Thursday, May 17, 2007

Letter to the Hon. Bev Oda, Minister of Heritage

May 17, 2007

The Hon. Bev Oda
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Ms. Oda,

I am writing to bring to your attention the following points:

1. I, and many other Canadians, do not believe that CBC Radio is adequately serving the needs and interests of Canadians.

2. I do not believe that CBC Radio management is attempting to solicit the opinions of the CBC Radio listening audience in a manner which allows the listening audience to have a meaningful voice in the choice of programming.

3. I believe CBC Radio management is making programming decisions which do not reflect the needs and interests of Canadians and is doing so based on information that they are unwilling to share with the CBC Radio listening audience.

4. I believe that CBC Radio is unwilling to let listeners comment on the programming changes that have already been made and is operating CBC Radio in an aura of secrecy that is not acceptable for Canada's public broadcasting system.

I provide the following as evidence for each of the above points:

1. I, and many other Canadians, do not believe that CBC Radio is adequately serving the needs and interests of Canadians

Please see the petition concerning the increasing amount of pop music played on CBC Radio One at the following web site:

To date (May 17) this petition has been signed by 1,905 individuals.

Please see the comments made concerning the recent programming changes to the evening schedule of CBC Radio Two at the following web site:

I have reviewed the comments and find that out of the 76 comments made, 10 comments are positive, 56 are negative and 10 are neutral. This web site has been closed to further comments since April 10 2007; otherwise, there may have been many more comments posted.

Please see the newspaper column written by Mr. Hugh Anderson in the Montreal Gazette on April 9 2007 at this address:

2. I do not believe that CBC Radio management is attempting to solicit the opinions of the CBC Radio listening audience in a manner which allows the listening audience to have a meaningful voice in the choice of programming.

The recent changes to the evening programming of CBC Radio Two were made without consulting the CBC Radio Two listening audience and without providing advance notice of the planned changes. There was no opportunity for the CBC Radio Two listening audience to comment on the planned changes before they were introduced. Instead, these programming changes were launched on March 19 2007 as a fait accompli.

3. I believe CBC Radio management is making programming decisions which do not reflect the needs and interests of Canadians and is doing so based on information that they are unwilling to share with the CBC Radio listening audience.

CBC Radio management has alluded to public consultation that was done prior to the programming changes being announced. I refer you to an article in the March 19 2007 Globe and Mail in which Ms. Jennifer McGuire is quoted as saying: "we have talked to all the organizations. We talked to composers. We talked to them when we started the study [to overhaul CBC Radio] and when we were thinking about what it meant in terms of programming changes ... That conversation continues to be ongoing." However, conspicuous by its absence is any mention of consulting the CBC Radio listening audience.

CBC Radio management has also referred to an "arts and culture study" which is driving many of the recent programming changes. In the meeting report of the New Music Community and CBC Radio, it is reported that CBC Radio is unwilling to make this study public as it is an "internal document". You may view the entire meeting report at the following web site:

4. I believe that CBC Radio is unwilling to let listeners comment on the programming changes that have already been made and is operating CBC Radio in an aura of secrecy that is not acceptable for Canada's public broadcasting system.

Although the new CBC Radio Two evening schedule was launched on March 19 2007, there has been no public forum accessible from CBC Radio Two's web site for listeners to comment on the new programming. There is a web site ( that claims to be the "official" CBC Radio blog, but this site has been closed to further public comments on the new CBC Radio Two evening schedule since April 10, 2007. Furthermore, since there is no link to this web site on the CBC Radio Two web site, I do not believe it is known to many listeners or users of the CBC Radio Two web site. There is also a link to provide feedback to CBC Radio (the "Tell Us What You Think" link) but this does not allow one to read comments left by other listeners, and there is no means to see replies left by CBC Radio management.

