Friday, July 20, 2007

A reply from the Minister of Heritage, the Hon. Bev Oda

Readers of this blog may recall that I sent a letter (as well as an e-mail) to the Minister of Heritage, Ms. Bev Oda, on May 17 2007. You may read the original letter in my May 17 blog entry. Ms. Oda's office was kind enough to reply to my e-mail on May 24, stating that they had received my e-mail and would follow up with a more detailed response.

I received the following response on July 20 2007 from Ms. Bev Oda's office:

Dear Mr. Wooten:

Thank you for your correspondence of May 17, 2007, regarding Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio programming.

I appreciate your advising me of your views on this matter and have carefully noted your comments. While the Department of Canadian Heritage is responsible for overall broadcasting policy and legislation, the CBC operates independently of the Government under a framework provided in the Broadcasting Act. As an autonomous Crown corporation, its Board of Directors and senior management are responsible for its day-to-day operations, including its radio programming. In view of the autonomy of the CBC, you might wish to share your views directly with Mr. Robert Rabinovitch, its President and Chief Executive Officer, at the address provided in the enclosure.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is responsible for the licensing, regulation and supervision of all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system. The CRTC was established by Parliament under the Broadcasting Act as an autonomous body that operates independently of the Government and is responsible for its own day-to-day operations and decisions. The CRTC maintains a record of complaints against licensees and takes these into consideration when broadcasters apply for renewal of their licences. In view of the autonomy of the CRTC, you might wish to share your concerns on this matter directly with Mr. Robert A. Morin, its Secretary General, at the address provided in the enclosure.

I trust that this information is useful. Please accept my best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Bev Oda, P.C., M.P.



Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Mr. Robert Rabinovitch
President and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Post Office Box 3220, Station C
Ottawa, Ontario
K1Y 1E4
Telephone: 613-288-6000
Electronic mail:
Web site:

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Mr. Robert A. Morin
Secretary General
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2
Telephone: 819-997-0313
Toll-free: 1-877-249-2782
Facsimile: 819-994-0218
Electronic Mail:
Web site:

Now, this how I believe a Member of Parliament or Minister's office should operate: they acknowledge your letter and follow with a reply within a reasonable period of time. Well done, Ms. Oda! This is in contrast to some of the other letters that I have sent; for example, the letter to Mr. Robert Rabinovitch, the letter to Ms. Jane Chalmers or the letters to several Members of Parliament on the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, where I received no replies or acknowledgements at all. To give full credit where credit is due, Ms. Jennifer McGuire and Mr. Gary Schellenberger's office also responded to my letters. You may see Ms. McGuire's response in my June 21 blog entry, and my subsequent reply in my June 29 blog entry. My reply to Mr. Gary Schellenberger's response is in my May 15 blog entry.

As for the content of the reply, to tell the truth this is about what I expected to receive. 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.

I encourage everyone reading this blog to use the above addresses and write your own letters of protest concerning the changes to CBC Radio Two's programming to Mr. Robert Rabinovitch and Mr. Robert Morin.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some thoughts on CBC Radio management's strategy for Radio Two

In a Globe and Mail article published in the March 19 2007 edition, Ms. Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming, is quoted as follows:

"'And we are trying to have a service that is sustainable, with an audience that regenerates.' In other words, McGuire said, Radio Two's target audience is between 35 and 49 years old, yet the majority of current listeners are over 50. So the network is looking to attract a relatively younger, although still adult audience."

Statistics Canada has recently released some interesting data that allows an interested former CBC Radio Two listener to analyse the wisdom of the above statement. The data recently released by Statistics Canada is: (1) a survey of the radio listening habits of Canadians during 2006 and (2) the 2006 census data.

(In the best interests of my readers, I should point out at this point that the rest of this blog entry will very likely bore the pants off you if you are not (a) a thoroughly outraged former CBC Radio Two listener or (b) already working for Statistics Canada or (c) a student of business strategy and/or marketing who is looking for an idea for a term paper. Just for the record, I am in group (a).)

Now, if CBC management's target audience is the 35 to 49 year old age group, then presumably they hope that the 35 to 49 year old age group will be listening to the radio more than any other age group and that there will be more 35 to 49 year olds listening to the radio than any other age group. After all, if you are in the business of offering a product to consumers, you should be targeting the group that (a) has the most members (b) will use your product the most number of times and is also increasing their use of your product and (c) that can benefit from your product the most (if you are a not-for-profit organization) or (d) who pay the most for your product (if you are a for-profit organization).

