Friday, December 17, 2010

"Joy to the World" program schedule for Dec. 19 2010

One of the most popular programs on CBC Radio 2 seems to be the annual “Joy to the World” program of choral music presented by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

This year the “Joy to the World” program will be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 19, beginning at 9:05 AM. I found this courtesy of Li Robbin’s post on the CBC web site. The schedule for this year’s program is as follows:

Sunday, Dec. 19 2010
9:05 (9:35 NT) - Helsinki - Lahti Brass Quintet, organ, soprano
10:00 (10:30 NT) - Oslo - Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
11:00 (11:30 NT) - London - BBC Singers, organ
12:00 (12:30 NT) - Prague - Ensemble 18 in 18th-century seasonal music
13:00 (13:30 NT) - Reykjavik - Icelandic Music Old and New
14:00 (14:30 NT) - News (runs 4 min, 30 sec.)
14:05 (14:35 NT) - Frankfurt - Frankfurt Radio Big Band: "Swinging Christmas"
15:00 (15:30 NT) - Graz - Graz University Chamber Choir
16:00 (16:30 NT) - Madrid - RTVE Chorus: Carols from Spain and the New World
17:00 (17:30 NT) - Montreal - Orchestre Symphonique Montreal; Montreal Children's Chorus; Susan Graham; Kent Nagano, conductor

The remainder of the holiday programming schedule is:

Friday, Dec. 24 2010
6:00 pm - 6:54 pm - Being Jann's Christmas with Jann Arden
7:00 pm - 7:54 pm - Past & Presents with Jurgen Gothe
8:00 pm - 9:55 pm - A Christmas Eve Tonic with Tim Tamashiro
10:00 pm - 10:55 pm - O Soulful Night with Nana Aba Duncan
11:00 pm - 11:55 pm - A Celtic Christmas with Francesca Swann

Saturday, Dec. 25 2010
12:00 am - 12:55 am - A Yule Night with Nora Young
6:00 am - 8:54 am - Christmas Morning with Molly Johnson
9:00 am - 10:54 am - CBC Christmas Sing-In with Katie Malloch
11:00 am - 11:54 am - Christmas from Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal with Peter Togni
12:00 pm - 2:45 pm - Handel's Messiah with Julie Nesrallah
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Queen's Message with Bob Mackowycz
3:00 pm - 3:55 pm - Noël Premiere - Canada's First Carol with Bill Richardson
4:00 pm - 5:55 pm - Highlights from EBU "Joy to the World" with Peter Togni
6:00 pm - 6:55 pm - Season of Song: Canadian Tenors and Friends with Andrew Craig
7:00 pm - 8:55 pm - Christmas Classics with Katherine Duncan
9:00 pm - 9:55 pm - This Is My Christmas Music with Laurie Brown
10:00 pm - 10:55 pm - Bowls of Cheer with Stan Carew
11:00 pm - 11:55 pm - A Susie Arioli Christmas with Katie Malloch

I found the holiday schedule listed above in this post on the CBC web site.

One wonders why the CBC couldn’t display this a bit more prominently on their web site, instead of forcing people to search for it. Ah well, there isn’t anything that the CBC does that surprises me anymore.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The new host for "As It Happens" is, as it happens, also a former actor

Long-time listeners to CBC Radio One’s “As It Happens” were understandably upset when it was announced by the CBC March 29, 2010 that Ms. Budd’s contract would not be renewed. After a twenty-six year career with the CBC, seventeen as the co-hose of “As It Happens”, Ms. Budd was apparently being let go from the corporation because the CBC wanted a co-host with a background in journalism. As stated in a Globe and Mail article from April 5, 2010:

“My performance was never called into question during these discussions,” she adds. “Over the last while, the corporate spokespeople and the senior management have always been very clear that they’ve been fans of mine.”

But the CBC wants more journalists on air as opposed to “presenters,” which is how Ms. Budd, who is an actor, has been described. It’s a delineation that slightly rankles. “I haven’t studied journalism, but I think that, on the job for 17 years, after being so closely entrenched in the show, people might assume that there’s a certain amount of journalism that’s rubbed off on me.” Still, she’s not bitter. “I knew I wasn’t the journalistic part of the duo. I didn’t quibble with it because I loved what I was doing, and in listeners’ minds, there’s never any distinction between those roles.”

