot of fudge and a lot of mess. I think there's no doubt at all that although the new CBC, in my professional opinion, is a confused disaster, certainly the CBC as it has been during the last two or three years has been operating without a gifted hand at the rudder.
A decline in audience figures--if there is such a decline, and I don't know that there is--would, in my opinion, be something that should have been tackled earlier, but not in this particular way.
Could I just make one statement?
Just for the record, I was reading the Financial Times of London about three weeks ago, and I noted that there was a report on BBC Radio's market share in the United Kingdom. As you're well aware, they have BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, and 4, and a number of other channels. The BBC has over a 50% market share with those channels in the United Kingdom; it's actually approaching a 60% market share for BBC Radio, to the point where it's almost been too successful. The BBC feels it should somehow try to reduce its market share to ensure that the private sector broadcasters actually have some sort of footprint over in the United Kingdom.
I'd just put that on the record, Mr. Chair, as a comparison and contrast with the state of our radio audiences.
My involvement with the radio orchestra goes back 35 years, but I do so many other things. I teach at UBC. I'm on 32 recordings of the CBC. You have to remember that the CBC Radio Orchestra has 232 commercial recordings out there; it's the most recorded orchestra in North America.
However, personally, I take my income from the CBC and distribute it through my concert series called Out for Lunch. If I no longer had this income from the CBC, my concert series at the art gallery would lose its major funding source—that's me. I would lose my stature as a professional musician in the country. I would probably have to resign from the university where I teach, because I would no longer be considered a prime community musician, and so on.
As Alain Trudel said on March 27 to the French media, I think it was, the economic infrastructure of Vancouver's music scene is extremely fragile, and the few dollars we get here and there to augment our income will have a huge impact on us. The CBC Radio Orchestra is one of the pillars of the community, in terms of the infrastructure of the arts. We all know the studies on the economic impact of the arts in a community. The multiplier effect is one to be considered there.
Also, as for the members of the VSO who happen to be in the radio orchestra, particularly the string players and the brass, you can speculate that when their income drops significantly, they will have to make up the income some other way, maybe by going back to their primary employer and saying, “We need a raise; we just lost $10,000. Can you compensate for that?” To that the VSO would rightly say, “Look, we're not the bank of last resort here. I'm sorry you've had the cutback, but that's not our problem.” That would put those families in the position of saying, “Then we will have to move elsewhere”—because, as Dr. Kurth said, this is an expensive town to live in.
It's also very demoralizing to say to your students, “Why on earth do you want to go into music? There's no future, especially when the government is giving the clear signal that there is no support for the arts here.”
I'm very puzzled why the Canada Council hasn't come out and had an absolutely vociferous pitbull approach in protesting these changes.
I would like to disagree with Gene, if I may. I think the government has actually stood by that Canada Council and been very supportive of the arts in this community. The program that was announced last week for youth training in dance and music and other disciplines I think is excellent.
So I think it is a difficult situation for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as about 20 of our musicians are in the CBC Radio Orchestra.
When your committee heard from Mr. Stursberg, I've heard that he described it as a “different” bunch of musicians, I believe, who come together to play music when we pay them, the accent being on the word “different”. Some of these different musicians, one in particular, has played in the orchestra for 50 years; another one, a horn player, has played for 34 years. The trombone section of the orchestra has been together for 32 years. So there's a longevity of membership there, which I think Mr. Stursberg perhaps wasn't aware of, or I'm sure he wasn't seeking to mislead your committee in any way whatsoever. But perhaps it might be drawn to his attention.
From hearing this whole discussion, I'm picking up a couple of key principles that in a way answer the question I put in the beginning, which was, what are the principles this committee could put forward to government that would not be direct programming decisions—which, clearly, you're not advocating either.
Two that have risen to the surface are that the CBC needs to be accountable to the public, and that because of its important function, the CBC needs to have a clear commitment to excellence. So with those principles in mind, my question to the group around the table here, which represents quite a diversity, and also some dissenting opinion about the role of classical music and Radio 2, is whether you would be able to suggest a simple and compelling accountability mechanism to the committee so that this is not so wide open. Otherwise the committee would be putting forward a recommendation for the principle of accountability to the public, to which the CBC could answer, of course, we are already accountable now.
Would you be able to recommend an illustrative mechanism for that accountability?
I believe we don't have to go down this new road.
Mr. Abbott mentioned or listed off in the Tuesday meeting the three areas of accountability in the Broadcasting Act, and then he put the checkmate in with subsection 46(5). But the Minister of Canadian Heritage already has the accountability mechanism in place, and, in turn, the minister can seek advice from the standing committee on various issues. I refer specifically to the CBC being obligated under the Broadcasting Act to present the next season's plans, and so on, through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The minister has to approve those. Is the Minister of Canadian Heritage merely a rubber-stamp mechanism to say, yes, here's your funding, go back and spend it, because we can't talk about programming? Alternatively, can the minister say, if you want this programming, I have to consult with my very learned standing committee and get their opinions on this?
I think the mechanism is in place already; it just takes courage to implement what's going on there.
If I might, I'd just like to summarize what we've heard from you in terms of options. Ms. Murray has already touched on a couple of those.
What I heard you say, first of all, is that it might not be a bad idea to actually withdraw the CBC mandate review that we've issued and perhaps revise it somewhat to address specifically the issue of CBC Radio.
Second, there was a suggestion that we fire the board; that's pretty simple.
Third, there was a suggestion that a separate entity be established with respect to the CBC Radio Orchestra.
Fourth, there is the suggestion that CBC be asked to explain why its blogs are being censored.
Fifth, there is the whole issue of public consultation, that somehow, whether statutorily or through regulation or otherwise, there be a mechanism put in place to ensure broad public consultation on these kinds of issues.
And sixth is improving transparency, especially with respect to CBC decisions.
Does that accurately characterize what you've been telling us, and have I missed anything?
By the way, Bramwell, thank you for those comp tickets you provide us from time to time. They're very much appreciated.
Voices: Oh, oh!
What with dinners and comp tickets, I'm going to get examined by some kind of parliamentary watchdog.
By the way, anyone else on the committee is invited for dinner or tickets any time they're passing through.
Speaking on behalf of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and speaking for classical music, I think most of those things would cover the topics very well indeed.
On the question of transparency, this is the word we keep coming back to, and accountability is terribly important. The fact that there is a vice-president for radio and television seems to me to be quite ludicrous. It's rather like inviting a person to be music director of the opera, the choirs in the city, and the orchestra. It's inappropriate for the milieu. CBC should have a head of Radio 2 who is answerable to the heritage committee, who at least must turn up and answer your questions. At the present time it's totally obfuscated. We have no idea who is making the primary decisions--except anecdotally through evidence from members of the CBC board.
So transparency is the name of the game, I think.
I thank you, Mr. Fast, for your list of actions.