Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And The Radio Is In The Hands Of Such A Lot Of Fools Tryin' To Anesthetize The Way That You Feel

My brother works and writes for Canada's leading classical music publication, La Scena Musicale. A recent editorial of his (found on page 11 of this pdf) brought to my attention a proposed set of changes currently being enacted on the programming of CBC Radio Two, which would effectively strip the station of its longstanding classical music mandate and replace it with "more light contemporary like Diana Krall and Joni Mitchell" in the words of the CBC's blog. Also shuffled away from daytime programming is DJ and bon vivant Jurgen Gothe, whose pithy banter has delighted audiences for decades. Globe & Mail columnist Russell Smith (hands-down the best writer at the Globe, just barely eking out Carl Wilson, their savvy pop writer) has been covering this story well and his latest editorial includes lots of contact and petition info for those upset by the changes.

Why am I writing about classical music on IEI? Well, let's ignore the well-documented links between contemporary classical music (or "art music" as its often called nowadays) and our end of the pool for the moment and look at this more structurally. Unfortunately, fans of industrial and experimental music have just been down this road with the CBC. When Brave New Waves was cancelled just over a year ago, the main impetus for myself and many other listeners to tune in to the CBC was lost. Brave New Waves helped to introduce thousands of listeners to a dizzying array of artists and genres that we'd have otherwise never encountered. DJ Patti Schmidt featured and interviewed countless groundbreaking acts past and present: Coil, Michael Gira, Diamanda Galas, Wolf Eyes, El-P. CanCon wasn't just a formality on Brave New Waves, and the show raised the profile of Canadian acts from Skinny Puppy to Venetian Snares. When Brave New Waves was axed, CBC forsook a devoted, built-in listenership to compete for commercial radio's listeners. By stripping Radio Two of its classical music identity, they're doing the same thing.

I tend to loathe nationalism in all of its forms, but the two major institutions that make me proud to be Canadian, the CBC and Medicare, are contingent upon their being held to a higher standard than privatized industries, and the notion that they are able to provide services that their private counterparts simply do not deem profitable (non-mainstream programming and health care for those unable to afford it). Their power and effectiveness, therefore, lies in their unique nature. Once a public institution begins to measure itself by and adopt the policies of their private counterpart, its raison d'etre ceases to exist.


alex said...

Speaking as a child of the corporation, and as someone who has witnessed both it's radio and TV programming gutted by visionless fools in its upper echelons, I'm finding it harder and harder to defend the existence of the CBC, at least in it's current form. There was a time, not even that long ago that I almost came into a physical confrontation with a coworker on the topic... that fervor has been deadened by the disregard of those in power for the corp's meaning and role in Canadian culture. I no longer hold that the CBC must exist as I once did, frankly if the other option is to see its legacy slowly eroded away to nothing by failed attempts to compete with corporate media outlets, I'd rather see it dismantled. There, I said it.

Anonymous said...

I'm in total agreement. I'm an American listener, and have been for, an insanely long time, let's say. Ironically, the first CBC show I've encountered was Brave New Waves. NPR had nothing like this, so I was hooked right away, and it led me to other CBC shows which, at the time, were engaging as well. I've listened over the years, through the labor disruptions (in their words), and I even tried to listen after the first round of Radio Two changes. But as Alex rightfully put it, after this latest round, I don't see myself defending the CBC's continued existance (at least with this mindset).