Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CBC Radio Two contest: 49 Songs from North of the 49th Parallel

Apparently CBC Radio Two is holding a contest. This is the text of the contest announcement from the CBC Radio Two web site:

49 Songs from North of the 49th Parallel

Canadians choose 49 songs from North of the 49th parallel that defines Canada to the new President.

Beginning Monday, January 5, CBC Radio 2 invites Canadians to help select the top "49 songs from north of the 49th parallel" that would best define our country to the incoming U.S. President Barack Obama.

His playlist could definitely benefit from some Canadian content, especially given the depth of our musical offerings – spanning a wide variety of genres and representing our culture from coast to coast.

"One of the best way to know Canada is through the depth and breadth of our artistic expression," says Denise Donlon, Executive Director, CBC Radio. "We're excited about the new President and we want him to be excited about us, so we're asking our audience to help compile the list of our most definitive Canadian songs!"

After having read this announcement, I imagined the following conversation that might take place between President-elect Obama and one of his advisors during their morning workout:

Hey, Barack, did ya see this? (Advisor is reading the Chicago Tribune while on the stationary bike.) Canada is holding a contest to develop a playlist of Canadian music for you.

Say again? A playlist of Canadian songs? For me?

Yeah, CBC Radio is holding a contest to choose 49 songs that best define Canada for the incoming president. That would be you.

Why me? I already know about Canada. We have briefing papers coming out the ying-yang about Canada. And why 49 songs? What, one for every state in continental North America? Are they excluding Hawaii for some reason?

No, no, it has something to do with Canada being north of the 49th parallel.

I see. Well, it seems very odd. But why me? Why now?

Well, you know how it is. Canada has always been a little bit unsure of itself. It's always had to try to define itself by its relationship to America.

I see.

And there's always been a deep-seated anti-American aspect to the Canadian identity. It all comes from the United Empire Loyalists who flooded into Canada after the War of Independence. They were anti-American, and the trait has persisted through the generations. So Canadians often feel the need to assert their identity, often through anti-American sentiments. Remember the ad, what was it, that we saw that one time when we were in Buffalo? Remember? That beer ad? The guy in the lumberjack shirt ranting about Canada?

Oh, yeah, I remember. How very odd, and sad at the same time.

Yeah, so I suppose this contest is just another one of Canada's strange attempts to assert its identify, but they have to do it in relation to America, and to you, to let you know they exist.

Well, it still seems very strange. Why can't they celebrate their own achievements without us? Canada is a great country. They have many things to be proud of. It would be like us, trying to celebrate ourselves in relation to, say, England, or France. Can you imagine such a thing?

No, I can't, but that's Canada for you.

Yeah, I guess. (Barack ponders for a moment.) I know what the problem is. Canada has a self-esteem problem. Yes, that's it. It's all a matter of self-esteem. We can fix this! I know we can! OK, here's what I want you to do. After the inauguration, I want you to start working on a program to build up Canada's self-esteem. We'll have a Canada Appreciation Day, and we'll invite famous Canadians to the White House for a dinner. We'll invite Avril Lavigne, Jim Carrey, Margaret Atwood, Burton Cummings, Joni Mitchell, Michel Bublé, we'll have a dinner and show afterwards.

OK, I'll get some other names together.

We'll invite the Canadian Prime Minister, Harper, to Washington, first thing in January.

Well, remember, Canada's going through a bit of a political crisis right now. Harper might not be the Prime Minister after they introduce their next budget.

Right, I forgot. OK, hold off on the Harper invitation until after the situation in Ottawa becomes a bit clearer.

I think that's a good idea.

And we'll have an exhibition hockey game. We'll get all the Canadians who play on U.S. teams to play for Canada, and all our guys to play for the U.S. Shoot, we can even make it an eight game series!

I'll get right on that. I'll talk to the NHL Commissioner.

What about inviting some CFL teams to play exhibition games in border cities? Show everyone that the CFL can be more exciting than the NFL, what with all the passing that the Canadians do?

Yeah, that's an idea for next summer.

And Gretzky. Does he play ball? We can invite him over sometime.

I don't know if he plays, but I'm sure he'd give it a shot. He's a great athlete.

Good! I'm excited about this! I just know we can make a difference for Canada! Now, let's go shoot some hoops.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The death of broadcast radio

Jon Landau famously wrote in 1974 "I have seen rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." This, of course, was before Bruce Springsteen became famous outside New Jersey and the household name that he is today.

While this statement might have been a bit overdone, there's no doubt that Mr. Landau was prescient in predicting Bruce Springsteen's later impact on rock and roll. This statement was written by Mr. Landau after having seen Mr. Springsteen and the E-Street Band perform in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The performance must have been a revelation for Mr. Landau - a moment when he realized nothing would be the same, ever again, for rock and roll.

Well, I too have had my moment of revelation, when I realized that nothing would be the same, ever again. What it that, you ask, that will never be the same, ever again? Why, broadcast radio, of course.

It's becoming increasingly clear, at least to me, that broadcast radio will soon be dead, both in the sense of broadcasting to reach a wide audience and broadcasting over the AM and FM bands of the radio spectrum. I doubt that I'm the first to reach this conclusion. But it was my moment of revelation, and I insist on enjoying it while I can.

The fact that broadcasting to reach a wide radio audience will soon be dead can be seen from radio's sister medium, television. The increasing number of specialty channels on television and the trend towards program distribution over the internet signals the demise of television broadcasting. Television viewers now have the choice of specialty channels to meet every interest, with additional channels being added each year. If you doubt this, take a look at your local cable provider's lineup or what's available on the internet.

Television broadcasting, in the sense of the television signal being broadcast over the air, has long been replaced by cable television except among those die-hards who refuse to pay for cable and still have an antenna on top of their house, or rabbit ears on their TV. I expect cable will soon become the primary medium for internet access and television viewing, rather than simply for program distribution.

"Broadcast radio is still alive and kicking", you might tell me in response. Yes, but just give it time. I expect broadcast radio over the FM band to rapidly diminish in the next few years, just as AM radio gave way to FM radio. What will cause the death of broadcast radio? Internet radio. Yes, my moment of revelation came this past Christmas when I received my latest toy as a present, an internet radio.

If you've been reading this blog up until this point, you will know how enthusiastic I have been about my Sirius satellite radio. Well, I'm sorry to say, internet radio just blows satellite radio away. While my Sirius satellite radio gives me Symphony Hall, classical music 24/7, with internet radio I now have the choice of classical music from Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy - well, you get the picture. Radio from all over the world. All that you need is an 802.11b or 802.11g wireless router, an internet connection and an internet radio and you're off, never to listen to broadcast radio again.

While I don't believe internet radio is available for your vehicle yet, there have been several announcements of internet-enabled vehicles and WiMax networks to distribute the content. Just give it time.

What does this mean for CBC Radio Two? Well, the tremendous irony in all of this is that it was the CBC's decision to decimate classical programming on Radio Two that caused me to investigate satellite radio and internet radio in the first place and to become an adopter - a mid-to-late adopter in the case of satellite radio, an early adopter in the case of internet radio. Talk about driving your customer base into the arms of your competitor!

Yes, CBC Radio has hastened its own demise. Sorry, CBC Radio, but there it is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why does CBC Radio Two need an audience?

Why does CBC Radio Two need an audience?

The answer seems obvious, right? But is it so obvious?

First of all, the CBC is publicly funded. While a commercial radio station sells advertising to survive, CBC Radio is not saddled with this constraint. The CBC gets a big pot of money from the taxpayers each year to do with as they want - in Fiscal Year 2007, the CBC received $948 million in annual funding approved through Parliamentary appropriations, plus an additional $60 million for "Additional non-recurring funding for programming initiatives". So, theoretically, CBC Radio Two could have no listeners at all in Canada and still get it's share of the big pot of money.