Given these principles, we would expect that since CBC Radio management is targeting the 35 to 49 year old age group, this age group is (a) the largest (b) listening to radio the most and (c) will benefit from CBC Radio's programming the most. We can use the recently released data from Statistics Canada to check whether this is the case.

Well, guess what? Using the survey of radio listening data and 2006 census data, one can determine that the 35 to 49 year old age group's total radio usage has in fact declined during the years 2002 - 2006! And furthermore, they are not the largest age group - it is the much-maligned 50+ age group that listens to radio the most and, what is more, the 50+ age group's radio usage is increasing! See the graph below. (For those who find the graph too small, my apologies. The top line is the 50+ age group, the middle line is the 35 - 49 age group and the bottom line is the 18 - 34 age group.)

Now so far, CBC Radio management has missed the mark on the target market selection criteria (a) and (b) that I have listed above. But what about criteria (c)? Who will benefit the most from CBC Radio Two's programming? To answer this, we have to look at the listening habits of each age group.

From Statistics Canada's radio listening survey we find that the percentage share of radio listening by format for the 35 to 49 year old age group is as follows (I only list the formats up until we hit the CBC's numbers, there are more formats that I don't bother to list here. The interested reader can see the full data tables at this link.)

Gold/oldies/rock: males 21.7%, females 14.8%
Adult contemporary: males 19.6%, females 35.9%
Album oriented rock: males 10.3%, females 5.2%
Talk: males 9%, females 2.5%
Contemporary: males 8.8%, females 8.3%
Country: males 8%, females 9.8%
CBC: males 7.5%, females 7.6%

(I think Stats Canada meant "Golden oldies/rock" for the first category, but never mind. We get the idea.)

For the 50 to 54 year old the percentage share is:

Adult contemporary: 19.9% , females 32.1%
Gold/oldies/rock: males 17.8%, females 12.4%
Talk: males 12.2%, females 8.6%
CBC: males 11.9%, females 12.8%

For the 55 to 64 year olds the percentage share is:

Adult contemporary: males 20.6%, females 25.1%
CBC: males 16.9%, females 19.2%

And finally for the 65 years old and over group the percentage share is:

CBC: males 22.6%, females 24.6%

Not surprisingly, CBC Radio takes a greater share of each age group as the age groups advance in age - this is what we expected. However, if you are a CBC Radio executive and are trying to decide on a new format for CBC Radio Two, do you really think that the 35-49 year olds will benefit from another radio station moving towards a contemporary format? No, the 35-49 year olds already have a plethora of Adult contemporary/Contemporary/Album Rock/Golden oldie stations to choose from. Those who will benefit are those listeners who do not already have an alternative - i.e. the 50-54 year olds (among whom CBC is #4), the 55-64 year olds (among whom CBC is #2) and the 65+ year olds (among whom CBC is #1). As I've pointed out in previous blog entries, there are very few stations broadcasting classical music - CBC Radio Two presented an alternative to commercial radio, but does not do so any longer.

"Well, this is all just fine", you may be thinking, "but guess what James? The 50+ age group are going to be dying off! What then?"

Which brings me to my final point - demographics. If you consider that the oldest baby boomer is now 61 years old and the youngest is 41, you will see that over the next 10 - 20 years the largest target market will be the 50+ age group. I know this is something that those who are not part of the baby boom generation find intolerable, but it just happens to be fact. As time goes on, and the baby boom generation ages, there will be increasing numbers of the 50+ age group for CBC Radio to draw its audience from - which brings me back to criteria (a) and (b) - the 50+ age group is the group that will be the largest target market and who is actually increasing their radio listening. See the chart below.

(Apparently I can reproduce the above chart as long as I include the following text, as well as a link to the Statistics Canada data:

Statistics Canada information is used with the permission of Statistics Canada. Users are forbidden to copy the data and redisseminate them, in an original or modified form, for commercial purposes, without permission from Statistics Canada. Information on the availability of the wide range of data from Statistics Canada can be obtained from Statistics Canada's Regional Offices, its World Wide Web site at, and its toll-free access number 1-800-263-1136. )

"Ah", you may also be thinking, "but what makes you think that the current group of 41 - 49 year olds, 50 - 54 year olds and 55 - 64 year olds will listen to classical music and CBC Radio when they are 55+ or 65+? What makes you think they won't still be listening to Van Halen, the Grateful Dead, Duran Duran (dear God, no) or the Rolling Stones?" (Who, I assume, will still be touring in 2022.)

