Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to meeting number 33 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are undertaking a study on the dismantling of the CBC Radio Orchestra, on CBC/Radio-Canada's commitment to classical music, and the changes to CBC Radio 2.
I welcome all our witnesses here today. Our witnesses are Derek Andrews, president of the Toronto Blues Society; Dominic Lloyd, artistic director of the West End Cultural Centre; Katherine Carleton, executive director of Orchestras Canada; Peter McGillivray as an individual; Micheline McKay of Opera.ca; and, as an individual, Debbie Peters.
Welcome to our meeting this afternoon. Everyone has five minutes to give a little presentation, if you could, please.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My invitation to appear today has been linked to my involvement as president of the Toronto Blues Society. I am here also as someone active in popular music as a concert and festival producer. I am a consulting artist manager and I am currently executive director of the Guelph Jazz Festival. My experience over the past 30 years has positioned me well to view the relationship between CBC Radio and blues, jazz, folk, and world music communities.
On behalf of the Toronto Blues Society, I bring the committee copies of the commemorative CD released in 2007 entitled Women's Blues Revue Live. The recording is drawn from CBC Radio's archive of concerts recorded live over 10 years featuring 15 Canadian women blues singers. The event first began in a nightclub seating 150, and now it takes place in Toronto's Massey Hall.
The CD recording exists because CBC Radio was involved as a producing partner. I bring this example to the committee because there has always been a challenge in securing a broadcast home and a budget for the Women's Blues Revue concert. The contribution by CBC Radio has been in the neighbourhood of $5,000 per concert, a relatively small amount, but significant for a non-profit organization. The most prominent broadcast home for the recording has been on Holger Petersen's Saturday Night Blues, now aired weekly at 11 p.m. on Radio One. Occasionally the concert has landed at Sounds Like Canada, and clips have aired on Definitely Not The Opera. This past year, the concert was aired for the first time on Radio 2's Canada Live as a result of the opening up of broadcast opportunities for more than classical music. We welcome that change.
ln 1988, CBC Radio producers of the now defunct The Entertainers approached me, in my role as artistic director of Toronto's Harbourfront Centre summer concert season, regarding an opportunity to record elements of the then-just-Iaunched WOMAD—Worlds of Music Arts and Dance—festival. It was a revelation. The partnership involved a model whereby a $25,000 blanket fee would give CBC the right to record performances. Thirty-three concerts were recorded that year, and thus began a partnership that involved many further concert recordings over the years.
The problem with that was that although there was interest from CBC producers to expose terrific talent from Canada's multicultural community, there was no broadcast home in the CBC schedule in which to place the recordings. Some years, recordings were made for broadcast; other years, there were none.
The international award-winning Global Village radio magazine show, which enjoyed just one hour of broadcast time, was often home to snips of these concerts. Global Village is a Canadian brand. It is synonymous with Marshall McLuhan and Canadian identity, but it is no longer on the air, and that is a shame.
ln 1997 I produced a concert featuring Vancouver's Spirit of the West performing work from their Open Heart Symphony, produced in collaboration with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The Toronto version of the work enjoyed a 21-piece symphonic ensemble led by violinist Lenny Solomon. The concert was a terrific success and is, I believe, an example of why the CBC Radio Orchestra is redundant.
The original work was not a by-product of the radio orchestra. The body of work was portable. Clearly, if funds assigned to a one-city orchestra can be moved to other projects, there will be greater equity. Equity is a huge part of the proposed changes to Radio 2.
As a concert producer, I have been consulted by CBC Radio management over the years regarding the needs of the broader music community, and the answer has been obvious. With shrinking budgets, there is no way that Radio 2's schedule should remain the bastion of only classical and new music. It is essential that the airwaves and budgets be opened up.
I have been consulted by CBC Radio producers in recent years, as have many of my colleagues, regarding potential changes that are more reflective of Canadian society. ln watching Toronto's robust music community evolve over the period of my career, I have seen many musicians receive artistic and commercial success. However, it would be erroneous to suggest that the broad popular music community is on solid footing.
A massive broadcasting gap exists in Canada between commercial radio and the fledgling campus radio community. Only the CBC exists to support the thousands of Canadian artists in need of exposure. At the beginning of her career, Loreena McKennitt plucked her Celtic harp on the street in front of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Today she is an international icon. I do not wish to suggest that Measha Brueggergosman also busk on the street to advance her career.
I hope that the heritage committee can support CBC Radio management's well-thought-out position that the CBC belongs to all Canadians. All Canadian artists will enjoy fair play and even-handed exposure to the airwaves. The proposed changes to Radio 2 are not about Britney or garage bands; they are about equity.
My name is Dominic Lloyd. I've been programming folk, roots, and world music in Canada for a decade now.
My initial experience was six years as the artistic director of the Dawson City Music Festival in the Yukon Territory, and, more recently, I have been at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Throughout my career I've been responsible for creating live music performance opportunities for local, national, and international musicians in a variety of settings.
The West End Cultural Centre is an organization like no other in Canada. We present approximately 80 concerts per year with emerging and established artists, and our mandate is to present music out of the mainstream and to provide performance opportunities for artists who would otherwise have no place to play.
The CBC has been an invaluable partner to our organization, both in concert presentation and the community programming we do. Since the changes at Radio 2 started about a year or so ago, we've been able to work with the CBC on a number of projects that are creating even more opportunities for artists.
I'm here today because I think the changes at CBC Radio 2 are a good thing. They're going to bring a closer reflection of the Canadian mosaic to the airwaves and they are going to provide some much-needed exposure to deserving Canadian artists who are not going to get that exposure anywhere else.
I think I'm here because a lot of the press I've read about the changes at Radio 2 is overwhelmingly negative and much of what I've sensed from the classical community, in print, has been an “us versus them” scenario and that classical and non-classical music cannot coexist. I'm here to say they can and they should.