I am writing to protest against the behaviour of CBC Radio management since, by excluding the listening audience from partcipating in programming decisions, CBC Radio management is not adhering to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act, 1991. I am referring specifically to the following clause:

3.(1) It is hereby declared as the broadcasting policy for Canada that
(a) the Canadian broadcasting system shall be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians

The Broadcasting Act, 1991 also states:

40. The Corporation is ultimately accountable, through the Minister, to Parliament for the conduct of its affairs.

I therefore urge you to take the following specific actions in correcting the behaviour of CBC Radio management:

1. Request CBC Radio management to establish a web site where listeners can post comments. All comments should be permitted, except those that are derogatory, defamatory, use profanity or are otherwise unacceptable in a public forum. The comments should be visible by all users of the site.

2. Request CBC Radio management to post the "arts and culture survey" mentioned earlier on the CBC Radio web site, with a link that is easily found on the main page of the CBC Radio web site.

3. Request CBC Radio management to release any other surveys of the listening audience that have been done in the past three years and that are being used to justify any further programming changes.

4. Request CBC Radio management to announce any further programming changes three months in advance of their implementation. These announcements should be made on the CBC Radio web site, with a link that is easily found on the main page of the CBC Radio web site.

5. Request CBC Radio management to solicit listener feedback on any programming changes before they are implemented and display this feedback on the CBC Radio web site, with a link to this feedback that is easily found on the main page of the CBC Radio web site. Request that CBC Radio management should not implement any future programming changes if the weight of public opinion, as determined through the feedback received, is not in favour of the proposed programming changes.

6. Request CBC Radio management to establish a Listener's Council, formed from volunteers from the listening audience, performers and members of the arts and culture community to participate in the discussion and implementation of any future programming changes.

I believe that the above recommendations, if implemented, will return CBC Radio to those who deserve to have a voice in the conduct of the corporation - the shareholders in the corporation, who also happen to be the taxpayers of Canada.


James Wooten


Anonymous said...

I cannot believe there are no previous comments to this excellent letter. Thank you so very much to James Wooten for expressing what so many of us feel but are the 'quiet' ones who do not usually write letters.

We are also the ones who are whopping angry at the change in the CBC programming, particularly in the evening. I want 'Music for Awhile' back for example. It made my evening and Ms. Charbonneau was absolutely excellent.

Unfortunately I cannot receive the American PBS radio station so am reliant on the CBC and in my opinion it is very quickly being dumbed down to what the CBC brass considers Canadians want. Many of them do but there are hundreds of other stations that will fit their needs. At least you have left us with the mornings except for Sunday when we can expect anything. At least I have CDs.

James Wooten said...

Hi Felicity,

Thanks for your comments - I fully agree with you.

I have not posted to this blog recently because, quite frankly, I have given up on CBC Radio Two. Although I was once a faithful listener, listening from the time I awoke in the morning until the time I went to sleep, I rarely tune the radio to CBC Radio Two now.

What am I listening to, then? I've discovered the joys of satellite radio. I've chosen Sirius satellite radio, but I am sure XM satellite radio is also an excellent choice. I've been planning to write more about this, but haven't had time lately. I'll devote a blog entry to this sometime in the future.

I realize satellite radio is not available to everyone, due to the cost of the subscription and cost of the radio itself. The fact that CBC Radio Two has abandoned its audience and have left many listeners without an affordable alternative is a sad fact that I've discussed in previous blog entries. Unfortunately, CBC Radio Two management has chosen to ignore this fact and continue their path towards the eventual destruction of CBC Radio Two.


seemesee said...