Or could it? At some point, you would think someone - perhaps the Minister of Heritage - would sit up and take notice that the Canadian taxpayer was not getting much bang for their buck. But how low would CBC Radio Two's market share have to fall before anyone started to question the value of funding this enterprise? Would it have to fall to zero? How about one percent? Two percent? What is the cut-off point where CBC Radio Two no longer deserves to be funded by the Canadian taxpayer?

The CBC has reported, in their own press release, that CBC Radio Two's market share fell to 2.9% according to the latest BBM survey.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, as the Hon. John Crosby used to say.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comments on CBC Radio Two's broadcast of the EBU "Joy to the World" program

Although I'm presently enjoying CBC Radio Two's broadcast of the European Broadcasting Union's "Joy to the World" program, I can't help but wonder why it was necessary for CBC Radio Two to dump Mr. Howard Dyck from the program.

Peter Togni is doing a fine job at hosting this year's broadcast, and I always enjoyed Mr. Togni as a program host, going back to the time that he hosted the 6:00 AM - 9:00 AM weekday time slot currently occupied by Mr. Tom Allen.

But it seems that CBC Radio Two has been carrying out a pogrom (yes, 'pogrom') against it's most respected radio hosts. Why? Why was this necessary? There is a lot to be said for maintaining some traditions and continuity, which the CBC seems determined to destroy with a vehemence seldom seen, other than in third world dictatorships.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Schedule for CBC Radio Two broadcast of Euroradio "Joy to the World"

The schedule for CBC's broadcast of Euroradio "Joy to the World" is on the CBC web site here. Apparently there will be more detailed information on the program on the CBC blog site. The full program can also be found here on the EBU site.

The schedule, as copied from the CBC web site, is as follows:

6:00 am AUSTRIA Domkantori & Solamente Naturali

7:00 am PORTUGAL Vozes Alfonsinas Chorus European Renaissance songs

8:00 am BULGARIA Bulgarian National Radio Children's Choir

9:00 am FINLAND Helsinki Chamber Chorus Finnish and International carols

10:00 am USA Chanticleer various Christmas songs

11:00 am DENMARK Danish National Vocal Ensemble

12:00 pm CZECH REPUBLIC Collegium Marianum with Advent and Chrismas songs in the Baroque Tradition

1:00 pm NORWAY Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus

2:00 pm HUNGARY Bartok's Men's Chorus, Pecs Chamber Chorus, and UniCum laude Ensemble

3:00 pm SWEDEN Swedish Radio Chorus and Orchestra

4:00 pm POLAND Radio Chorus and Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra with Polish carols

5:00 pm CANADA Les Violons du Roy - La Chapelle de Québec

Thankfully, it appears that the CBC's contribution will not be a jazz-influenced modern mish-mash of non-traditional music, as it was last year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Found: CBC Radio's Nov. 27 Press Release

Just so that everyone doesn't write all at once, I thought I should let you know that I've found the CBC Radio news release from November 27 that was mentioned in Russell Smith's article below on the "Friends of Canadian Broadcasting" site.

Although the news release was apparently issued on Canada Newswire, I find no record of this press release on the CNW Group web site.

The mystry deepens!

Are the CBC Radio Two programming changes successful? - Part II

The following article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 18 edition of the Globe & Mail:

"Pop made your numbers go down

December 18, 2008

Well, I admit I am surprised. Even I didn't predict quite how dramatic a failure the new CBC Radio 2 would be. I expected that after the change to programming dominated by easy-listening pop, folk and blues, the number of listeners would rise. I was all prepared to argue that this didn't indicate anything of value: I was going to attack the value of numbers-based programming; I was going to argue that of course the numbers would rise if you started playing pop music instead of classical, but that numbers are not how you define the value of anything; and that an avenue of access to educated music for people living outside educated circles was still crucial to a nation's general sophistication. I would have said that if you want the greatest number of listeners, all you need to do is play the stickiest of commercial pap and then you obviate government involvement of any kind. And now I don't need to. Because the numbers have gone down.

On Nov. 27, the CBC distributed an exuberant press release boasting of the great market success of Radio One. This network, according to the fall research results released by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM), is doing just great: There are more listeners than last year for a large number of shows on Radio One.

There is a little aside down at the bottom of this triumphant report: Radio 2 is not doing as well. Overall numbers of listeners are the same as they were before the change (around 1.2 million listeners), but the market share - the percentage of people with radios who tune into your network - is down.

The executive director of CBC Radio, Denise Donlon, claims this decline was totally part of the plan. "When you change a radio station as we did with Radio 2, you have to expect a dip in listening patterns before you gain new listeners," says Donlon in the press release.

My schadenfreude knows no bounds.

But then when you think about it, it really isn't that surprising. They expected the million or so old listeners of Radio 2 to tune out. But then they expected several more million younger listeners to tune in. Why would young people do that? Young people are already used to choosing their own popular music from multiple Internet streams. They chafe at the pop playlists of others. They have mostly forgotten what radios are.

Furthermore, the new music of Radio 2 is not very young. The few boomers I know really love it. All that Neil Young - it's just like being back in college! This new network is to middle-aged guys what the Lawrence Welk show was to their parents.

But there are a whole lot of other easy-rock networks out there. And the desperately sought 18-to-39s are still AWOL, glued to their iPods.

When CBC management was trying to placate the couple of million fans of classical music it was alienating, it tried to distract them with the Internet. Look, it said, you can have as much classical music as you want, you just have to get your grandson to tell you how to hook up your computer to your car radio. Classical will be on the Internet, they said; pop will be on the radio.
But isn't that the opposite of what they should have done? If the audience for pop is a bit younger, shouldn't it be they who are more comfortable with online music and the technological know-how required to get it into their cars? Isn't an older audience more likely to listen to radio generally?

Wouldn't it be a good idea to have a CBC-funded all-pop music station completely online? It would cost very little. You could call it, say, Radio 3. (Rule one of CBC public relations: Don't mention Radio 3. Radio 3 does fine without us. We don't talk about Radio 3, got it?)

As for the remaining classical programming - the midday weekday ratings dead zone occupied by a giggling Julie Nesrallah - it's apparently not meant to target either young or old, but the teachers of elementary-school children who want to introduce their charges to the most-played music of all time. A great idea, but you could also buy one of those Favourite Classics compilations that Starbucks puts out. So I'm not surprised it's not bringing former listeners - most of whom have already heard Beethoven's Fifth and Dvorak's Ninth a few more times than they need to - back.

It's those crazy 18-to-39s the managers really want anyway. That's why the top brass of CBC Radio are pushing really commercial music on the unfortunate Tom Allen, who hosts the morning music show on Radio 2. They want to make that show the flagship. My spies tell me that the programmers of that show are not happy with the pressure coming down from on high to play more of the likes of Nelly Furtado and Jann Arden. (The pressure seems to have increased at around the same time as the appointment of a former MuchMusic and Sony Music Canada executive as head of radio.) Their point, I imagine - and I can't disagree with them - is that you can hear Nelly Furtado, indeed must hear her, in any Aldo shoe store in any mall in Canada. Why should the government pay for it?"

I'm not surprised at this turn of events - my analysis of CBC Radio Two's market share showed the same results. What surprises me, however, is that CBC Radio issued a press release in which they admitted Radio Two's loss of market share.

Now that my interest had been piqued, I began to search for CBC Radio's elusive press release. My first thought was to go to the CBC Corporate site, where CBC Press Releases are archived. Much to my surprise, there was no press release from Nov. 27 2007 listed.

I noticed that the CBC did, however, take the time to respond - to each newspaper or news organization that carried the story, no less - to the newspaper articles alleging excessive spending by Mr. Sylvain Lafrance. But no press release from Nov. 27 concerning CBC Radio Two's decline in market share.

Of course, my next step was to perform a Google search. Nothing relevant found.

I went to
PR Newswire - nothing. I searched Market Wire - nothing. I went to the Announcements page on the CBC Radio site - nothing.

