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.