Dear Mr. Stursberg:

Classical music at the CBC has always been something I have taken for granted. My mother, a gifted violinist on scholarship from childhood through high school (first prize at Kiwanis), played beautiful CBC classical music while each of us was in her womb. From that time on we have all been enjoying what the CBC has to offer. My siblings and I took classical music lessons and stuck with them. My mother's grandchildren do now also, and really love them. It is beautiful to see the joy on their faces as they play their newest pieces for us. What will they listen to on the radio when they want to flip on something soothing, invigorating, or challenging? What will be their inspiration? The latest from Britney Spears or Hannah Montana? Never in my wildest dreams did the possibility of the changes at CBC enter my mind. You are losing a whole generation who craves this unique respite from our crazy world. You are depriving fans of all ages and backgrounds of the pleasure, intricacies, and mysteries of the sound of culture that only an educated ear (hint: one of a seasoned CBC listener) can appreciate. Who was my musical teacher growing up? To a large extent, the CBC. Yes, we had an endless supply of classical and jazz music at home, but there is nothing like switching on the radio wherever you happen to be and finding what you need in an instant on one station, secure in the knowledge that it will deliver. Happiness is our birthright. Please continue to supply that part of it for us.



Anonymous said...

vdhtpumI wonder if the Minister ever responded to you and if not, why not.
I cannot receive Sirius radio and rely on Radio for information, enlightenment and very good listening - without commercials.
I am very disappointed at the secret way CBC is choosing to implement drastic changes. What will happen to announcers like Tom Allen? Will he now interview Feist and Nelly Furtado? Both of these singers have their own audiences and don't need me!
Sincerely PD Kirby

Denys Avis said...

The claim that the programming for Radio 2 needed changing defies belief when considering the storm of protest which has since erupted. I liked it fine the way it was and each subsequent change sneaked into the schedule has left me totally irritated. What possible logic, for instance, could account for the shortening of the 6.00pm evening news to a 3 min quicky?? Why would you do that. I agree with a another blogger about "Music for Awhile" I want it back. Instead of leaving the dial set at Radio2, I now, as soon as 'Disk Drive'is finished, have to scoot over to the Radio and change to Radio1 for a decent newscast, and then have to change again to 96.3 to get decent music, abeit with commercials. Also, totally irritating is the continual insertion of 'blurbs' into the programming by the guy who talks like he's trying to be a"Regular Guy" and keeps telling us about music taking us somewhere. Enough already. I sincerely hope that you are aware of the talent you have on hand with Tom Allen and are not considering shunting him off to Siberia with Ms Charbonneau.
I could keep going but that is probably enough for now.

James Wooten said...

Hi Denys,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with all your comments.

I was also switching back and forth between CBC Radio Two and other stations, CBC Radio Two for the news at 6:00 PM, then either Couleur FM or Espace Musique in the evenings.

Later, I began subscribing to Sirius satellite radio and I've never gone back to broadcast radio.

Now, I don't mean to be constantly advertising for Sirius satellite radio, but it is such a relief to have a good source of classical music again that I feel I must bring this option to the attention of those who miss CBC Radio Two.


Anonymous said...

Thank you James for your excellent leadership in this matter of holding ministers responsible for
the gradual disintegration of classical programming. We feel betrayed and deeply sad.
Hetty and Alan Clews

Hetty said...

Thank you James for your exemplary leadership. My husband and I endorse your excellent arguments and hope the tide may yet turn; otherwise we are deeply saddened by the disintegration of programmes we have long held dear.

Anonymous said...

Hello James,

Did you ever get a reply to this letter? Do you think the Governor General would answer to this? I am disconsolate over the CBC and wonder if the people and organizations who work so hard to sponsor and support classical music education and performance are even aware of what is going on. I am certainly going to approach my company about this and ask them to lend their influence to this cause.
Also, since we the people of Canada own our public broadcaster, would
we be able to file a class action lawsuit against the CBC management?? Thank you for your time and attention! Best from Sound Treasures

James Wooten said...

Hi Hetty and Alan,

It is indeed sad to see that CBC Radio management is apparently waging a war on classical music on CBC Radio Two.

Since CBC Radio management is unwilling to listen to the opinions of their listeners (who also happen to be shareholders in the corporation), I believe we should make our concerns known to government officials, the CBC Board of Governors, the CRTC and the management of the CBC.

During the next election, we should all ask the candidates in our ridings what they are planning to do, if elected, to ensure that CBC management begins to be accountable to their shareholders in the management of the CBC.