Now, I don't doubt that this Press Release exists. It just seems that the CBC, having issued the Press Release, isn't proud enough of it to include it on their web sites. Nor should they be, demonstrating as it does the failure of CBC Radio's program to revamp Radio Two programming.

This illustrates a point that I have made several times in the past - the shareholders of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have no means to determine whether or not the Corporation's strategy is successful or not, unless we go to the data sources such as the BBM to attempt to determine it for ourselves. We can not rely on the CBC to tell us whether or not the strategy is successful - either they don't, or the information is not widely disseminated. And a press release such as the Nov. 27 2008 press release seems to get buried quite quickly.

The Big Lie continues.

Where is the CBC/Radio-Canada Annual Report for 2007/2008?

Idly surfing the CBC Corporate web site, I happened upon the page containing the CBC/Radio-Canada Annual Reports.

I noticed something interesting - the 2006/2007 Annual Report is archived here, but there's no report for 2007/2008.

Given the fact that the Corporation's year end appears to be March 31, I would have thought that the 2007/2008 Annual Report would have been available by now.

An inspection of the "properties" information for the 2006/2007 Annual Report .pdf file reveals that this file was created July 23 2007 and modified Oct. 17 2007, and presumably released shortly afterwards. So where is the 2007/2008 Annual Report, considering that there are only 12 days left in 2008? Will we have to wait for 2009 for the 2007/2008 Annual Report?

Does anyone out there in cyberspace have any knowledge of what's going on in the CBC to have delayed the Annual Report?

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Sound Advice" Lives On!

For all those who have missed Rick Phillips' excellent program, "Sound Advice", I recently discovered that Mr. Phillips is continuing this program on his web site, www.rickphillips.ca.

You can download programs in MP3 format and import them to your MP3 player or iPod. Of course, not everyone has a PC, internet connection or MP3 player or iPod, so Mr. Phillips program is not as accessible as it once was. But that's the 'new 2' for you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Euroradio "Joy to the World", Sunday Dec. 21 2008

CBC Audience Relations sent the following reply to my inquiry concerning CBC Radio Two's plans for broadcasting the Euroradio "Joy to the World" broadcast:

"Joy to the World" traditionally airs the Sunday before Christmas. This year, it will be heard on December 21, starting at 5:55 am. A three hour abridged presentation will be heard Christmas day at 7:00 pm.

Li Robbins also replied to my earlier post.

Thanks to both Li and CBC Audience Relations for their response!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hypocrisy reigns supreme in Ottawa

Recent reports from Ottawa suggest that Mr. Stephen Harper is planning to appoint eighteen senators before the resumption of Parliament in January. If Mr. Harper fills these Senate vacancies then indeed Mr. Harper's hypocrisy and abuse of power will know no bounds.

Mr. Harper and the Conservatives promised to implement Senate reform during the 2006 and 2008 election campaigns. In the past three years in office, Mr. Harper avoided filling Senate vacancies in accordance with this pledge. Now, Mr. Harper apparently plans to renege on these promises and fill these Senate vacancies, fearing that his government may be defeated when Parliament resumes in January.

What is even more galling is that Mr. Harper was permitted by the Governor General to prorogue Parliament without any conditions placed on the government during the interim period until Parliament resumed. Perhaps the Governor General believed the Prime Minister would behave honourably and that it was not necessary to explicitly state the conditions under which the prorogue request was granted. An honourable man would not now abuse this trust and fill the Senate with his Conservative cronies before his government is defeated. However, as Mr. Harper has demonstrated by his past actions, he is not an honourable man.

This will be my last comment on the political shenanigans taking place in Ottawa - my last comment, that is, until the next outrageous act of the Conservative government and Mr. Stephen Harper.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Euroradio "Joy to the World" and CBC Radio Two

Update: see this post for the 2008 "Joy to the World" broadcast on CBC Radio Two.

I've noticed over the past month that readers find this blog by using the search terms "Euroradio", "Joy to the World", "CBC Radio Christmas programming" or a similar combination of search terms. I counted 34 instances of such search terms, out of 160 unique search terms, over the past month. (In fact, readers found this blog using 340 unique search terms during the past month, but I got tired of counting after looking at 160 search terms.) Clearly, there's quite a lot of interest from CBC Radio Two listeners in CBC Radio Two's plans for Christmas day programming.

Yet, when you go to the CBC Radio Two site, there's nothing to be found for Christmas day programming. Under the "Concert Calendar" link for December 25 there is only a statement that the "schedule is pending". A search of the CBC site for "euroradio" results only in references to the 2007 programming (and CBC Radio Two's contribution to that program left much to be desired). This causes one to wonder what CBC Radio Two is planning for Christmas day which, after all, is only two weeks away.

So, in the spirit of public service, I sent an e-mail to ask CBC Radio Two whether the Euroradio "Joy to the World" program would be carried by CBC Radio Two this year. I sent my question on Tuesday via the "Contact Us" link and, as of today, Thursday Dec. 11, have not received a reply.

C'mon, CBC Radio Two, don't leave us in the dark! Let us know what's being planned for Christmas day! Or will CBC Radio Two be the Grinch that stole "Joy to the World" from CBC Radio Two listeners?

Contact CBC Radio Two at the "Contact Us" link if you want to know what CBC is planning for Christmas day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some comments on the current political crisis in Ottawa

During the most recent election campaign the Conservatives portrayed Stéphane Dion as an inept, bungling, dangerous candidate for Prime Minister.

Since the election, a mere seven weeks ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed to foment a political crisis on top of the economic crisis that we currently face. As it now appears likely that the Conservative government will prorogue Parliament, having obtained the consent of the Governor General, the Conservative government under Prime Minister Harper has narrowly averted a constitutional crisis. Still not satisfied with the current dismal state of affairs, Prime Minister Harper is raising the spectre of a renewed national unity debate with his continued references to 'separatists' participating in the Liberal/NDP coalition. Has Prime Minister Harper no shame? Who now is the inept, bungling, dangerous Prime Minister?

We should all bear in mind the following points when considering the political crisis that we now find ourselves in and the possible responses to this crisis:

First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper violated his own election promise to hold elections on a fixed schedule by calling the October 2008 election, citing a 'dysfunctional' Parliament as the reason for holding an election.

Second, in spite of having had over two years to win the trust of the Canadian electorate, the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper failed to gain the support of over 62% of the Canadian electorate, obtaining only 143 seats, insufficient for a majority.

Third, although Prime Minister Harper vowed to participate in a more civil Parliament, within days of opening the current session of Parliament the Conservative government introduced motions in their economic update that were mean-spirited, partisan and clearly designed to fracture any spirit of co-operation among the political parties. Furthermore, the economic update failed to provide any meaningful vision or plan for dealing with the worst economic crisis that Canada has experienced in the past fifty years.

Fourth, the other three parties in the House of Parliament represent Canadian voters and have been duly elected by over 62% of the Canadian electorate. It is their duty to attempt to form a government if a majority of the members of Parliament have lost confidence in the government.

Fifth, to deny the legitimate right of the other three parties to attempt to form a government because of their political views, no matter how much we may disagree with them, is to attack the very heart of parliamentary democracy and is the response of tyrants and demagogues.

Clearly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have lost the confidence of those who have been elected by the voters of Canada to represent them in Parliament. The Liberal/NDP coalition must now be given the opportunity to form a government. To do any less would violate the system of parliamentary democracy which has served us well for the past 141 years.

I realize, of course, that this posting has nothing to do with CBC Radio Two, but it must be said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alternatives to CBC Radio, Part II: Satellite Radio

I've been promising to write about my experience with satellite radio as an alternative to the classical music programming previously offered by CBC Radio Two. Well, I see it's been over a year since I made this promise, so I believe it's now time to talk about satellite radio in more detail.

For those of you who have tried listening to CDs, your iPod or streaming audio over the internet and have found all of these alternatives wanting, satellite radio may just be the alternative that you're looking for.

