I know I’m of a tiny minority of people who listen to CBC2 in the morning. Therefore this is probably going to be irrelevant to most people. Oh well, I’m going to shout anyway.
WHAT THE HELL HAVE THEY DONE TO CBC2?
This past week, there have been big changes in CBC2. For those not familiar, this is the FM CBC, which, up until now, was Classical music and some talk in the morning, more Classical and some Jazz in the evening, and various different programs in the evening with an emphasis on Jazz. On Saturday mornings there is the venerable Vinyl Café, which sounds suspiciously to these NPR-raised ears like A Prairie Home Companion, but that’s not relevant here.
Somewhere in the CBC, they decided that CBC2 was to be about music. Music, music and little else. In fact, they have a new slogan, CBC2: Wherever Music Takes You (which is not only meaningless, but smacks of focus-group tested marketing pablum).
So how does this new commitment to more music play out? It used to be that you got a good deal of music, probably about 40 minutes worth per hour, but you also got a little local news, national news, weather, some sports scores, and a pleasantly chatty Arts Report with Joe Cummings as he bantered with Tom Allen over the current Arts scene or event.
That’s all changed. Now, there is 57 minutes of music, followed by an unbelievably short National news report on the hour. There is no local news or weather, no sports scores, no arts coverage. There is no Joe Cummings, which means that for the vast majority of each hour, Tom Allen is left to carry Music and Company on his own. Now, I think the world of Tom Allen. In fact, I’ve lauded him in many of these pages as probably the best Classical DJ on the planet. But I can tell that he is having a hard time with the new format. He can’t do as much research on the selections, and it shows. What’s more, it just gets too intense. You need more of a break in the morning from solid music. At the end of the 2 minute and 50 second newscast, you get a message saying to tune into CBC1 to hear more news. Otherwise, it’s another 57 minutes of music before any relief. There’s no balance whatsoever.
So that’s the new segregationist approach to the CBC. If you want talk, tune into CBC1 (which is, of course on the AM dial, and all but impossible to receive in our building, so I have to stream it from the Internet; the sound quality is horrific because of all the compression from the AM band plus digital conversion and down-sampling.) Otherwise, you’re out of luck. You’ll get music and little in the way of voice ‘interruption’, aside from Tom’s DJ work.
Was the CBC thinking that people who listen to Classical music in the morning don’t want to hear the news of the day? That they don’t care what the weather forecast is? That they don’t care who won in hockey last night? That they don’t want an Arts Report?
I’m afraid that CBC2 is falling into the same trap that so many American Classical music stations fell into over the years, that Classical music should be treated as a pleasant wallpaper for people, a lulling doctor’s waiting room for the day. If that’s the case, I’ve got news for you, CBC: Those stations usually don’t last long. You’ll need the support of some set of posh car dealers, carpet merchants, and other luxury merchandisers who’ll want some recognition, and you’ll steadily narrow the programming diet until it’s nearly all Vivaldi’s The Seasons and Pachelbel’s Canon as you die a slow death.
I learned a few weeks ago from local CBC reporter Todd Maffin that the CBC hasn’t gotten a raise in the budget for a long time. I don’t know if these changes are budget-driven. If so, I hope that they are not driving the CBC2 into oblivion the way that NPR has made Classical music almost nonexistent (that network is nearly all News and Current Events). I would like to think that these were just misguided changes and that they will see the error of their ways. I’m not holding my breath, though.
So now, we have to do all sorts of work just to find out the weather forecast and a little bit more about what’s going on in the world. It would be nice to do this without having to dive into top-40 or all-talk-all-the-time. And, of course, there’s TV, but that just seems mind-numbing so early in the day.
All in all, this is definitely a change for the worse, at least for our mornings.