Whether it's a symphony pop series with Sarah Slean, a pop singer, singing at the Winnipeg New Music Festival or a rapper from Halifax, Buck 65, performing with Symphony Nova Scotia or members of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra performing in my venue with a South Asian fusion band from Toronto called autorickshaw, which the CBC just recorded in December, these are all developmental opportunities, both for classical and non-classical artists, and they need to be heard, and the CBC is the place where they are being heard.
I really don't like the fact that the debate is pitting one music community against another. We're all interested in the presentation and preservation of important non-commercial music. What I've heard or what I seem to be getting a sense of is that people are saying that by adding a wider variety of programming to Radio 2, the CBC is somehow going commercial. I think this is completely wrong.
The artists I work with are not artists who are getting airplay on commercial radio. They are producing artistically sound and intelligent music, but it's not being played in the mainstream. Since January 2007, the CBC has recorded 15 concerts I have presented at the West End Cultural Centre. These have included local folk singers, emerging talents of young aboriginal fiddlers from reserves in northern Manitoba, new Canadian artists, a professional guitar player from Brazil who now makes his home in Winnipeg, and a percussionist who played with the national orchestra of Mozambique. These people live in Winnipeg; they're performing in our venues and they're being recorded and played across the country on CBC.
Their music is all valid and it all should be heard. You'd be hard-pressed to find any of them being played on commercial radio. As Derek said, outside the very fledgling campus community radio scene and perhaps CKUA in Alberta, the CBC is the only place many of these artists will get airplay.
So my intention on being here today is to underline the fact that the CBC is adding to its program, it's not taking away from it. I don't believe classical music is disappearing from the airwaves. I think there are thousands of independent Canadian artists who are creating, performing, and touring non-commercial music who will benefit from these changes.
I agree with the sentiments that programs like the cancelled DiscDrive will be missed, and so too will programs like Global Village and Brave New Waves. But programs like Canada Live and The Signal are filling a void and they're bringing various types of music to the ears of all Canadians.
It's true that some non-classical music now has a home at Radio 2, but to say it would have a home somewhere else is simply untrue. Artists like Hawksley Workman or Christine Fellows are finding airplay at CBC, but they are not finding it elsewhere.
I'm not saying we should do away with classical music, far from it. What I am saying, however, is that broadening our horizons should not be something we fear but something we embrace. Canada is a mosaic of cultures, and the changes at Radio 2 will be more representative of that mosaic.
I'm grateful to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for offering me the opportunity to speak with you today.
My name is Katherine Carleton. I am Executive Director of Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada. We are the united national voice of the Canadian orchestral community. We represent orchestras in every Canadian province: 46 professional orchestras, 42 community orchestras and 38 youth orchestras, with audiences of over 2.6 million Canadians in 2006-07 and annual budgets totaling over $150 million.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, both radio and television, has played a pivotal role in the development of musical culture in our country. The CBC has done this through recording and broadcasting the very best concerts by Canadian musicians; creating broadcast orchestras in cities from Halifax to Vancouver to perform programs for radio and television; commissioning new Canadian works; identifying gifted young Canadian composers and performers and launching their careers through competitions, broadcast opportunities, and recordings; and developing an internationally recognized record label, CBC Records. Through these activities, CBC has been a principal investor in research and development in the Canadian musical community.
A certain portion of the musical community has been given what amounts to six months' notice that much of this R and D investment is ending. We will be hard-pressed to replace it.
What other impact might the changes at Radio 2 have?
We worry that the reduction in classical music broadcast hours on Radio 2 will affect orchestras' current and future ability to find audiences. The U.S.-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation spent over $13 million between 1994 and 2004 studying the changing environment for American orchestras. Here's what one of their studies states:
||10 to 15 percent of American adults have what might be termed a close or moderately close relationship with classical music, and as many have weaker ties to the art form.... Radio...is the dominant mode of consumption of classical music.... [There is] a symbiotic, long-term relationship between live concert attendance and classical music consumption via tapes, CDs and electronic media. If consumers grow and sustain a love for classical music by listening to classical radio and recordings at home and in the car...it would follow that orchestras must concern themselves with these venues. Increasing the availability and quality of classical music on the radio is important to the long-term vitality of the orchestral field.
Speaking specifically to the changes proposed by CBC, it's great that CBC has made a continued commitment to classical music programming on Radio 2 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. Sadly, that's a point when it' s not accessible to working and school-age Canadians, the very audiences Canadian orchestras work tirelessly to engage. As well, the new web-based services, including Concerts on Demand and the proposed streaming 24/7 classical music service, are to be applauded. But these two web-based services are not accessible to Canadians who do not have high-speed Internet access, either because of their geographic location or because of their inability to pay an ISP for the service.
Some of us know what a lifeline the CBC represented to us, growing up in less-populated parts of Canada. The musical alternative that CBC represented changed our lives for the better, and we'd like to be able to share this privilege with all of our fellow Canadians.
Canadian orchestras believe that this is a time of great social and technological change and opportunity. We embrace change and we embrace the opportunities that change opens up for us. But we need your support as we move forward.
We would like to see:
(1) stable, adequate, multi-year funding for the CBC, so that our public broadcaster can strengthen its technological infrastructure without putting the calibre of its programming at risk;
(2) an acknowledgement by this committee of CBC's role in musical research and development;
(3) an acknowledgement by this committee of CBC's role in making it possible for skilled musicians in a range of genres to earn a living in Canada;
(4) a transition plan, specifically implicating the Department of Canadian Heritage, that enables CBC to focus on its role as public broadcaster while providing Canadian musicians in all genres with the wherewithal to explore new programming initiatives, audience and market development activities, and new opportunities in electronic media;
(5) support from this committee for evaluation criteria for CBC's programming that includes not only quantitative measures, such as audience share, but also qualitative measures—I talked earlier about lives changed, but the Broadcasting Act talks about safeguarding, enriching, and strengthening the cultural, political, social, and economic fabric of Canada, and the development of Canadian expression;
(6) continued vigilance by the CRTC through the licence renewal process to ensure that the CBC is honouring its programming mandate under the Broadcasting Act and not using public subsidy to compete with private broadcasters on their own turf.