First, you will want to choose between Sirius and XM satellite radio if you're living in Canada. In the U.S., Sirius and XM have merged but it has yet to take place in Canada. Go to the Sirius or XM web sites and register for a trial subscription. You can listen to both on your PC (and I use the term "PC" here to refer to both Apple computers and non-Apple computers, although there are some anal-retentives who have been brainwashed by advertising and believe that the term "PC" refers only to personal computers which use a Microsoft OS, which is simply not true). Listen during your trial subscription and decide which is best for you.

The next step is to do as I advise, not as I did. What did I do, you may ask? I started small, going step-by-step. I should have jumped directly to my final installation, but I had to go through the learning process of each step before I found this out. You can save yourself several steps by learning from my experience. Or not.

First, I bought a satellite radio for the Sirius service, as well as a home kit. I installed the car kit (which comes with the radio) in my primary vehicle and set up the home kit with the Sirius receiver in the kitchen.

The home kit comes with a window antenna. The window antenna, as the name implies, can be installed inside the home on a window sill, or can be installed outside on the roof of the house. To install the antenna outside, you will likely need to purchase an extension cable as well as find a way to run the cable through the exterior of your home or apartment, condominium, thatched hut, cardboard box under a highway overpass, or wherever you happen to be living at the moment.

Wherever you install the antenna, it should have a clear view of the sky, the direction depending on the region of North America that you live in. In my region (North East Canada) the antenna needs to be facing West, Northwest or Southwest. I experimented with different locations for the antenna, finally settling on the interior of the house, just inside the first floor dining room window, even though the dining room window faces another two storey home and did not offer a completely unobstructed view of the sky. To improve the view of the sky I had to set the antenna on top of a step ladder.

This worked well for a time, but I would periodically lose reception. This typically seemed to occur between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. There would be sudden silence, and one was never sure whether it was a quiet segment of the piece being played or a loss of reception. Slight movement of the antenna to the left or right would often restore reception, but it was annoying to have to adjust the antenna several times a day. Also, the step ladder did not fit with the decor of the dining room. Of course, the problem was that dining room window did not offer a completely unobstructed view of the West, Northwest or Southwest. But then, if you consider your own dwelling, you will realize how difficult this may be to achieve.

I decided that a rooftop antenna was the only solution. I ordered a rooftop antenna from Dogstar Radio. There are other stores which sell the antenna, including Sirius, but the antenna was out of stock at Sirius when I needed it. Dogstar Radio had the antenna in stock, shipped it quickly and it was a hassle-free transaction. I highly recommend Dogstar Radio.

Once I had received the antenna in the mail, the next step was to install it on the roof. If you have a satellite TV mast, TV antenna or other such object on your rooftop, this should not be a problem. I, however, had nothing of the sort. You can, of course drill holes in your roof and screw the satellite radio base directly the roof or to the fascia on the roof siding, but this did not appeal to me.

Instead, I purchased a 45-degree ABS Y-coupler used for plumbing and a length of 2 inch diameter ABS pipe from Home Depot and installed the Y-coupler on the plumbing vent on the roof. I cut the 2 inch pipe to approximately 2 feet, stuck it into the smaller pipe of the "Y" and attached the antenna to the 2 inch pipe using the fittings provided with the antenna. Thus, no permanent damage was done to the roof.

I ran the cable through a vent in the roof and into the attic. Now, here's where I made another mistake. Having only one radio (in the kitchen) I decided to run the cable down through the second floor, down to the first floor kitchen where I could attach it to the radio. To do so, I had to remove one of the kitchen cabinets, drill a hole through the kitchen ceiling/second floor, run the cable under the bedroom carpeting, into a closet, then up through another hole in the bedroom ceiling and into the attic. While this wasn't a huge amount of work, as you will see later, I could have made my life much simpler.

After installing the satellite antenna, extension cable and satellite receiver in the kitchen, life was good. However, there was a problem - I had satellite radio only in the kitchen. I also wanted satellite radio in the bedroom (as do we all).

I could have purchased a cable splitter, then run another length of cable into the bedroom, but this was now becoming complicated. I discovered that there is a signal repeater system, also available from Sirius, called the "Sirius Echo". It consists of two devices - the Echo Transmitter and the Echo Antenna. The Echo Transmitter attaches to your satellite antenna, and the Echo Antenna attaches to your satellite receiver. The Echo Transmitter transmits the signal received over your antenna to the Echo Antenna attached to your receiver. You can have several Echo Antennas receiving from the same Echo Transmitter, and thus multiple satellite radio receivers spread throughout the house. So I ordered an Echo Transmitter (which comes with an Echo Antenna) and another Echo Antenna from my friends at Dogstar radio.

I set up the Echo Transmitter in the bedroom closet, although I could have just as easily set up the Echo Transmitter in the attic, and avoided the hassle of running the cable down into the second floor bedroom. I placed the first Echo Antenna in the kitchen, next to the satellite receiver, and the second Echo Antenna in the bedroom, next to my second satellite receiver.

The cable running down from the second floor bedroom into the kitchen now became unnecessary, since I had wireless transmission from the bedroom to the kitchen.

You can see now what I should have done from the beginning:

- decide how many satellite radios you wish to install in your abode

- install a rooftop antenna from the beginning

- purchase an Echo Transmitter and install it in central location, easily reached by the rooftop antenna. In my case this would have meant installing the Echo Transmitter in the attic, and avoiding all of the cable installations.

- purchase as many additional Echo Antennas as you need and install them throughout your abode

I installed all of this over a year ago - in September 2007, to be precise - and it has worked flawlessly since then. I highly recommend this set-up.

It should not need to be said, but I'll say it anyway: I have no relationship whatsoever with Sirius Satellite Radio, XM Satellite Radio or Dogstar Radio. I'm just a satisfied customer, of Sirius and Dogstar, at least. I never tried XM Satellite Radio, although I'm sure the service is just as satisfactory as Sirius. When organizations, products or services perform well, they should be praised and publicized. And when organizations (such as CBC Radio), products or services not live up to expectations, they should be castigated.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How did we almost miss this?

The above article appeared in Thursday's Globe and Mail. I've reproduced the text below:

"The new Minister of Canadian Heritage is warning CBC executives to rein in their expenses after reports of heavy spending on theatre tickets, meals and travel.

James Moore has written to the public broadcaster in response to a news story detailing lavish spending by Sylvain Lafrance, executive vice-president for French services.

"I am sure that you are sensitive to the fact that, at a time of fiscal restraint when Canadians are struggling to maintain their jobs and savings, this sort of reported excess does not sit well with them," Mr. Moore wrote in a letter released yesterday to the media.

Reports this week detailed how Mr. Lafrance signed off on almost $80,000 in 2006, including $28,000 on hotels, travel and meals."

I find this interesting not in the spirit of schadenfreude, but for another reason. I conclude from this report - perhaps overly optimistically - that the new Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mr. James Moore, is willing to exercise his duty to oversee the CBC and is willing to remind the CBC executives that, as a Crown Corporation, they are ultimately responsible to the Minister.

Bravo, Mr. Moore! Now, if only the CBC executives could also be reminded that they are also responsible to the shareholders of the CBC, the taxpayers of Canada, namely, you and me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just who reads this blog, anyway?

If you're wondering who reads this blog, I have some information to share with you. Through the miracle of Google Analytics, I have been tracking readership of this blog since its inception on April 28, 2007. Now, never fear, Google Analytics does not allow one to trace readership of this blog to an individual or a specific computer, but it can show where the blog reader happens to be at the time of reading. And this can be quite interesting indeed.

Since April 28, 2007, this blog has been visited 6,058 times, with a total of 10,799 page views. Not hundreds of thousands of visits, as I might have hoped for, but still encouraging. The average time spent on the site is 2 minutes, 15 seconds, probably long enough to read one or two pages and move on. Well, actually 1.78 pages, since this is the average number of pages visited per visit.