Well, I don't have any assurances to give you that these age groups will still be listening to CBC Radio and classical music as they age. But I can tell you this: if it's CBC Radio management's goal to kill off interest in CBC Radio and classical music among these age groups, then they're doing a damn fine job of it.

If I can do the above analysis in my spare time using publicly available data and reach the conclusion that CBC Radio management is missing the most desirable target market in their recent decision to broaden the scope of CBC Radio programming at the expense of classical and new music programming, why can't CBC Radio management see this?

If you have any criticisms of the above analysis, or if you are a CBC Radio executive willing to defend your decisions in a public forum, I'd like to hear from you. As I've said before, I'll publish all comments, as long as they are not derogatory, defamatory and do not use profanity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More comments from listeners on the new CBC Radio Two evening schedule

I'm not sure how I missed this - perhaps because there's no link to the "official" CBC Radio blog on the CBC Radio Two web site and, once you do find this site, the comments are spread out across various topics? - but many CBC Radio Two listeners did in fact have a chance to express an opinion on the new CBC Radio Two evening schedule, beginning March 14 (when the blog entry was posted) until April 3, when responses to this entry were closed. The blog entry is "More details about the new CBC Radio Two shows". It's rather sad that details were disseminated only through this well-hidden web site!

As you may have guessed, the opinion of most of the respondents was that the changes in the CBC Radio Two schedule were ill-conceived, implemented without proper consultation of CBC Radio Two listeners and generally a slap in the face to the loyal listeners of CBC Radio Two. Although there is a comment in the blog that CBC Radio Two executives have been reading these blog entries, has there been any public statement from CBC Radio Two executives in the media or on the CBC Radio web sites to respond to the listener dissatisfaction that is evident to all but the most obtuse? No, it seems they are completely oblivious to what is happening around them - or they are aware, but just don't care.

Monday, July 16, 2007

And the results are in ...

The Bureau of Broadcast Measurement has just released their S2 2007 Top-line market share data covering the period April 16 - June 10 2007. You can find the report here. The report provides market share data, expressed as a percentage of total hours tuned to all radio, for the radio stations in major markets: Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa/Gatineau, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. The data covers the period Monday to Sunday from 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM.

Now, this is not that useful to a member of the general public who is interested in the market share for a particular radio station in the evening, for example. However, this is the only report that is released to the public and so it will have to suffice. On the BBM web site it states that:

To become a full, voting member, you must be a radio or television broadcaster, an advertiser, advertising agency, or media buying house. Associate (non-voting) memberships are available to other interested parties, such as industry associations, consultants, government organizations, and U.S. broadcasters.

Each membership category warrants a different range of entitlements. Entitlements may include access to measured diary/meter data, software, data books, area/cell guides, population estimates, reach book, market reports, home market reports, specialty (sp) language reports, BBM newsletters, and a members-only Website.

I expect that a full member is entitled to market share data, by time period, for each radio station in each major market, thus allowing a radio station executive to determine, for example, whether his or her programming decisons (such as the recent changes to the CBC Radio Two evening schedule) have resulted in an increase or decrease in market share.

I've compared the market share data for the CBC Radio Two stations in the markets covered by this survey for S2 2007 with the same period last year (S2 2006) and found the following changes in market share:

Ottawa: down 0.6% (from a 5.2% market share to a 4.6% market share)
Toronto: down 0.6%
Montreal: down 0.4%
Winnipeg: up 0.6%
Calgary: down 1.4%
Edmonton: up 2.8%
Vancouver: up 0.6%

As I mention above, since this data covers the entire period from 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM one can not tell whether the new CBC Radio Two evening schedule is a resounding success or a dismal failure. Personally, I suspect the latter judging from the comments that I have seen on the "Petition to Restore CBC Radio Two", the "Petition to Return Classical Music to CBC Radio Two" and in the comments left on the Inside the CBC blog.

CBC Radio management has commented on the most recent market share results here, but their transparency, as usual, leaves much to be desired. I encourage CBC Radio management to publicize the market share data for the CBC Radio Two stations during the 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM and 10:00 PM to midnight time slots. If they are confident in the success of their new evening programming then they should share this market data with the public!