On behalf of Canadian orchestras, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Thank you for the honour of inviting me to appear before you.
However, it is with a heavy heart and much soul-searching that I come here today. Although I'm officially appearing as an individual before this committee, I am most assuredly not alone in my deep concern over the direction of the decision-making taking place at CBC radio.
I am a young opera singer at the very beginning of my professional career, but I also carry the tragic distinction of being the last ever winner of the CBC/Radio-Canada national competition for young performers, suspended indefinitely in 2003.
Like countless others of my fellow singers, instrumentalists, and composers, I owe my career to the nurturing generosity of the CBC. We strongly believe that the proposed changes for Radio 2 will have a detrimental effect on the generation of young performers that follow our cohort. They will not enjoy the many benefits of being showcased and promoted by a national broadcast radio network to the same extent that we did.
When I first heard of the horrendous decisions being made at CBC, sweeping aside 70 years of deep commitment to serious performing arts in search of a younger demographic, my first instinct was to start a group on Facebook opposing these measures. As many of you are aware, the Facebook social networking site is extremely popular with younger Canadians, and within a month we attracted over 15,000 mostly young people to join our site entitled “Save classical music at the CBC”, and a movement was born.
Our group members have attracted incredible media attention through letter-writing campaigns, some of which may have been directed at you people. And I'm sorry if the volume was too much. On April 11 of this year we were able to organize an unprecedented national day of action in which over 2,000 Canadians of every age demonstrated simultaneously outside CBC installations, in every province and major city of this country.
As an emerging professional classical artist, I am living proof that classical music is alive and well in this country, and it exists in greater richness and diversity than ever before. And it can probably survive these changes. My earliest memory of being conscious of classical music is as a small child in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, listening to an aria performed by the great Luciano Pavarotti on CBC radio.
I think that the greatest disservice CBC is performing is to remove classical music from the listening palate of so many people, especially those who work or attend school during the day, and to those in regions of the country where there is no alternative classical music source. The Internet is not yet mobile, nor is it free. Nor do people in all regions of the country, including my cousins on the farm in rural Saskatchewan, have access to any service better than dial-up Internet. Neither is an expensive subscription to satellite radio service an option for many people.
I also have a hard time believing the sincerity of CBC's claim to want to better reflect the regions of this country when in the first rounds of changes in 2007 they proceeded to axe all regional weekly performance programs and concert series. This wouldn't have been tolerated if it had been local news on the chopping block.
Small towns have traditionally produced much of this country's internationally celebrated talent. I think of Fredericton, New Brunswick's Measha Brueggergosman; Dawson Creek, British Columbia's Ben Heppner; Brandon, Manitoba's Grammy Award-winning, on CBC Records, James Ehnes; Kirkland Lake, Ontario's Maestro Mario Bernardi; and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan's Jon Vickers.
Change is inevitable. Classical artists are not afraid of change; we have always embraced it. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a genre outside of classical music that has been asked to change so much and thrived throughout all the turbulence. Other genres, such as big band, jazz, and disco, to name a few, have not fared so well.
But this is not change; it is shock therapy. Program hosts come and go, but wholesale revolutions in philosophy are more rare and have to be challenged and criticized to make sure they are in the public interest. To remove all serious performing arts from CBC television, to axe the renowned CBC Radio Orchestra, to cut the budget for CBC Records only months after winning its first Grammy Award, and to cut, over the course of the year, the amount of classical music on CBC Radio 2 by over 73%, is all too much, too quickly.
If public broadcasting's purpose is to create the conversation of a country, CBC is unilaterally deciding to change the subject without consulting the speakers. I don't accuse CBC of trying to kill classical music. They couldn't manage it if they tried. I accuse them of thinking small, of being unimaginative and provincial, of being mere managers instead of creators, of dreaming in black and white when they should be dreaming in technicolor.
We welcome the true genre diversity of Radio 2, especially the sonically diverse genres that fall under the classical umbrella, beyond the guitar-based verse-chorus-verse world of popular music.
CBC is killing much of that diversity by reducing the amount of Renaissance polyphony, 12-tone expressionism, electro-acoustic music, 19th century art song, and 20th century composition that they will broadcast over this radio network.
I would like to offer some possible solutions to the standing committee. The first is more money--I will ask for that to the end--and stable funding for the CBC. As my late great mentor from the Canadian Opera Company, Richard Bradshaw, was fond of saying, there is more public money for opera in the city of Berlin than in the entire budget of the Canada Council.
The BBC operates at least five radio networks and five orchestras without having to pit one genre of music against the other in a fight over the scraps. Could we not aim to emulate them?
The CBC uses reports from this committee when it suits their priorities; a call for more money and seven years of stable funding comes to my mind. Apparently they listen to the recommendations of this committee and will trumpet them from the mountaintops when it suits their purposes. A report from this committee recommending that CBC revisit and reconsider its decision to gut classical programming will go a long way towards finding some compromise.
I believe our efforts to criticize these short-sighted changes are paying off. CBC executives recently announced that they would be adding a fourth online music stream dedicated to Canadian contemporary compositions; this was not announced alongside the others in March, and I suggest this has been done in direct response to criticism from Canadian composers and new music fans who decried CBC's virtual abdication of its historical role as a champion of Canadian music.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today as you consider the changes under way at CBC 2 and what they mean for Canadians.
Opera.ca is a national association for Canadian opera. We represent opera companies, organizations, and artists from coast to coast. Our members are integral parts of their communities, enriching the lives of Canadians with opera productions and performances across the country. CBC radio is an extremely important part of the Canadian cultural ecosystem, bringing opera and classical music to Canadians who cannot, for whatever reason, participate in a live performance.
More than 330,000 tickets are sold to main stage opera performances by Opera.ca members each year. Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, arguably one of CBC radio's flagship shows, expands that audience as almost 240,000 Canadians tune in each week. That represents 6% of the total English language radio audience for that time slot.