Had enough? Well, if not, then I find it interesting that this site has been visited 186 times by readers from the CBC - yes, the dear old Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Average time on the site by readers from the CBC is 1 minute 9 seconds, with an average of 1.95 pages visited. Readers from the CBC must read faster than average, or else they're just skimming. 65.59% of the visits from the CBC are new visits, meaning either that this blog has somewhat wide readership within the CBC, or else it's the same person hopping from computer to computer.

Twenty visits came from the House of Commons, although they've done a good job of ignoring me until this point, with some notable exceptions. Four visits came from the Privy Council Office. Two visits from Industry Canada. Someone in the government has an interest in the fate of CBC Radio Two, or just idly surfing?

Readers from the Globe and Mail (not readers of the Globe and Mail, but readers from the Globe and Mail, the company) have accounted for nine visits. The Toronto Star, not to be outdone, has visited three times. And a reader (or readers) from the New York Times have visited five times, no less! When will I see an article in the NY Times about the continuing controversy over CBC Radio Two in the Great White North?

Someone from Canwest Global Communications has visited six times, and someone from CTV two times. Probably just commiserating with their radio colleagues.

Someone from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement has visited three times, but has spent only an average of 16 seconds on the site. I assume just checking up on references to the BBM on the internet.

Interesting, no? (Well, I at least find it interesting

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CBC Radio One - how mediocre can it get?

While the topic of this blog has been CBC Radio Two, the programming changes which have been taking place over the past year and a half and my interactions with CBC management and Members of Parliament over these changes, I feel I also have to comment on CBC Radio One at this point.

I've been listening to CBC Radio One from 8:00 AM to, at times, 6:00 PM while refinishing some kitchen cabinets for the past three weeks. Why CBC Radio One? Well, as you may know from reading other entries on this blog, I find CBC Radio Two intolerable, with the exception of Julie Nesrallah's show, Tempo. And, sad to say, I can not afford to put a Sirius satellite radio in every room of the house, including my basement workshop where I'm doing most of the work.

I begin the day with 'Ottawa Morning' and its perky host, Kathleen Petty. I find it a generally interesting and informative program, well worth listening to.

Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. 'The Current' (with Anna Maria Tremonti) has its moments, but at times it can be silly and downright embarrassing. Take today's post-election coverage - do we really need to hear the views of drunks in bars in Chicago on the Obama election? There was also a segment in which a CBC reporter telephoned various people to get their views on the Obama win. At one point the reporter woke up a McCain supporter in California to interview her, and played the entire conversation, apparently uncut, including her poor husband telling us that the woman was asleep. Do we need to hear this?

I find 'Q' an increasingly vacuous, vapid, mindless attempt at entertainment. Do I really care about Axl Rose's upcoming CD, 'Chinese Democracy'? Do I want to hear the latest CD from AC/DC? The answer is, I believe, 'no' to both. And who is this Mino (Mimo? Nemo? Super Mario?) guy that Jian features on 'Q' from time to time? Do I give a damn about his opinions on anything whatsoever? Once again, no.

'The Point' I find rather pointless - sorry to make the obvious bad joke. Take the interview with the author of a book about rowing across the Atlantic ocean that was featured last week on either 'Ottawa Morning' or 'The Current'. While this was an interesting interview, the topic of rowing across the Atlantic was held up for ridicule on 'The Point'. Could someone please tell me what was the point of that, and why it's entertaining?

I'm sorry to say that CBC Radio is becoming a waste of radio spectrum. But you probably know this already, if you're reading this blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Are the CBC Radio Two programming changes successful?

So, you may be wondering, have the programming changes that the CBC implemented on Sept. 2, 2008 been successful? What is their definition of success, anyway?

Well, in numerous statements to the press and to concerned citizens, CBC management has stated that the programming changes introduced on March 19, 2007 (the cancellation of 'Music for a while', 'In Performance', the 'Arts Report' and the 'World at Six' news broadcast on CBC Radio Two) and on Sept. 2 2008 (too numerous to list here) were intended to make CBC Radio Two more relevant to Canadians and to attract a wider, 'more sustainable' audience. CBC have thus defined one of the criteria upon which they are to be judged: number of listeners. Ergo, an increased number of listeners means success, a decreased number of listeners means failure. Dismal, abject failure. Has the CBC been successful, according to this criteria?

For an outsider, it's hard to tell. One source of data is the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, which makes 'Top Line Radio Statistics' available on their web site. What are 'Top Line Radio Statistics', you ask?

The BBM 'Top Line Radio Statistics' is a list of the radio stations in a given market (called the 'Central Market Area' by the BBM) and the number of listeners who have tuned into that radio station 'for at least one quarter hour during the week'. The time period that the BBM releases to the public is Monday - Sunday, 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM. So, if you tuned into a given radio station sometime during the day, on any day of the week, you could be counted by the BBM as having listened to the station.

I realize this data is not sufficiently detailed enough to draw many conclusions, but it's all we poor plebes have. Has Tom Allen's new show, from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, drawn more listeners, for example? Is Rich Terfry's new show, 'Drive', a roaring success? We listeners don't know. We have to rely on the CBC to tell us.

But we can start to draw some conclusions, even with the limited data that we have. Did CBC increase their audience after the March 19, 2007 programming changes? The BBM stats can give us some indication. The BBM Top Line data is now available for the third survey period in 2008, which includes July 7-20 and August 4-31. The second set of CBC programming changes, of course, took place on Sept. 2 2008, so are not covered by this survey. It will be interesting to take a look at the S4 2008 data once it's available.

Let's take a look at each major CBC market, starting with Ottawa, which I have a particular fondness for. The BBM Top Line data is available here, but I have put this data into the form of a graph to make it easier to digest. What are the results? Well, as it turns out, CBC Radio Two has lost 13,300 listeners in the Ottawa market, comparing pre-change listenership (before March 19, 2007, using S1 2007 as the last data point) to post-change listenership (using S3 2008 as the final data point), or approximately 20.8%. Not surprising, given the crap that is being played on CBC Radio Two these days.

"But", you may be saying to yourself, "if the total number of radio listeners in the Ottawa market is down, then it would make sense that CBC Radio Two listenership is down, wouldn't it?".

Yes, that is very true. However, as no doubt your investment advisor is telling you right now, if your mutual fund's value has declined, but less than the overall market, then that's a Good Thing. If your mutual fund's value has declined more that the overall market, then that's a Bad Thing. And what happened to the radio market in Ottawa during this period? It declined 4.5%, making the 20.8% decline in listenership for the CBC Radio 2 station in Ottawa a Very Bad Thing indeed.

How about Toronto:

Listenership for CBC Radio Two in Toronto decreased 29,100, or 14.0%. The total market in Toronto is down 2.6%. Bad Thing for CBC Radio Two.

Vancouver? Listenership decreased 49,100, or 21.4%. (Vancouver is a noted hotbed for CBC Radio Two listnership. It must be the Jurgen Goethe connection.) The total market was down 1.6%. Bad Thing for CBC Radio Two.

Montreal? Listenership is down 16,400, or 32.6%. The total market is down 9.7%. Bad Thing for CBC Radio Two.

Winnipeg? Listenership is up 3,100, or 8.3%. The total market is also up 4.8%. Good Thing for CBC Radio Two. (What's going on in Winnipeg, you might wonder? A bad mosquito season kept everyone indoors this summer, listening to the radio?)

Calgary? Listenership for CBC Radio Two is down 9,100, or 13.9%. The total market is down 5.5%. Bad Thing for CBC Radio Two.

Edmonton? Listenership for CBC Radio Two is down 19,200, or 34.2%. The total market is down 1.3%. Very Bad Thing for CBC Radio Two.

So, success, or dismal, abject failure? If you are from Winnipeg, as Mr. Chris Boyce is, you might call this a success. However, if you live in any of the other urban centres surveyed by the BBM, you might consider the CBC programming changes a dismal, abject failure.

