What Were They Thinking?

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.


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.

6 Replies to “What Were They Thinking?”

  1. Your are absolute­ly right David. Com­ing home a few nights ago the radio was play­ing jazz at 6:45 pm! Jazz when it should have been some unique clas­si­cal piece. With Tom Allan not com­ment­ing how are we to expand our musi­cal knowl­edge? It will be like lis­ten­ing to KING on cable.

  2. Besides the ‘Wher­ev­er Music Takes You’ phi­los­o­phy, there def­i­nite­ly seems to be an attempt to dumb-down every­thing. In the morn­ings I’m hear­ing more and more Baroque music, which after a while just turns into a cul­tured-sound­ing back­drop. Tom’s remain­ing com­men­tary on sci­en­tif­ic or psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies is no longer fol­lowed by a wit­ty musi­cal response, as I sus­pect he no longer has the time to find one of these. Over­all, they seem to be say­ing: ‘We won’t make you think too hard; That’s for CBC1’.

    I hate to be one of those peo­ple who grum­bles about how ‘the old days were bet­ter’, but with the excep­tion of some pos­si­bly inter­est­ing new shows in the evening, just about every­thing about CBC2’s new line­up is awful and will prob­a­bly dri­ve away what few lis­ten­ers they have. Or are there oth­ers who love the new line­up? I haven’t heard any­one say any­thing either way. 

    Where’s the famous Cana­di­an respect for cus­tomer feed­back? Where are the sur­veys and calls for com­ments? I’d be inter­est­ed to hear if there are oth­ers besides the two of us who are not hap­py with the new CBC2. Or, per­haps, is CBC2 the ‘New Coke’ of radio?

  3. You did­n’t ask for it, but here’s a hearty amen from my corner.

    As I under­stand it, part of the change is due to the CBC’s desire to attract a younger audi­ence. As a mem­ber of that tar­get audi­ence I think they’re fail­ing mis­er­ably, and might have dri­ven some lis­ten­ers away. 

    Where’s my After Hours? My Arts Report? Where are the dul­cet tones of Danielle Char­bon­neau as she hosts ‘Music For a While’? At least they did­n’t take Jur­gen away, but it seems they did take away much of the musi­cal adven­tur­ous­ness and musi­cal expli­ca­tion I so great­ly enjoyed. Sad.

    I’m hop­ing that the CBC does lis­ten to the feed­back, but in the mean­time I’m look­ing for alternates…

  4. Hi Cin -

    So they were try­ing to attract a younger audi­ence? Wow. That’s amaz­ing. If any­thing, it’s far more for­bid­ding and real­ly sounds like it’s try­ing to appeal to old fogies who don’t care about cur­rent events, or real­ly any­thing except ‘relax­ing’ with a snob­bish audio background.

    The only alter­na­tive I can think of is, *gulp* Satel­lite Radio, but that’s anoth­er month­ly sub­scrip­tion and will not nec­es­sar­i­ly be avail­able in every room of the house (if indoors at all!) And that still does­n’t solve the prob­lem of los­ing local news, weath­er and the Arts Report.

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