The CBC is clear in stating that Saturday Afternoon at the Opera will remain an important part of CBC Radio 2's schedule. Indeed, the past year or so has seen some real enhancements to the program. Working with opera companies and organizations across Canada, the CBC is bringing Canadians the significant stories and successes happening in opera music theatre across the country.
Radio broadcasts of works like Manitoba Opera's Transit of Venus by Victor Davies and Maureen Hunter allow all Canadians to share in the experience of this new Canadian opera, an important arts event by any measure. Expanding this reach, as the CBC does, strengthens and validates the work of all opera companies. We commend the CBC for this.
However, the CBC's impact on the Canadian opera sector and classical music in general extends far beyond Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. CBC radio and its programming play a unique and extremely important role in promoting Canadian opera and singers throughout the program schedule. It does a good job in celebrating Canada's classical artists, so that we as Canadians know about them and the impact they are having on the world stage.
We acknowledge the need for CBC to find new audiences. We all have to do that. Working together, we'd probably all be more effective. As the CBC moves forward to revamp its programming to be more inclusive of all genres of music, we encourage them to consider the implications, not only for their own audiences, but also for those in the rest of Canada's cultural ecosystem.
CBC radio is an important and integrated part of the Canadian arts infrastructure. It does not stand alone. The decisions at CBC have implications for all organizations and artists that together make up a significant part of Canada's musical culture. Unlike commercial television, driven by ratings and advertising revenue, we don't see CBC as a competitor; we see it as more of a partner. Decisions of CBC radio don't just affect them; they have ripple effects throughout the arts sector.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of understanding the meaning of new technologies. Cultural organizations around the globe, including the CBC, are trying to understand what the changing technological opportunities mean. Opera.ca understands and supports the need for the CBC to move forward. None of us can stand still. Opera, perhaps more than any of the other artistic disciplines, has seen the potential of technology.
The Metropolitan Opera is a high-definition opera broadcast that brings opera to more than 600 movie theatres across the United States, Canada, and the world. This profoundly affects how we bring this form of cultural expression to audiences, something companies across the country are studying in order that we may make use of the opportunity that it offers.
Canadians account for 30% of the Met's HD broadcast audience. The energy created around these broadcasts reinforces the excitement and appreciation that Canadians have for opera. It is not a museum art form reserved for an uppity, exclusive elite. The CBC, and the resources it brings to the table, has the potential to work with the Canadian opera sector to affect similar profound change in our country. Through things like the coverage of the COC's Ring Cycle, or more recently, John Estacio and John Murrell's Frobisher, a co-production of the Calgary Opera and the Banff Centre, we've seen the possibilities that the CBC can open for Canadians and opera.
The Canadian opera sector has signaled its interest in working with the CBC to more fully understand these possibilities. We would welcome an open and collaborative dialogue.
In summary, Mr. Schellenberger, Opera.ca recognizes the critical role of CBC in providing access to opera for all Canadians and their invaluable support in promoting the work of our companies and artists across the country. We ask that the changes being contemplated consider this, with a view to building audiences for all art forms.
We believe that the nature of the arts ecosystem in Canada, and the interrelated relationships among all aspects of the sector, are integrally connected. Actions and initiatives do not happen in isolation from one another. Changes at CBC Radio 2 will have a profound impact throughout the arts sector, one that is already teetering on a fragile foundation in this country.
Finally, Opera.ca appreciates that the CBC needs to adapt to new technological and audience realities. We are not necessarily advocates for the status quo. Rather, we would welcome the opportunity to work with the CBC to better and more fully understand how we can work together to more fully celebrate the broad spectrum of Canadian culture.
Mr. Chairman, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is undertaking an important analysis of the role of CBC Radio 2. We urge you to consider and acknowledge the integrated and interrelated role CBC Radio plays in sharing and celebrating the richness of our country's classical musical culture. The CBC's decisions ripple widely, and they impact Canada's opera and music theatre-producing artists and our audiences. They are not making decisions alone. They affect us all.
To that end, we need to strengthen our relationship with CBC radio. Your recommendations in this regard would be most helpful and welcome.
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
My name is Debbie Peters, and I own Magnum Opus Management, an artist management company and booking agency based in Whitehorse, Yukon.
I am here as a northern Canadian, having lived in the Yukon for 30 years as someone working with a roster of Canadian musicians in the genres of jazz, world, classical, roots, and traditional music. I am a dedicated CBC radio listener.
Speaking as a northern Canadian, CBC is our connection to the rest of the country. l'm sure that many in remote and rural Canada would agree with me. Programs like CBC Radio 2's DiscDrive have been our introduction to outstanding Canadian classical, jazz, world, and roots artists. We need CBC radio.
On the CBC website, a description of the new CBC Radio 2 has this statement, and I encourage the CBC to correct it: “Radio 2 is the only radio station in Canada that broadcasts to Canadians coast to coast”. There is a third coast in Canada, and it's up north. I would encourage the CBC not to forget about northern Canada.
Some comments from two northerners....
Steve Gedrose is a dedicated music fan, and a committed listener to CBC radio, and he lives in Whitehorse. He says:
||We have not had Radio 2 service for very long, but have come to have the utmost respect for the program hosts and their crews and will be devastated to lose that link, not only with the rest of the country but with the entire world of Canadian classical music. One only has to listen to “Here's To You” to understand how important classical music is to Canadians, particularly those of us in the smaller markets.
From Ben Nind, in Yellowknife, the executive director of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre:
||CBC in northern Canada is a lifeline of communication. Nowhere else in Canada are the CBC cutbacks recently made felt so deeply, because for most communities CBC is the only station that offers a national cultural perspective on who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.
Speaking as an artist manager, working with some very fine artists in our country, virtually all of the musicians I am currently working with came to prominence in our country by having their music featured on CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2. For jazz, classical, world, and roots musicians, the CBC is where their music is being played. You likely won't hear their music on commercial radio.