As I mention above, the stats are available on the BBM web site. You don't have to take my word for it - look at the data yourself. As Mr. John Gordon used to say, "let the numbers speak".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scenes from a protest: CBC Radio 2 Protest, April 11, 2008

OK, I know it's been six months since the nation-wide CBC Radio Two protests that were held on April 11, 2008 and that I've been remiss in not sharing this video earlier. But what can I say? I've been busy with other things; namely, work, travel, home renovations and just generally trying to keep my head above water.

Now that the protests over the 'new 2' seem to have died down and the election and corresponding controversy surrounding the plans of the Harper government to cut funding to the arts is over, I thought it would be appropriate to remember that we can still get out in the streets and protest.

On this cold, snowy, early winter day we can remember another cold, rainy, late spring day in the Nation's Capital when Canadians marched in the streets to protest the high-handed actions of CBC Radio management.

I took this video at about 12:30 PM. By this time the crowd had thinned out since it was raining and quite cold - too cold to be staying out too long on the Sparks Street Mall. And I assume people had offices to go back to, lunch to eat, kids to be fed.

Note the police car early on in the video. Yes, the police were present for this protest! What did the CBC think was going to happen - raging grannies, moms and dads, music students, lovers of classical music were going to storm the gates of the CBC?

Friday, October 10, 2008

This just in! Responses from all four candidates in Carleton-Mississippi Mills!

Just as I was beginning to lose hope of ever receiving an answer to my question, I received my copy of the Kanata Kourier-Standard, a community newspaper serving the community of Kanata, this afternoon. I had also sent the same question to the Kourier-Standard on Sept. 24 since the newspaper was soliciting questions from Kanata residents, to be submitted and answered by the candidates in Carleton-Mississippi Mills. And, wondrous to behold, my question had been submitted to the candidates and the candidates responded!

The question as printed by the Kanata Kourier-Standard, read as follows:

"There has been considerable controversy in recent months concerning the recent programming changes on CBC Radio 2. Could you please tell the voters of Carleton-Mississippi Mills what you intend to do, if elected, to ensure that CBC management is made more responsive to the wishes of it's audience, the Canadian taxpayer."

The responses were as follows. First, from the incumbent, Mr. Gordon O'Connor, of the Conservative Party:

"The government finances the CBC each year, but we don't tell the CBC what to broadcast. They are bound by CRTC rules and we will not interfere with what they broadcast."

Well, this was the kind of answer I expected from Mr. O'Connor. Short, succinct, rather arrogant, and obviously neither he nor his staff has made any attempt to understand the issue or why Canadians are so angry at the CBC. I would expect Mr. O'Connor to be defeated in the next election, were it not for the strong support he receives from the rural residents of this riding. Mr. O'Connor gets an F, a failing grade, for this response.

From Mr. Jake Cole, of the Green Party:

"Our principle is grassroots democracy; Canadians should have a say in what affects them. Any changes should reflect what people want."

This is considerably better than Mr. O'Connor's response, although Mr. Cole does not state what he would do. However, I give Mr. Cole a B+ for this response, for having the right attitude. It is not surprising that the Greens have come from nearly nowhere to become a serious contender in some ridings.

From Mr. Paul Arbour, of the NDP:

"Our government has acted in the past through an order council to change the practises of Canada Post because they weren't serving the Canadian public and I am prepared to move an order in council, if necessary, so that the CBC can continue to serve Canadians."

Much better. I don't know if what Mr. Arbour says is correct; i.e. an order in council can be used to change the CBC, but I give Mr. Arbour full marks for having the right attitude and being prepared to act. Mr. Arbour receives an A-.

And finally, from Mr. Justin MacKinnon of the Liberal Party:

"The CBC is a Canadian institution and they have to respond to the needs of the country. You have to give them some flexibility, but if they are ignoring the wishes of Canadians, I would stand up and address that."

Well done, Mr. MacKinnon. You get full marks for having the right attitude, although your response is lacking specificity. Consequently, Mr. MacKinnon also receives an A-.

I note that three of the candidates did not feel it necessary to answer my e-mail as well, and were only moved to answer the question since it has been posed to them by the Kanata Kourier-Standard. However, I realize that they are all busy and forgive them for this lapse. Mr. Arbour gets full marks for courtesy, having answered my question in an e-mail that he sent to me, with substantially the same response as appeared in the newspaper.

How would I have answered this question? This is my response, assuming that I had sent the answer directly to the sender:

Dear Mr. Wooten,

Thank you for your e-mail. It is always a pleasure to receive e-mails from the voters in Carleton-Mississippi Mills and to be able to address the issues that are of concern to the constituents of Carleton-Mississippi Mills.

I agree with you that the CBC has acted in a precipitous manner in instituting the programming changes on CBC Radio 2. While they have not violated the letter of the Broadcasting Act, 1991, or their license as granted by the CRTC, I believe they have certainly ignored the CBC Radio 2 audience in implementing these changes and have therefore violated the spirit of the Act and their license. At this moment, however, the programming changes have been implemented and it would be disruptive to reverse them.

If elected, therefore, I would work to implement the following actions:

  • The CBC would be required to report on the success (or lack thereof) of their initiative by displaying audience share statistics, according to time slot, comparing audience share for programs available before the changes and after the changes on the CBC web site for all to view. The audience share statistics that are presented would be those available from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, an independent firm. This market share data will also be included, by time slot, in the Corporations annual report.

  • The CBC would be required to establish a Listener's Council, one each for CBC Radio 1 and CBC Radio 2, to participate in the strategic decisions of the Corporation. The Listener's Council would be made up of volunteers from the CBC audience, cultural organizations and performers. The Council members would be remunerated for expenses only, as this is a volunteer position. Volunteers would be appointed from a list of applicants by the Minister of Heritage's office.

  • The CBC would be required to display all comments from CBC listeners, screened only to remove those comments that include profanity, racial slurs or irrelevant comments, on the CBC web site for each program.

  • The CBC would be required to apply for funding each fiscal year, using a zero-based budgeting approach.

I believe these actions, if implemented, would result in a CBC that is more responsive to Canadians and an institution that we, as taxpayers, could once again be proud of.

The CBC would be given a suitable period - I suggest a year - to show that the programming changes have in fact revitalized CBC Radio 2 and have resulted in a larger, sustainable audience. If the market share data does not show this, then the CBC would be directed by the Minister of Heritage to review the programming to ensure that the interests of Canadians are better met. This could, of course, also include a return to the programming that had previously existed on CBC Radio 2.

I thank you for your support and look forward to serving as your Member of Parliament in the next House.


etc., etc.

Now, that wasn't difficult at all, was it? I whipped that off in - let's see - under ten minutes? Why couldn't all of the candidates have done the same?

Oh well, perhaps I'll run in the next election - which I predict will be in another two years time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

7 Days Later: Only the NDP has responded

Seven days have passed since I sent my original question to the candidates in Carleton-Mississippi, Mr. Gordon O'Connor (Conservative), Mr. Justin MacKinnon (Liberal), Mr. Paul Arbour (NDP) and Mr. Jake Cole (Green). Only Mr. Arbour replied to my question, for which I thank Mr. Arbour.

I'll continue the conversation between Bob and Ted from the other day:

"So, Ted, how's the response to that Wooten guy coming?"

"Still working on it, Bob."

"There's only one work day left before the election, Ted. Think you'll get it finished before the weekend?"

"Yeah, no problem. But it's a bit more involved that I thought at first."

"Oh, yeah? How so?"

"Well, I've been digging into the history behind the CBC programming changes a bit. Seems this has been going on longer than we thought. It seems the first programming changes went back all the way to the summer of 2006. The CBC first replaced the Friday evening time slot of "In Performance", which had been all classical music before then, with a version of the current "Canada Live". At first, everyone thought this was just a summertime replacement for "In Performance" on Friday evenings - you know, to give the host, Eric Friesen, a bit of a break. But come September, "In Performance" did not come back to the Friday evening time slot and "Canada Live" was there permanently."

"Didn't the CBC announce this programming change?"

"Not as far as I can tell. It seems they tried to slip it in, under the radar so to speak, hoping no one would notice."

