After having sent letters to Mr. Gary Schellenberger, Mr. Maka Kotto, Mr. Andy Scott and Mr. Jim Abbott requesting that the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage "encourage CBC Radio management to make it possible for CBC Radio Two listeners to express their opinions in an open, public forum" I found I was at a loss. What should I do next? CBC Radio management was proving to be very efficient at ignoring my letters. I took a break from my new-found hobby of public activism.
Then, in mid-April, I received a letter from Mr. Gary Schellenberger, chair of the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. My faith in the system was, for the briefest moment, renewed! Until I read the letter.
Now, I have to give credit to Mr. Gary Schellenberger (or his office) for responding to my letter. I appreciated very much the fact that my opinions were being acknowledged and that someone was taking the time to respond. This is how democracy should work! Yet, the response seemed somewhat lacking in thoughtful consideration of what I was requesting. The response read, in part, as follows:
As I am sure you are aware, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a Crown Corporation that acts at arm's length from the Government. If Parliament were to intervene in a day-to-day operations decision, it would ruin its independence.
Now, wait a second, I thought. I am not requesting that the CHPC interfere in day-to-day operations of the CBC! I am merely requesting that the CHPC "encourage CBC Radio management to make it possible for CBC Radio Two listeners to express their opinions in an open, public forum"! If it is not the CHPC's mandate to remind the CBC when they are not meeting the expectations of their shareholders, then whose responsibility is it? Given the mandate listed on the CHPCs web site, I thought this well within the mandate of the CHPC.
So, I sent the following reply to Mr. Gary Schellenbergers office shortly after April 27, 2007:
Dear Mr. Schellenberger,
Thank you for your April 16 letter in response to my letter sent March 28. I very much appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to consider my letter and to respond.
However, I am afraid that there is a misunderstanding of my request. I am not requesting that Parliament interfere in the day-to-day operating decisions of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I am instead merely asking that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage consider the opinions of Canadians with respect to the manner in which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is carrying out its mandate. Given the Standing Committee's investigation of the role of the CBC/Radio-Canada as a public broadcaster in the 21st century, I thought that the opinions of CBC Radio Two listeners would be especially relevant at this time. I thought it would also be of interest to the Standing Committee to know that there are some CBC Radio listeners who believe that CBC Radio is not fulfilling its mandate and is not taking into consideration the opinions of Canadians.
As I noted in my earlier letter, I am only requesting that the Standing Committee "... encourage CBC Radio management to make it possible for CBC Radio Two listeners to express their opinions in an open, public forum." I do not believe that CBC Radio Two is considering the opinions of CBC Radio Two listeners or enabling CBC Radio Two listeners to express their opinions in an open, public forum. Considering that the mandate of CBC Radio is to be responsive to the needs of Canadians, I expect CBC Radio to actively encourage the flow and exchange of opinion on many topics, with the content and programming of CBC Radio Two being one such topic for public debate. Currently, CBC Radio does not provide any means for listeners to exchange opinions on the content of CBC Radio programming and does not encourage the free exchange of opinions in a forum that is accessible to all listeners. Given that, as stated in the Broadcasting Act, "the Canadian broadcasting system shall be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians", I find this state of affairs most lamentable.
To date (May 15) I have not yet received a reply.
Are there other listeners out there who are similarly upset with CBC Radio management and their unresponsiveness to listeners and CBC Radio shareholders? The evidence seems to suggest this - see the few posts that were allowed on the "official" CBC Radio blog site. See also the news media reports concerning listener response to the new schedule - Mr. Hugh Anderson's April 9 2007 column and the April 22 2007 Ottawa Citizen article. See the "Stop CBC Pop" web site and Ms. Linda Roger's April 2 2007 blog entry which reproduces a letter sent by Dr. Paul Steenhuisen of the Canadian League of Composers to the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Without a site on CBC Radio's web site where listeners can exchange opinions with CBC Radio management and with other listeners, we frustrated listeners must resort to these samizdat-like blogs, posting wherever we can to find an audience and trying to find links to other disaffected individuals. When and where will it end? When the last CBC Radio listener finally tunes his or her radio to a commercial radio station, connects his or her PC to another radio station that broadcasts music more to his or her liking on the Internet, or plays the music of his or her choice on his or her iPod/CD Player/MP3 player? Is a radio station broadcasting into the empty void the best use of taxpayers money?