In my work as an artist manager and a booking agent, profile on CBC does factor into which artists my company chooses to work with. A national knowledge of the artist helps me successfully place these artists in the Canadian performing arts market.
The recent changes to CBC Radio 2 will benefit some of the artists I work with, and adversely affect others, especially those who perform with the CBC Radio Orchestra and who have had their compositions performed and recorded by the CBC Radio Orchestra.
Last night I met with three of Canada's major classical artist managers in Toronto. During our discussions it became apparent that the wholesale slashing of classical programs on Radio 2 over the past two years—and the list is very long—has meant that there is now virtually nowhere to launch the careers of new classical artists on national radio.
Speaking to the topic of quality programming, in a recent speech Mr. Stursberg, executive vic-president of the CBC, said the following: “CBC is committed to introducing Canadians to quality Canadian music. This is the key value that drives our decision-making.”
I would argue that recent changes in programming appear to have a tenuous commitment to quality, and that has me concerned with the direction of the new CBC Radio 2. There is an appearance of dumbing down content to appeal to the masses, with the result of alienating the dedicated CBC listener.
With the attempt to be all things to all people, you risk becoming nothing of importance to anyone, and you risk losing your dedicated audience.
It is important for the CBC to continue to commit to programming that showcases the finest this country has to offer—not just in words, but also in reality. It should in no way go down the path of becoming yet one more adult contemporary music station out there, losing its uniqueness.
John Mann of Spirit of the West is an artist l am privileged to work with. He said:
||In its decision to disband the CBC Radio Orchestra and reduce its classical music content, CBC has lost its way. Somewhere along the line it got sucked into believing that the ephemeral world of pop culture will carry the day. That's a short-sighted notion that doesn't reflect the broad demographic that makes up the CBC listenership.
Here's an example of why I'm concerned about CBC's commitment to quality programming.
Jazz in our country has been ill-served by changes to the CBC over the past few years. Two shows, Jazz Beat and After Hours, were replaced by the show Tonic. Now, Jazz Beat especially showcased some of the finest, most ground-breaking Canadian jazz in our country. Gone are the interviews, live concerts, in-studio recordings, and all the good jazz that this program fostered. The replacement show relegates jazz to an easy-listening music program. I would venture to guess that there are many jazz aficionados who have tuned the radio elsewhere.
Will the demise of significant classical shows mean that their replacements will be of lesser quality? I would like to say I've been able to determine otherwise, but my query to the CBC about the new shows in advance of appearing here today went unheeded. But given the road CBC went down with jazz programming, classical listeners should be concerned.
My encouragement to the CBC: listen to your dedicated listeners; don't cast them adrift in an effort to be hip; showcase the finest this country has to offer in every genre; and continue in the very important role of connecting our country.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank you all for coming; you make some very important points. However, I hear from three of the presenters that these changes are in fact a good thing because they allow a number of young people who are trying folk and jazz and other genres of music to perform, to get their chance in the sun. I hear from classical music aficionados that they needed that to help them get their place in the sun.
My question, therefore, is this. Everyone says that CBC cannot be all things to all people, and yet I hear everyone wanting CBC to be all things to all people. Your suggestion that CBC be funded appropriately gets a huge round of applause from me, because CBC has been bled dry over the last few years so that it isn't really able to do the things it needs to do.
However, you've talked a little bit about classical music. One of the presenters at the last meeting we had said in a presentation: “I think we have to define classical music.” It would be interesting to see if any one of you can define classical music. Is classical music merely western European classical music? Does it include Chinese classical music, Indian classical music, African classical music? Is jazz now old enough to be seen as a classical music? I'd like to hear that from you.
Is it just the time that you have the slot, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., that is of concern? If that slot changed and rotated, so that three times a week it was from 4 to 6 in the afternoon, when people are driving home, would that make a difference?
If CBC only has Radio 2 as an FM station to be able to reach everyone, how do you define culture in Canada, when Canada's cultural mix is changing so much and the diversity of culture means that we have people from every corner of the world?
I want to ask the question so that you can explain how CBC could do the things you think it should: representing the cultural diversity, doing classical, doing all the other things, and giving everyone a break. It seems like a tall order for the CBC.
I'll try taking a stab first. I think one of the ongoing challenges for the community I'm involved with is that orchestras play all kinds of music. There's the classical era, which covers the work of Mozart and Haydn, moving on to the romantic era, moving on to 20th century music in all of its genre distinctions, as well as the newest Canadian creations.
I would actually be most comfortable speaking about good music that involves significant commitment by people who have made a lifelong commitment to developing the skills and the craft to be able to create and perform. That's actually the kind of music that I want to hear on CBC, which I believe Canadian orchestras and many other Canadian musicians in many other genres are involved in. It's the good music piece, and we can have a big fight about what constitutes good music, or maybe we'll just all agree that excellence is actually what we're hoping CBC will be aiming towards, while at the same time we understand there are wild variations in musical taste and audiences who must be dealt with appropriately.
Orchestras deal with audiences of varied musical tastes by running series in which specific music from specific musical eras is performed. CBC does it by packaging its programming.
Yes, I do have some beefs with the scheduling.
No, I don't have a solution to the fact that CBC probably needs six or seven genre-specific terrestrial radio streams. That's an enormous challenge. I also suspect that three to five years from now, technologically, Canada will be in a very different place. We will be able to take our computers with us in the car in order to be able to carry our good music with us.
I'll try to make a quick comment, from my experience, regarding some of what you addressed, Ms. Fry.
As a developer of world music in particular, what we have come to learn in the last 20 years, for example, with the establishing of master musicians from a lot of different cultures.... There are master musicians from South Asian culture and Chinese culture existing in Canada. There are four Afghani Ustads, master musicians, living in Toronto, who we discovered in collaboration with the CBC. Some of these master musicians are starting to come to the fore, and that excellence that we see in classical music of all cultures, which is a term that is starting to show up in the areas all of us are grappling with—the broadcasters, the concert presenters—reflects the changing Canadian society.
