Tuesday, May 1, 2007

TUWYT: Tell Us What You Think!

Fresh from my defeat at the hands of Mr. Jowi Taylor (I agree, it was a one-sided contest, as Mr. Jowi Taylor controls the content of his blog) I turned to the "Tell Us What You Think" link, aka the TUWYT link, on the CBC Radio Two web site.

This is the submission that I made to TUWYT on March 24 2007:

"Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to express my outrage at the changes that have taken place in the evening schedule of CBC Radio Two. I have listened to the new programming for a full week and I am just as outraged as I was when I first heard of the programming changes to come.

Why am I outraged? I am outraged because CBC Radio Two listeners have not been given a choice. I would have agreed with the launch of an alternative station to CBC Radio Two with this new programming. As a taxpayer I would have fully supported such an initiative. I would also have agreed with the changes to the CBC Radio Two programming if there had been a public consultation with CBC Radio Two listeners, via public forums such as the CBC Radio web site or phone-in shows where the proposed changes could have been announced, discussed with the listening audience and only then, once the listeners had been allowed to express an opinion, changes had been made, assuming that the listeners supported such changes. It appears that nothing of the sort has taken place. As a regular listener to CBC Radio Two I expect I would have heard of such a public consultation. However, the first inkling that I had of the changes coming to the evening schedule was an announcement by Danielle Charbonneau several weeks before the event that her program would be ending and new programs would begin March 19. I believe the CBC Radio Two listeners were blind sided by such sweeping changes.

I am outraged because it appears that CBC Radio Two listeners have been told by CBC Radio Two that no, our tastes in music are not sophisticated or worldly enough. Instead of listening to classical music while driving home or preparing dinner, we should be listening to jazz. Instead of listening to classical performances after 8:00 PM, we should be listening to live performances, of many different genres, some of which we may have no interest in.

I am outraged that CBC Radio Two listeners have been deprived of a full newscast on the hour, and of the World at Six newscast on weekday evenings. Why would you think that CBC Radio Two listeners are not interested in a full newscast? Why must we switch to CBC Radio One on the hour, just to hear the news, then switch back to CBC Radio Two?

I am outraged that the Arts Report has been cancelled on Music and Company. Why was this done? What has replaced it? Nothing.

I am outraged at the lack of a public forum for listeners to express their views, share opinions and see responses from CBC Radio Two management. I strongly urge you to create a site on the new CBC Radio Two web site where listeners may express their opinions. Will this site reflect all of the opinions being expressed by CBC Radio Two listeners. No, it will not - I expect that many listeners do not have access to personal computers and are not computer and Internet literate and are therefore unable to use this site. I therefore also urge you to scan and post any written letters that you receive, with the permission of the author, on such a site. I also urge you to post on this proposed site all of the feedback that you receive via this link, also with the permission of the author. Will CBC Radio Two create a site and go to such lengths to ensure that public opinion is expressed? I sincerely doubt it. Why should you? It is not in your interest, nor will it reflect well upon CBC Radio Two management.

What alternatives does the poor downtrodden CBC Radio Two listener have? Unfortunately, not many. As you may have noticed, there are few radio stations that broadcast classical music programs. In larger centres such as Vancouver, Toronto or Ottawa there may be one or two others. But what about smaller cities? The great value of CBC Radio Two was that it presented an alternative to commercial radio and provided a means for younger listeners to discover classical music. Will a young person discover the evening programming and become a long-term listener? I sincerely doubt it. Yet, in a Globe and Mail article on March 19, Jennifer McGuire (identified as CBC Radio's executive director of programming) stated that "... we are trying to have a service that is sustainable, with an audience that regenerates". By presenting a consistent format, with programming that was an alternative to commercial radio, CBC Radio Two was able to do just that - acquire a new audience who would stay with the programming. I believe that the new programming in the evening is not sufficiently distinctive, or consistent, to provide an alternative to commercial radio that will attract new listeners.

