Monday, 6 February 2012

Will CBC Ever Restore Radio 2?

CBC's stubbornness not to restore classical music on CBC Radio 2 is a product of its management culture. Once a programming decision has been made by management, it seems nothing short of an order from Parliament or sacking the CBC president will change it. This was the case twenty years ago when CBC TV moved its national news to 9pm and the audience disappeared in droves. Only when the president of that era departed would the news finally be moved back to 10pm. Ten years later another president cancelled all local TV news programs and would only restore them when both the CRTC and Parliament applied pressure and he was on his way out. Today, CBC management, typically, has dug in its heels about two things, access to information about its financial dealings and classical music on CBC Radio 2.
The internal culture at CBC is responsible for this unyielding stubbornness, now a hallmark of the Corporation, as much as its classic logo, which evokes a circling of the wagons. Each new CBC president when appointed by the PM is a 'temp' and takes the better part of their five year term to grasp the scope and complexity of the Corporation. Most new presidents fail to understand that the managers around them are determined to survive until the end of the president’s term. CBC managers know that survival is enhanced by being united, appearing to work together and not contradicting each other with a new president. Any that do are ostracized and usually leave the Corporation. Once managers have convinced the president to make a major decision about programming, nothing from inside the Corporation will ever, ever change it. It becomes doctrine and that appears to be the case about classical music on CBC Radio 2.
Thankfully, Parliament has forced the Corporation to revisit its obstinate decision about releasing harmless information about its staff salaries and the number of vehicles that it owns or leases. One can only hope that this situation has now been resolved and the CBC will accept that a little more transparency will help, not hinder it.
The prospects for restoring classical music on Radio 2 don’t look as good. I have heard Hubert Lacroix, who is in the final year of his 5-year term, several times defend the decision to change from a classical music and cultural service to a grab bag of different types of music. He has apparently not recognized that maybe his best hope to be renewed as president is to show that he truly understands the culture of CBC and reverse this decision, which had roots even before his term.
As I recall, Hubert, as he likes to be called by staff, provides the following arguments/doctrine:
· Radio 2’s audience was old and dying off and the service would eventually have no audience at all (RIP)
· Researchers told us that we should attract younger listeners
· Classical music lovers only need to tune into our fabulous internet music service where they can get classical music 24/7
· Radio 2’s classical music lovers should be willing to share the Radio 2 network with people who like other types of music
· Radio 2 now plays mostly Canadian music that you can’t hear anywhere else
· I like the music we have on Radio 2
· My mother likes it too
Let’s consider some basic facts about the ageing population and CBC Radio’s audience to see how well these arguments hold up:
· Radio 2’s audience may have been older but, as everyone who has read the news about OAS knows, older segments of the population are growing at a frantic rate and many of them are a natural audience for what Radio 2 used to offer. For every one that dies, two or more will replace them in the next thirty years. Stats Canada concludes: “The ageing of the population is projected to accelerate rapidly, as the entire baby boom generation turns 65 during this period. The number of senior citizens could more than double, outnumbering children for the first time.” Hubert, ask your researchers to check out this link for more information:
· The last time Statistics Canada asked about the number of radios in Canadian households and cars, it was estimated that there were upwards of 100 million radios in Canada. Radios, either in households or cars, are the overwhelming manner in which people listen to the radio. To suggest that all one needs to do is stream music from is to ignore this basic fact about how people listen to the radio. Radio is radio. The internet is not, despite recent advances in technology that those with extra income can afford to access.
· CBC listeners and other listeners share the entire radio spectrum, not just the Radio 2 network. On average, people only listen to three or four stations but we have dozens of radio stations to choose from in major centers and we can be our own programmers thank you and choose the music we want from all of these stations. We don’t need CBC to program the music for us. Most stations play one type of music, which is called their ‘format’, and that allows listeners to know what to expect from each station. However, CBC has always thought that anything offered by private broadcasters is unworthy. CBC managers are adept at convincing each new president that CBC is everything to everyone.
· For amusement I occasionally tune into the grab bag of music on Radio 2 and I have yet to hear a music selection I couldn’t hear on another station. Much is non-Canadian. Incidentally, I am not a fan of classical music. CBC managers should know that younger people don’t listen much to radio compared to older people, and they certainly don’t listen to CBC radio. Young adults aged 18-34 listen to only about 7.5 hours of radio per week and very little of that is CBC radio, as the first chart shows. Middle-aged and older adults spend as much as double the time listening to radio and CBC radio (1 and 2) accounts for a large share of their total radio listening. In total CBC accounts for about a 20% audience share, impressive given the number of stations to choose from. Radio 2 only accounts for a small sliver of that 20%, however, and is almost immeasurable in younger listeners. Update: the CBC's audience share expressed another way means that English Canadians spend approximately 3,380,000,000 hours listing to CBC radio on an annual basis, which dwarfs the time Canadians spend on all CBC internet services combined.
· CBC should take solace from the fact that supporters of all the main political parties spend a considerable amount of time with CBC radio, as shown in the second chart. Conservatives are heavier radio listeners generally and, like NDPers and Liberals, listen to CBC for a substantial number of hours per week. These results are from CMRI’s tenth annual Media Trends Survey, which has surveyed a representative national sample of some 15,000 Canadians over the past decade.
· Finally, Hubert, the next time your researchers conduct research, insist that you and your mother not be in their sample of respondents. That might assist in deconstructing CBC's management culture and lead you to restore Radio 2 to the strategically well-positioned service and cultural force that it was.

Note: persons who do not listen to radio at all are excluded from these per capita data


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