I think that the broadcasters are trying to open that up, and our position is that we would like to see that opportunity be given. The only way to do it is with the limited resources for music on Radio 2, because Radio One has been largely talk, and the little squeaks of music that you hear on Radio One are just not enough. We would like to collaborate with our classical partners, and I think there's a lot more commonality in the music community that we're going to discover through this process.
I too welcome you here this afternoon. Before discussing today's topic, I have an invitation for you, especially for Mr. McGillivray. This coming fall, the committee will begin a study on artists' living conditions. I feel that a number of points that you raised with us today could be looked at again at that time.
Ms. Carleton, you also mentioned some factors that specifically affect artists' living conditions. We would be delighted to hear what you have to say on the subject when we begin our study in the fall.
Ms. Carleton and Mr. McGillivray, you also made a number of recommendations to us about the CBC. Some come under the committee's purview; some a little less so. The committee is governed by a number of acts that define the work of Parliament and its relationship with CBC/SRC. However, I understand that greater and more stable funding might be an avenue that should be studied more closely.
Mr. Lloyd also said that, in this debate, we should not be pitting genres of non-commercial music against each other. I would like other members of the panel to tell me how we can avoid pitting genres of non-commercial music against each other so that, as Ms. Fry said, each of them can be heard on the public airwaves.
I'm sorry, I can understand French, but I can't speak it. I will try to answer the questions as I understood them.
I think what we're all here to decide is what we can empower this committee to do. I believe that goes to the heart of your question. You are perhaps handcuffed a bit from commenting directly on individual programming decisions that are being made at the CBC. As I said before, the CBC takes the recommendations from this committee very seriously as far as funding and things like that go. We would love it if the government as well could see it in their wisdom to take the recommendations of this committee as seriously as the members of the committee take them in that regard.
Also, I didn't get a chance to offer this solution.... And it's not a solution, but I think it's a problem that is under this committee's jurisdiction. I really believe that the CBC is very nobly trying to fill a void in our culture by programming more Canadian folk, jazz, blues, world music, and singer-songwriters. It seems to me that this void is unfortunately a result of government and CRTC inaction in promoting diversity on our publicly owned airwaves. Directing the CRTC to enforce its own rules, not only with regard to the CBC, but also with regard to private radio licences, is an important part of the solution.
How many classic rock and new-country stations programmed by robot computers do we need in this country? They have gone towards this in the United States, where Clear Channel owns something like over 50% of all radio stations, and the playlists are programmed by computers.
Maybe we need to create genre diversity and help encourage it through the private system, as well. How many Kirby reports or reports from the Kent commission must be written and ignored, basically, before we decide to take serious action against the sorts of conformist forces of concentrated radio ownership that I think are responsible for this void in the public airwaves?
I am going to speak in English, because that will allow me to be more precise. I am sorry.
One point I will make is I think this is a fantastically interesting study that this committee has agreed to engage in, in terms of studying how artists make a living in Canada. It's a very complex issue. It touches on tax law, it touches on the Canada Council, the Department of Canadian Heritage, provincial and municipal partners, but it is absolutely timely and a really important discussion.
One of the things we do know about the CBC and the role it has historically played in enabling musicians in all genres to earn a living in Canada is that the most recent negotiation between the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the American Federation of Musicians, informally known as the Musicians' Union, resulted in a contract where, over the course of the three years of the contract, the annual investment by CBC is going from $10.4 million down to $5 million in payments to professional Canadian musicians.
I think that is a significant signalling of a change of role by the CBC in helping make it possible for musicians to earn a living in Canada. I think that's a challenge, and I think it should be a factor you take a look at as you embark on that study.
Welcome to our presenters.
If you've read the transcripts of previous meetings, you'll know that I have a standard part here, which is to reiterate what has already been said at the table in the past meetings: that all members here, including those on the government side, fully support and endorse CBC/Radio-Canada's role as a public broadcaster, so we are all in this together.
We recognize that as individuals we have the right, as any Canadian has, to speak out and say CBC is right, CBC is wrong, or whatever the case may be, but I want to deal in a standard way with every witness group individually and ask the following question, because in addition to our being able to speak out individually, there is also a structural issue. That is the relationship of parliamentarians--especially the government and the minister--to the CBC, so if it's possible to answer yes or no, it would be immensely helpful.
Here is my first 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? If it's possible for you to provide a simple yes or no, that would be helpful.
Mr. Andrews, what is your answer?
To Katherine, I appreciate your comment about the challenge of the balance in what you're hearing.
To both Derek and Dominic, I heard your comments about wanting to have something that's more reflective. You talked about equity and being more reflective of Canadian society. I see CBC radio as an opportunity provide a venue for non-mainstream music, which is what both of you represent as well.
To the comment that young people are not using radios, I notice increasingly when I walk through the stores that MP3s now carry radio tuners. I think iPod is next to come out with one for both FM and AM.
I've heard concerns, and I'll be presenting petitions that come to my office calling on the government to ensure a continued mandate and funding for CBC radio to allow it to continue to make its contribution to the cultural life of Canada.
There are examples in which the federal government has provided money, but provided it with direction. I'm thinking of health funding for waiting times. There have been other areas that we've gone into where we've left, generally speaking, federal money without any strings, but there are areas where, because of the responses we hear, we feel extra is needed.
The message I'm hearing from the people I talk to, and what I've heard from your comments today, is that in fact resources are dwindling. You're saying CBC radio is facing tough choices with diminishing resources, and that seems to be the problem--the diminishing resources. I appreciate Dominic's comment that there are 24 hours in a day, but I think it's increasingly important for Canada and the cultural values in Canada to be able to provide these avenues for young artists and emerging artists in the full range.
I recently attended the CBC Radio Orchestra performance at the Chan Centre in which they played pop music with a great interpretation that challenged the audience. Also, I recently attended a Persian piano concert by artist Shardad Rohani, who is a very accomplished pianist. There's interest in the community for it.