If this were a commercial radio station the outcome would be predictable. Listeners would abandon the station, advertisers would become aware of the declining audience and pull advertising, advertising revenues would suffer and the management of the radio station would realize their mistake and adjust accordingly. Given the lack of accountability to the audience, I expect CBC Radio Two management to go blithely on, unaware of audience interests and unresponsive to the few comments that percolate upwards via this site and other venues.

What I find even more alarming is that I have heard mention on CBC Radio Two of changes to the daytime schedule, similar to those made to the evening schedule. One cringes at the thought of what may follow.

So, you may be thinking, what does this listener want? I would be satisfied with nothing less than a return to the former CBC Radio Two evening schedule, reinstatement of full newscasts on the hour, a return to CBC Radio Two of the World at Six newscast and reinstatement of the Arts Report on Music and Company in the mornings. If you want to create a CBC Radio Four broadcast with the new programming then fine, as a taxpayer I would fully support this. However, I believe Canadians require and deserve an alternative to commercial radio that CBC Radio Two formerly provided.

Do I have any hope that this will happen? Yes, a great deal of hope. Do I have any expectations that this will happen? No, none whatsoever."

When one submits a comment on the TUWYT link, one is asked for an e-mail address. So, I provided my e-mail address, hit "Submit" and sat back, once again satisfied that I was doing my part as a shareholder in the corporation in providing feedback to the custodians of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I dutifully checked my e-mail the next day, and the day after that and for the rest of the week. I expected to see some sort of response, even if it was only a computer-generated response such as the following:

"Dear CBC Radio Two listener and shareholder,

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to contribute your comments. We appreciate the interest that you are taking in CBC Radio Two. You may rest assured that CBC Radio Two management will carefully consider your comments ..." and more in the same vein.

And yet I received nothing of the sort, nada, rien, zip, zilch. Was I not a shareholder in the corporation? Did my opinion not count? Was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation not "effectively owned and controlled by Canadians"? What to do next?

Fortunately, I had read a Globe and Mail article on March 19 2007 that named Ms. Jennifer McGuire as CBC Radio's executive director of programming. Surely, I thought the executive director of programming would be interested in the opinions of CBC Radio Two listeners? I would try a letter to Ms. Jennifer McGuire next.


Joe said...

I’m not the first to note that CBC was not licensed to operate a wall-to-wall-classical-music service. You’ve had a nice run, but it’s time to shake up the mix a little.

James Wooten said...

Good on yer, mate! You've stepped up to the bar and made your opinion known! Thanks for the post!

Of course, I disagree with you, but that's the whole point of this blog - to give CBC Radio Two listeners the opportunity to express an opinion, something that has been sorely lacking on the CBC Radio Two web site.

As I mentioned earlier, I will publish all posts, whether they agree or disagree with the opinions expressed here, as long as they are not derogatory, defamatory, off topic and do not use profanity.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, very informative. CBC Radio has a mandated responsibility to Canadians, and it is increasingly failing. A rarely considered fact is that while CBC is touting "diversity" as a keyword reason for its ongoing changes, the inclusion of pop music content that is available elsewhere on commercial DECREASES diversity in programming on the public broadcaster.

Paul Steenhuisen, President, Canadian League of Composers

Anonymous said...

Nothing seems to get better. When Tom's morning show came on yesterday, I thought that I must have jiggled the tuning dial when I cleaned. Horrified! is a mild description of what I felt.
When my neighbor went on and on about the benefits of an Ipod - I said, I don't need an iPod...I listen to CBC radio 2 (actually only during the day which is why I didn't even know about all the changes). Now I guess I have to to get an iPod since I won't be listening to CBC radio 2 when I am in the car.
We even got 2 wind-up radios so we could listen while out in different parts of the garden working. Won't be using them either.
Nice to be alloted 5 hours of classical music - but the show does not make up for the request show and Eric Friesen's wonderful sharing of his enthusiasm...
Classical music is ageless...meaning all ages listen. What is on now makes CBC just one more of the same as commercial radio...
Is there no way to mobilize and fire the CBC management?

Lois Addison