James Wooten said...

A reply to PD Kirby and Sound Treasures:

Both PD Kirby and Sound Treasures have asked, in comments posted here, whether I received a reply to this letter from the Minister of Heritage.

I received two replies. The first acknowledged receipt of my letter and the second was a reply from the Minister. You can read the replies, and my comments on the replies, in my May 24 2007 blog entry (“A response from the Minister of Heritage’s Office”) and my July 20 2007 blog entry (“A reply from the Minister of Heritage, the Hon. Bev Oda”).

As I noted in my July 20 2007 blog entry:

"I didn't really expect Ms. Oda to march into the offices of CBC Radio and demand that they alter their behaviour and begin to consult Canadians more often when making programming changes. As Ms. Oda states (or, more correctly I assume, someone in her office) CBC management is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the corporation and operates independently of the government. The reason that I wrote this letter to Ms. Oda's office (and I encourage you to do the same) is so that members of the government will know just how unhappy CBC Radio Two listeners are with CBC Radio management. Perhaps this information will prove useful to the Members of Parliament at some point in the future."

When will this information prove useful to Members of Parliament? Why, I believe it should be useful during the preparation of the next budget when taxpayer’s dollars are being doled out to the CBC. Do you believe your tax dollars are being well spent? Are you happy with the accountability that CBC management is displaying towards their shareholders, the Canadian taxpayer?

If you’re not, then you should write or telephone your Member of Parliament. During the next election, when the candidates come to your door asking for your support, ask them what they plan to do, if elected, to bring accountability back to the management of the CBC. Ask them what they plan to do to make sure that your tax dollars are being spent responsibly by the CBC!


Anonymous said...

Yes, 'music for a while' made our evening and we are missing it. We stopped watching TV because it is uinbearable and were taking refuge in CBC radio, but it has become increasinly inane as well. We DO NEED a strong and independent national broadcaster who is respectful of its audiences and see an important part of its role to bring together the strands that form Canada, stretching our imagination, our ability to appreciate beauty, our desire to get past simple 'entertainement'.

What is wrong with CBC management in the last number of years? What is the agenda of our elected politicians? Is it to dumb down Canada and its institutions to the point where they are not worth saving?

Thank you for offering this forum,

Bruna Nota

Anonymous said...

Music for Awhile; Music Before the 18th Houndred (gone for a while) and the Choral Concert on Sunday morning is going soon. CBC2 was the only radio station I listend to since coming to this country. The full day of carolls from allover Europe and North America on Christmas day took me back to my country for a special hour. I learned more about classical music from CBC2 than from CDs or books. That's the role, as I see it, of a public radio - to educate, to promote what's not always easy and most popular. It got totally destroyed and people who knew and loved classical music are all leaving CBC now. I know it's the done deal and no matter what we say or do, nothing is going to change. I only wish I had a way to take my money away from them.

Gordon Klassen said...

I can't understand how the bureaucrats at radio 2 feel they can maintain listenership by ravaging Tom Allen's morning radio show. By wittling down world report at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, and 9:00 they are encouraging people to turn their station to radio 1. Many people judge their morning routine by what is on the radio at what time. The inconvenience of having to switch their station back and forth does not make it easy. I don't know ANY radio station that encourages people to change stations. Once the station is switched, it would be interesting to know just how many switch back. Some can't get to the radio to turn it. Some feel, 'why'. Why don't I leave it on radio 1's excellent broadcasting and be done with it, instead of turning it back to radio2, in the middle of a symphonic movement or quartet.

It's coming up on 2 years since 'Classic Radio2' has been taken away from me. I dearly miss Tom Allen's banter with Joe Cummings, Local Arts Calendar, In The Shadows, One Work Wednesday, New Releases on Thursday, and I'm not sure if it's still on, Cage Match. I've made my change to podcasts and radio 1, but the gap in my morning is still very noticable.