Derek made the comment on the caveat, as I saw it, on reduced or limited funding. I think that's the real issue. We need to be encouraging CBC to continue its mandate. The importance of classical music is there, and they should try to find ways of adding rather than subtracting the process of enriching that.
I notice other kinds of music get exposure on television and on commercial radio, but jazz or classical music doesn't seem to get the same exposure. I think that's what I see as the role of the CBC, and I'd appreciate any comments.
I might add that I'm a great supporter of the CBC Radio Orchestra. I think it's a 70-year tradition that I'd hate to see us lose.
First, it's not correct to say that radio is being fragmented by new digital media. That's clearly not borne out by the facts. That may be the case for television or other communications media, but it's clearly not the case for radio.
A Statistics Canada survey last August, based on 2005 and 2006 numbers, showed that in fact the audience for commercial radio was growing--and growing far faster than the economy at large. The report noted that ad revenue for commercial broadcasters increased by 8.7% in 2005, and by 5.3% in 2006--far faster than the growth in the Canadian economy in general. Ad revenue for commercial broadcasters is the single most important indicator of audience share. So it's not the case that iPods and other forms of new digital media are hemorrhaging radio audiences in this country.
Second, I think the key issue here is that CBC management has decided to reduce the amount of airtime given to classical music in order to free up that airtime for other genres of music. If that approach would result in a much greater audience and market share for Radio 2, one could argue it's worth the risk. However, I see it as a bit of a half measure. You would end up with a radio station that wasn't focused on one particular audience or another, because I think the audiences for classical music and the audiences for alternative or other genres are quite different. So you'd end up with a brand that wasn't clear.
My worry is that we would end up with the same dismal audience numbers for classical radio that we presently have--around 3% to 4%. These are not very good audience share numbers. I think you could focus a radio station exclusively on classical and get far higher audience share numbers through programming changes.
CBC Radio One's Metro Morning program, for example, in the GTA, has illustrated that you don't actually have to change the content of the station in order to gain market share. You can fiddle with the format and the way the subject is presented to increase market share.
Management has decided to go with this mixed genre for Radio 2, and if we can be assured it will reach an 8%, 9%, or 10% market share, then I'd say great; it's worth the risk. But my worry is that we're not going to do that.
Here we are as a committee once again looking at the CBC and trying to figure out how we can improve it. I look overseas. A couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Financial Times of London, and I could only shake my head and wonder why we can't get it right. I noted that BBC radio has an over 50% market share. In contrast, Radio One and Radio 2 in Canada have a 10%, 13%, 14% market share. It just pales in comparison.
In the long term, if we can't get radio right and rise above a 10% market share, when the new onslaught of various digital media really starts coming into play we won't be able to get it right for that either. I think getting radio right and getting audience shares increased on radio are critical to being successful when other forms of digital media really start to take hold.
So I just put those out as comments more than anything else, because I've heard all the comments from the various witnesses.
I think there are rays of hope within the corporation. The CBC has done a fantastic job with Radio One, especially in large markets like Calgary and Toronto. It's a relevant radio station. In fact, it has the largest market share of any morning program in the GTA, and I think that's an indication we can do it right if we put our heads together and we put in place the right mix of programming and formats.
Those are the comments I have, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
I've been here too long as a member of Parliament, clearly, because when I first was elected one of the first things I remember doing was raising money for a public school student to go away to school to study music. That was Measha Brueggergosman, who now I'm having thrown back at me as a national icon. She was a public school student, and the community of Fredericton was doing that around her activity.
An analogy here could be that we have these wonderful new drugs or interventions or tests in medicine that are not covered by medicare because we're strapped financially. Imagine somebody coming here and saying that what we should do is introduce this other new drug, and the way to do that, of course, would be to throw out the other ones that are currently being covered. The debate that would probably cause us to be involved in, forcing us to make choices between things that, frankly, we'd rather not make choices about, seems a wrong-headed way to celebrate new, wonderful things.
I think it's about timing. There's been a lot of reference to the fact that if there were more funding available, or perhaps we should recommend.... We have. I would commend to everybody that as a committee we table a report, which in some ways, if it were acted upon quickly, could make the debate redundant, because at the end of the day it could make resources available for another stream.
If there's any magic in what's happening at the BBC.... Look at the numbers, look at the resources that are going into the BBC on a per capita investment basis compared to what's happening here. I think we should see the opportunities, and not at the expense of the committed audience that has sustained the CBC to this point.
I think we should call the CBC, as part of this exercise, and ask them to explain to us some of the things they explained before, when we were less informed and had not yet had the benefit of your testimony.
What would you as a panel want us to recommend to them? I'd like you to think about all of the things that you would like the CBC to accomplish, thinking about the other members of the panel, rather than maybe the more narrow position that you felt compelled to put when you made your earlier interventions. What would you want us to recommend to the CBC when they come?
We're all talking about the new technologies that are going to be coming in. I think the CBC has been studying how it's going to respond to all these new technologies, how it disseminates the content that it wants to provide, and what it wants to reflect of what's going on in this country.
I think this committee and the government and all parties in the government are going to have to have a big say in defining what exactly the CBC is supposed to be. That mandate, which was created 70 years ago in the 1930s when radio was just becoming a technology worth disseminating and regulating, is going to have to change. So I think there's going to be a big study in the next few years about what the future of the CBC and of new media is going to be, and I think there has to be space for all of us in that mosaic.
Obviously, more funding is going to help the CBC make the decisions that we all find more agreeable, but as Mr. Chong was saying, there's a growing audience for radio, and I think we have to take that seriously and not.... The reason we're all here and we're all fighting over these scraps being handed to us is that we know radio is important. It has a captive audience, and we all want a share of that audience. When we talk about new media, we're talking about competing against a global society. We're competing against content from the BBC, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle. We're competing against all these kinds of things.
I'll leave it at that and let somebody more articulate take over.
We have gotten into a broad discussion about the CBC, and that is valid. Canadians are rightly interested in their public broadcaster. As Canadians, we all contribute to it, about $33 a head, as a matter of fact, so we all have a stake in the CBC.