"So it was a bit of a trial balloon. To see if any one complained."

"Yeah, it seems so. Probably people noticed, of course, but maybe very few complained. After all, it was just one evening out of five. Perhaps they thought it was only for the summer at first and then, when they realized it wasn't, just decided to live with it."

"So what happened next?"

"Well, then, things went on as before. Then, in March 2007, CBC went whole hog and replaced 'Music for a while' with a jazz program, 'Tonic', and the remaining four evenings of 'In Performance' with 'Canada Live'. They also cut the evening newscast, 'The World at Six', from thirty minutes to five minutes and cut the 'Arts Report' out of the morning broadcast."

"Did the CBC announce these changes beforehand?"

"They did, sort of. A few weeks before the changes the announcers of the programs that were being cut had to announce that they wouldn't be there after March 19 and that there would be new programs."

"That's a bit cruel for the program hosts, isn't it? Having to announce your own cancellation?"

"Yeah, I guess it was."

"And no big press releases? No announcements on the CBC web site? No big hoop-lah to announce a major shift in strategy?"

"Nope, nothing, nada, nicht, zip, zero. Tried to fly it in under the radar."

"You've got to admit they're smart. Learned a thing or two from the government. Release bad news on a Friday afternoon, before a long weekend, in the hope that no one notices it or that it gets minimal coverage from the press. Better than the stealth bomber for flying in under the radar."

"Yeah, but in this case people did notice. Petitions were started, a few newspaper articles got written, this Wooten guy started his blog. But once again, the CBC got away with it."

"Then this Sept. 2 thing happened?"

"No, this time the CBC announced their changes well in advance, early in 2008. They also announced that the CBC Radio Orchestra was being disbanded. That's when the shit really hit the fan."

"How so?"

"Well, this time people really sat up and took notice. The evening schedule for classical music had already been decimated, but now classical music was being canceled during the daytime schedule. Classical music was going to be relegated to the 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM ghetto. The morning and evening time slots were given over to more contemporary music - supposedly, to showcase Canadian artists that were not being heard elsewhere."

"Interesting. Was there any evidence that Canadians actually wanted to hear 'Canadian artists that were not being heard elsewhere'?"

"CBC points to an 'Arts and Culture' survey that they say they did that supports these changes, but refuse to release it."

"Interesting. Sounds like the technique of the 'big lie'. It reminds me of the prelude to the second World War - no one objected when Herr Hitler annexed Austria - "it's only Austria, and after all, they're both German-speaking countries" government leaders in Europe said. And when Germany invaded the Czechs, everyone thought that Herr Hitler would be satisfied. But when Germany invaded Poland, then, people took notice. But by then it was too late."

"That's a little extreme, isn't it Bob? Comparing the CBC to the Nazis?"

"I'm not comparing the CBC to the Nazis, not at all. There's no comparison at all, of course. It's just the technique seems similar - take a small bite, see if any one notices, take another bite, see how much you can get away with, then take it all."

"Well, I agree, as an exercise in change management it was either an extremely poorly executed example of how to implement change in a large organization. Or else is was extremely devious, and extremely well done."

"So which was it?"

"The former, I think. You remember, I worked as a consultant in change management before taking this job."

"Was that your uncle, the candidate's company?"

"No, that was my other uncle, on my mother's side."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot."

"Well, getting back to the CBC. People did take notice, and they did object. There was a national day of protest on April 11. CBC listeners protested in most of the major cities in Canada - there's a Facebook group devoted to the protest. Can you imagine! Raging grannies on the streets of Canadian cities! But, in fact, it wasn't just grannies out protesting. It was students, the middle-aged, moms and dads with their kids, as well as the older folks, as you might expect."

"Come to think of it, I remember being on the Sparks Street mall last winter and seeing a crowd protesting outside the CBC building. But it was raining hard at the time - a combination of rain and sleet - so I didn't stick around."

"Remarkable, isn't it, that Canadians would feel so strongly about anything that they would get out into the streets and protest? Well, that wasn't the last of it. The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage got involved and held a special hearing on the CBC changes."

"No kidding? I must've missed that one. What happened?"

"As you might expect, there was a fair amount of blustering questions by the MPs, evasive, self-important, self-congratulatory answers from CBC management, a few non-sequiturs from some of the other MPs, and finally the whole thing just petered out. I saw the broadcast on the web. That Wooten guy also did a synopsis of the hearing, but of course his view is a bit biased."

"So what's the situation now?"

"It seems both sides have retreated into their corners. The listeners have done all they could but no one has taken up their cause. The CBC has bulldozed ahead with their master plan to change the face of public broadcasting in Canada."

"And is it working?"

"That's just the thing! Is it working? How do we know? The only way we could tell if it's working or not is by looking at audience market share, both before and after the programming changes. And market share data isn't available to you or me - it's only available to the broadcasters themselves, such as CBC."

"Sweet. Makes it easier to maintain the 'big lie'. You can claim your strategy is successful, because only you have access to the data to show that it is, or is not. And your competitors aren't going to challenge you - they don't necessarily care to make it known that the CBC's strategy isn't successful. After all, it's in their best interests to see CBC's audience share decline."

"I think you're the one that's been reading too many thrillers now, Bob."

"Maybe. Anyway, I'm impressed, Ted. You've been doing your homework."

"Well, you know, you can only get so far on nepotism alone."

"Right you are Ted."

6 Days Later: Conservatives, Liberals and Greens still silent in Carleton-Mississippi Mills

Six work days have elapsed (Oct. 1 - 3, Oct. 6-8) since I sent my question to the candidates in the riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills to ask the candidates to explain their policy on the recent programming changes on CBC Radio Two and, more importantly, how they would reign in a Crown Corporation that no longer listens to the wishes of it's owners, the Canadian taxpayer.

Only Mr. Paul Arbour, the NDP candidate in Carleton-Mississippi Mills, has responded so far. I'll keep readers of this blog posted on responses that I receive - but with only two days left before the election (today, Thursday Oct. 9, and tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 10) I'm not optimistic that there will be any responses. (I'm assuming that the candidates and their staff will take the weekend off for Thanksgiving. If they're not planning to, they should.)

Bob and Ted were out distributing leaflets door-to-door yesterday, but will continue their conversation later today.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

5 Days Later: A response from the NDP, still no responses from the Conservatives, Liberals or Greens

Shortly after I posted yesterday's blog entry, Mr. Paul Arbour, the NDP candidate in Carleton-Mississippi Mills, sent a reply to the question I sent concerning each candidate's position on the recent programming changes on CBC Radio Two. Bravo, Mr. Arbour! Now, I still have to receive responses from Mr. Gordon O'Connor (Conservative party), Mr. Justin MacKinnon (Liberal party) and Mr. Jake Cole (Green party).

I have not posted Mr. Arbour's reply here since he did not explicitly give me permission to do so. I will post it if Mr. Arbour sends me another e-mail giving his permission.

I'll continue my imaginary discussion between Bob and Ted, two members of one of the campaign staffs, from yesterday. In case there are some who have not realized this yet, Bob and Ted are fictional characters. Any resemblance to any persons, either living, dead, or CBC management, is purely coincidental. However, at least we know now that they're not NDPers.

"So, Bob, how's the wife these days?"

"Carol's fine, Ted. How's Alice?"

"Good, good. Carol's still home with the kids?"

"Yeah, that's right. Bobby's four and Britney's three."

"Must be tough to be at home all day with two pre-schoolers."

"Yeah, it is. I couldn't take it. Carol claimed that listening to CBC Radio Two kept her sane. That was, at least, until CBC made their changes to the daytime programming on September 2nd."

"So what did she do?"

"Well, she tried listening to the 'new 2' for a while, but the new programming drove her up the wall. She told me that if she wanted to listen to middle of the road crap, she could tune to any of the other commercial radio stations that are out there."

"So that's where you got that 'middle of the road crap' statement."

"Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, I told her to listen to CDs instead. She tried that, but she said she was constantly having to go back to the CD player to put on another CD and, anyway, it didn't seem spontaneous, having to select your own CDs and make up your own playlist. And then Bobby put and end to that."

"What did he do?"

"Put apple sauce in the CD player and pushed 'play'. He'd heard us talking about the Apple iPod, Apple iPhone, Apple iTouch so much that he thought apple sauce might have some innate musical qualities."

"Must take after you. So why didn't Carol listen to streaming audio on the internet instead? CBC says they're playing just as much classical music over the internet now as they used to play over the air."

"Well, that's fine for you and me who are tied to our desks most of the day and glued to our PCs. But Carol, she's running all over the house. She's not near the PC that often. And we can't put a PC in every room."

"I guess not. So what's she doing now?"

"Well, the whole thing finally came to a head one day when I came home and she greeted me at the door with a bottle of Wild Turkey in her hand."

"Jeez, no! She didn't start drinking home alone with the kids?"

"No, of course not! She was just waiting for me to get home so that I could look after the kids. Then, she poured herself a drink."

"What about her parents? I thought they lived nearby."

"Yes, they do, and they're pissed off at CBC too for changing the programming. Vern, as you may remember, used to be a minister and wouldn't normally even say the words 'pissed off', but he's royally pissed at CBC right now."

"No, no, I'm not talking about the CBC, I mean, don't they help out with the kids from time to time."

"Well, sure, they used to, but since Vern retired they've been hard to pin down. They're either at the cottage, driving to or from the cottage, or on vacation somewhere. Just this summer Vern and Martha drove out to Vancouver. Then, when they came back, they went out to St. John's for a couple of weeks. Vern described it as 'listening to CBC Radio Two, coast to coast'.

"So, they're big CBC Radio Two fans too, huh? Must run in the family."

"Well, they used to be Radio Two fans. CBC Radio Two was always a big part of their daily lives - they always had a radio going on in the house, tuned to Radio Two. Until, that is, CBC replaced 'Music for a While' and 'In Peformance' with 'Tonic' and 'Canada Live'."

"What, that happened sometime back in 2007, didn't it? In March or April of 2007? I've been reading this guy Wooten's blog, and he's been harping on this ever since then."

"Yeah, that's right, Vern first mentioned it sometime in the spring last year. This summer, he finally got so irritated by the crap (as he puts it) that they feature on 'Canada Live' that he threw the radio into the lake from the cottage porch. And that took some throw - must've been 30 yards or so. He used to QB his high school football team, y'know."

"Well, that's impressive for an old guy."

"Yeah, and the even more impressive thing is that he spent the whole next day diving to find the radio. Martha said she didn't want the radio polluting the lake, because of all the lead and whatnot in the radio."

"So what are you going to do about Carol. Wild Turkey is no replacement for CBC Radio Two."

"Well, problem solved. I went out the next day and bought her three Sirius satellite radio receivers and put one on every floor of the house. Now, she can have Classical music from 'Symphony Hall' or Opera from 'Met Opera Radio' 24/7."

"It's a bit expensive, isn't it, to have a subscription for three receivers, not to mention the three receivers in the house?"

"Well, yeah, it's not as cheap as having a $29.95 radio in every room of the house and receiving music for free over the air. That's one of the things that bugs Carol and me so much - now we have to pay twice - we support CBC Radio with our tax dollars, but don't use their service, and have to pay for satellite radio."

"CBC is one of the owners of Sirius, isn't it? Maybe the programming changes were a clever plot to promote Sirius satellite radio subscriptions."

"I think you've been reading too much Grisham, Ted. But I'll look into it once I'm an ADM."

Monday, October 6, 2008

4 Days Later: Still no response from the candidates in Carleton-Mississippi Mills

It has now been four days since I sent my question asking the candidates in the riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills their policy on the recent programming changes on CBC Radio Two, without having received a response from any of them.

As I stated in my original question: I realize that some may think this is a small issue, but it has affected the lives of many people, more so than many of the other issues that preoccupy politicians and candidates for the riding. As such, it deserves some thought and response since, if the incumbent or candidates can not address this issue, then why should we vote for them? And, as I mentioned in my Sept. 10 2008 blog entry, we should hold the Conservatives responsible for these changes since the changed occurred during their minority govenment, even if the changes were carried out by CBC management with no direct involvement of the Parliament, Minister of Heritage or minority government.

I continue to speculate on what could be going on in the various candidates offices. I imagine a scene such as the following in one of the candidate's offices:

"So, Ted, you haven't forgotten about that question from that Wooten fellow, have you?"

"No, Bob, I haven't. I've just been so busy on our Afghanistan policy. Then, after that, I've got to work on our South Waziristan policy, our policy on trade relations with Kazakhstan and Uzbehkistan - all these 'stans are killing me, man."

Ted starts singing softly to himself: "Make a new plan, Stan. No need to be coy, Josée, don't listen to CBC! Hop on the campaign bus, Gus. No need to discuss much! Just drop the writ, Steve, and get yourself free!" Ted chuckles silently to himself over his wit.

"Where did you get that, Ted?"

"Just a bit of classical music from the '70s that I heard on the 'new 2'. I've been doing some research for my response to that Wooten guy. I'm not, like, totally ignorant, y'know."

"Ted, you're a living example of the point I was trying to make the other day concerning the value of Classical music on the old CBC Radio Two."

"Whatever, Bob" (Ted rolls his eyes.) "Speaking of points, I didn't get the point you were trying to make the other day about parliamentary and government oversight of the CBC. Surely, as a Crown Corporation, the Parliament and Minister should have no influence over the day-to-day operations of the CBC, right? The CBC should be completely independent of government influence, right? If it wasn't, well, the government of the day could influence the CBC in inappropriate ways - for example, to support it's own policies. Right?"

"Right you are Ted. The CBC should be independent of government influence. We're not going to give them, for example, playlists and tell them to play this or that. But we shouldn't treat them as a sacred cow, either, and adopt a completely hands-off policy. As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, the CBC should serve a public need that is not met by other, commercial organizations, much as other public institutions do - libaries, or the Museum of Civilization, or the National Gallery. The CBC should fill a role that commercial radio does not - not to just simply become another commercial radio station wanna-be, playing the same middle of the road crap that commercial radio stations play."

"Well, Bob, your 'middle of the road crap' is someone else's music, music they happen to enjoy."

"Yes, I'm not denying that, it's just that Canadians already have a wide range of commercial radio stations that play middle of the road crap to choose from. The CBC doesn't have to join them."

"So what are you suggesting, Bob."

"OK, it's this. The CBC has made their choice. There's not much we can do about it now. But, the fact is, they have stated that they have made these programming changes to boost their share of the radio audience. So it's clear that the success or failure of their changes should be measured by the audience share that they get. And it should be the responsibility of the government and Parliament to monitor their success or failure. After all, this is just good governance - you want to see some sort of return on your investment, in this case, the taxpayer's dollars. If there's no return, then what's the point? You might as well cut them loose and use the money somewhere else."

"Bob, you shock the hell out of me! Are you suggesting that the CBC should be privatized? That's what you mean by 'cut them loose', isn't it?"

"Well, no, not really. I'd hope that if this latest venture by the CBC isn't successful, we can redirect management back to what was previously successful; i.e. providing an alternative to commercial radio that features classical music."

"Yeah, right, as if that's ever going to happen. I'll see the Rhinos in office before that's going to happen. Whatever happened to the Rhinos, by the way."

"Merged with Reform. But the point is, Parliament and the government should be monitoring the impact that the CBC programming changes have had on their market share. And, as far as I know, no one is doing this."

"And just how to you propose to do this, Bob?"

"Simple. Market share data is available from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. Just compare maket share before the programming changes, for specific time slots, against market share after the programming changes for the same time slot. An increase in market share is success, a decrease is failure. Simple, no?"

"Do you want to be an ADM, Bob?"

"Sure, Ted. But let's get this election over with first, though."