James Wooten said...

Hi Gordon,

I fully agree with you. How many commercial radio stations would knowingly make programming changes that encourage listeners to switch to another station? How many commercial radio stations, who are not dependent on a cash life-line funded by the Canadian taxpayer, would be able to survive such a self-destructive action? Yet CBC Radio management, who are beholden to no one, can act with impunity. It's time they realize who the owners of the CBC are - namely, the Canadian taxpayer, you and me!


Mulder said...

I discovered this blog by accident and must admit that , even though I have been quite upset for quite some time, I have not really bothered to contact either my "honourable" member of Parliament or any of the CBC people. Call it experiential : it is very hard to motivate anybody in office or in position of power to make any kind of positive move if it would mean sticking your neck out or deviate from a common denominator line of acceptance and "thinking".
The very existence of Radio 2 was in fact an anomaly and it was only a matter of time before some non-entity would float high enough to be able to take away the excellence that they were not able to cope with. There is nothing wrong with having only short news casts on the hour as long as you have full blown news broadcasts at least twice a day. People count on things like that and it broadens the acceptance of many other things that come with it.
What bothers us most though is the complete irresponsible attitude of CBC management with regards to the Canadian population. Do they really think Canadians are uneducated, barely civilized and a form of made in Canada US clones?
What totally twisted mind came up with the concept of "Canada Live"?? Yes, there have been some wonderfully exciting things to listen to and no doubt there will be more, but the range is so wide and sometimes so far out that I really wonder what kind of purpose it serves. You cannot be everything to everybody because you'll end up be nothing to everybody or everything to nobody.
Radio2 is still on here from 6 in the morning till late at night, but often at night we switch to our own CD's. TV is out of the question, never watch it. Haven't watched it for more than 2 years. Totally irrelevant, trite and a waste of time.
James Pott

Werner said...

My suspicion here is that pressure is being brought to bear on the CBC to undermine intelligent taste in this country. After all the kind of people who prefer Mozart aren't likely to think much of the goofballs now resident in Ottawa. The predecessors of the Conservative party in Western Canada made no bones about their hatred for the CBC and everything else that is "public". Perhaps more people should consider ways to develop classical cooperative radio in this country. In general educated people have more money than rock and roll airheads so let's get on with it and forget about the CBC.

Anonymous said...

With regards to the last comment....I am a classical music lover and have been since the age of 6. However, I also like and listen to rock and roll (and other kinds of music), don't consider myself an airhead, and am well educated. I also know many, often very young people who, like me at their age, love both, classical and rock. So, in that fight which is lost anyway, we have to be careful not to alienate ourselves as some privileged group, better than others, because we are not. If we do, it will only alienate more people who are either beginning to love classical music or would be willing to give it a chance, if Radio 2 continued its, once excellent, programming. And many of its listeners were not very educated, yet loved it even more than some of those with high degrees. Separating ourselves as 'better than...' is only confirming what the present management of Radio2 is thinking and that's why they are trying to change that.

Mulder said...

The point is not what is elitist and what not; it is not who is intelligent and who not and neither is it about winning people over to appreciate classical music. For the latter CFMX or whatever it is called these days has done an excellent job with their selections of fairly popular classical music. Short pieces, ouvertures etc. The stuff that -like nr.3 wines- will make you want something more substantial eventually. Something like Radio2.
What makes this whole thing so galling is that we had a choice of two quite different CBC stations. I for one don't care for Radio 1 at all. Was condemned once to listen to it in one of our stores in Kingston because reception of Radio 2 was poor. Only thing I remember was endless talk shows with no content.
The point is that we are losing the distinctiveness of the two different stations and thereby the reason for having a Radio 1 and a Readio 2. The Dutch have four public radio stations, each with their own distinctive character. And here in Canada we cannot even keep two alive?? How do these people decide what Canadians want? Maybe our top management is not so tops at all. My dad used to say : "Scum floats to the top"
James Pott