That said, I'm just curious. What we've been talking about a lot and what the study is about is the CBC Radio Orchestra. Mr. Siksay has put forward a number of times that it's a national institution based in Vancouver. There aren't a lot of them there, and the concern is about what is to become of the CBC Radio Orchestra. I have been listening to all the comments, and I have some concerns.
I'll tell you openly that I fit into the 90% bracket Mr. Chong mentioned that doesn't listen to the CBC radio station regularly. I'm quite fond of and regularly attend concerts of classical music and other genres. It hasn't been a motivator for me, and it hasn't prevented me from getting there.
I'd like to put this forward for anyone. How would you classify the loss of the CBC Radio Orchestra? What is it going to mean to artists in Canada? Second, if there is a loss there, where is the opportunity? Who gains by it is the other thing. I've heard a bit of both. I've heard that this is a major loss, but I've also heard that in this loss there's an opportunity.
Sometimes from a business side you evaluate a product and you find that it's in decline. Then you decide either to invest in it and build it back up or to drop it and move on to a new product. It seems CBC made the decision to drop this and move on to a new product.
I would ask you, what are we losing in this institution? Second, who is the beneficiary? Is that a fair trade-off? I don't like it that artists are being pitted against artists, but it seems that the CBC has made this choice.
I'm sitting here with the terrifying realization that my light went on, so I'll take the opportunity to speak first on this one.
There are a couple of things that I understand about the demise of the radio orchestra: that the talent budget that was going into musicians' pockets in the Vancouver area has been around $400,000 a year in recent years, which I understand is a decline from historic levels; and that the radio orchestra, like the other radio orchestras that CBC established over time, of which the Vancouver group is the final example, were very active. They needed to be active because there was not a professional orchestral community across the country that was of a calibre, reliably, to be on the airwaves.
At the same time, the radio orchestra essentially acts as a research and development wing. New Canadian works and unusual repertoire that orchestras who are somewhat more exposed to market forces don't dare put on the stage, the radio orchestra has been able to. And it has done it very well. It's a really good orchestra. I would not be doing anyone justice to say “An orchestra is dying. What a good thing.” I'm not going to say that.
In terms of who potentially benefits from that $400,000 being redirected, based on the conversations we've had with CBC personnel, it does not look as though the rest of the Canadian orchestral community is going to benefit. Although we have some assurance that the approximately $700,000 a year that's spent on orchestral broadcasts and recordings, net of the radio orchestra investment, will remain in the coming year, there's absolutely no commitment in the years beyond. The $400,000 has been reinvested into programming.
Sure. First of all, the young performers competition had a history going back to the 1950s, with the singing stars of tomorrow and young performers competitions, so it really had a history. It's another part of that history that's gone away.
All the competition rounds were broadcast live over the air, over the course of a week. Everywhere I go in this country, people say, “I remember hearing your voice on the CBC on that day when you won the competition.” People remember it, because it was a whole week of exposure.
Being a winner in that has certainly opened up a lot of doors. It was a very prestigious competition by the time it was axed. I have to say that CBC also basically picked up almost every concert I did in this country for about two or three good years afterwards. Any time I was singing the Messiah with a certain choir or Elijah with this symphony, no matter where I was in the country, if I was doing a recital in Calgary or in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the CBC was there to pick it up, either on local performance programs or what not.
I can tell you we're talking about a decrease of money going to American Federation of Musicians members. I know that my CBC pickups have really been reduced. I know from talking to a lot of choirs and orchestras that they're just not getting the CBC pickups for live recordings that they were two or three years ago. Keeping the same amount of funding going towards live recordings is not necessarily happening.
Just to wrap up, I know we've been talking about what we're losing with the losing of the CBC Radio Orchestra. It's not just that the CBC Radio Orchestra could afford to take a chance on doing an entire concert of new repertoire and new compositions that no orchestra in Canada can afford to do on a regular basis, but they also could afford to take a chance on young artists who don't have a marquee name.
I was asked on a number of occasions to join the CBC Radio Orchestra for different concerts. Unfortunately I wasn't able to work it into my schedule, and now I really regret that I didn't know that it would have been my last chance to do so.
I'm glad Ms. Fry raised the issue of bandwidths, because I'd like to use that as a launching point for my question.
I have a bias, and it's a classical bias, because I've been raised on classical music. I also love classic rock, country, jazz, southern gospel, but I'm not sure that we do any service to Canadians by cannibalizing one genre of music in order to meet the demands of another. It's been sort of a love-in here, because we all seem to be on the same side, but I'm going to pour some cold water on it.
Ms. Fry raised the issue of bandwidth. CBC was before us and specifically said bandwidth is so limited that our chances of getting another service in, a Radio 4, is just not an option right now.
Second, even if CBC did receive another $100 million or $200 million a year for funding, it doesn't necessarily mean that the management will consider classical music programming a priority. As far back as 2003, they'd already cut the national competitions for young composers and performers. Now we see CBC Radio Orchestra being cut, classical music being scaled back on Radio 2. What I'm hearing from virtually everybody who has commented on Radio 2's classical offerings is that it provides the lifeline to the composers and to the performers in Canada. In many cases it's their only exposure to the public.
But it's a matter of priorities. As much as we can leave here feeling all happy that we're all on the same page, that doesn't necessarily mean it will translate into prioritization that will meet your needs. If we simply have 24 hours on current Radio 2, then it is an “us and them” issue. We'll have Dominic and Derek on one side saying they want more of that for us because our composers and performers need exposure. And they're absolutely right. But it means that the other side loses out.
This is the conundrum we face. As a committee, we're going to do our best to put forward recommendations, to do whatever we can to exert some influence on CBC. You're going to have to do that as well. We cannot direct CBC—we cannot tell them what they should do with their programming. You haven't said that's what we should do, but it's a tough position we find ourselves in.
I'm not sure I need a response. It's just a comment. That's the reality of it. There is an issue of priorities here, and we need to communicate that to CBC.