Ms. Budd, a 58-year old former actor and mother of a seventeen year old son with special needs, had spent twenty-six years of her career at the CBC. Now, it seems that she was to be tossed out on her keister. The same Globe and Mail article from April 5, 2010 also stated:

Ms. Budd’s termination is another sign of the corporation’s efforts to update its programming, observers have noted. “It isn’t enough to have the audience that you have,” she says, explaining her take on the CBC’s rationale. “[But] it’s not as if As it Happens doesn’t already have [younger people] listening and writing in.

Today it was announced by the CBC that another former actor, Jeff Douglas, has been named as the new permanent co-host of “As It Happens”. An article in today’s (December 16, 2010) Globe and Mail states that:

When it was announced in March that Budd’s contract wasn’t going to be renewed, the rationale given by CBC executives was that they wanted another journalist in the co-host chair. Yet Douglas, like Budd, comes from an acting background.

Denis Donlon, general manager of CBC Radio, said Wednesday that CBC executives never specified it had to be a journalist.

“We need a person in the role who can actually make a contribution to the production of the show”, she said. “And we purposely left it really wide that way. It could have been a journalist. It could have been somebody who’s really good in social media. It could have been a chase producer [who tracks down stories]. We needed more hands on deck in terms of the overall production of the show.”

Carol Off, the co-host who fulfills the journalist role on the show, had this to say about her new co-host, also according to today's article in the Globe and Mail:

“And then he has this range in his voice. I actually thought he reminds me of Jim Carrey. It’s elastic.” Off said. “It brings this other range to that position. This guy can do anything. He can announce. He can read. He can present with authority, and yet he can make you laugh.”

Mr. Douglas is described in the Globe and Mail article as being best known for having performed what has since come to be known as the “Joe Canadian rant” in a beer commercial. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this commercial, you may view it on YouTube.

I'm not a lumberjack, or a Furtrader,
and I don't live in an igloo,
or eat blubber
or own a dogsled.
And I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really, really nice.

I have a prime minister... not a president,
I speak English and French, not American
and I pronounce it About, not A-boot.

I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack,
I believe in peacekeeping, not policing,
diversity not assimilation,
and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.

A toque is a hat,
a chesterfield is a couch,
and it IS pronounced Zed,
not Zee... ZED!!
Canada is the 2nd largest land mass,
the 1st nation of hockey,
and the best part of North America.

My name is Joe...

Thank you.

As I’ve said before in this blog, I couldn’t even begin to make stuff like this up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Radio 2 Cummings and goings

While in Toronto today I tuned into CBC Radio 2 – for about fifteen minutes, which was all that I could take. I heard the last fifteen minutes of Radio 2 Morning with Bob Mackowycz, during which I heard a song performed by Buffalo Springfield (Buffalo Springfield!) and someone named, I believe, Virginia Gore.

The song performed by Buffalo Springfield was "For what it's worth" by Stephen Stills. (“stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what's going down”) and I was immediately transported back to the late 60’s, at least for several minutes. I remember the sixties, likely because I was too young to be doing drugs at the time, thus disproving the saying that if you remember the sixties, you probably weren't there. Or was that Woodstock? Perhaps both. I mention this not out of nostalgia for the 60s, however, but because I have to wonder: how does playing a song from the 60s that you can hear on any JACK FM or similarly derivative station make CBC Radio 2 more relevant to Canadians?

I thought the song by Virginia Gore was by Feist, but it wasn’t. Have you noticed that there is now a new generation of female singer/songwriters who sound like Feist, who in turn seems to have been influenced by Bjork? Just something that I’ve noticed.

Radio 2 Morning ended and I was pleased to hear that Joe Cummings is now reading the news. I was afraid that Mr. Cummings had been unceremoniously dumped from the CBC after the Arts Report was canned. Good to see you’re still there, Mr. Cummings!

I began to wonder what happened to Tom Allen. I searched the CBC web site and found that Mr. Allen is, according to the CBC web site, hosting either “Radio 2 Shift” (where he is the host) or “Shift with Tom Allen” (where he is apparently the anchor). Both programs seem to occupy the same time slot. Whichever it is, I’m happy to see that Mr. Allen is still with the CBC.

So then I looked up Mr. Cummings on the CBC web site. Apparently Mr. Cummings is the host of the “Arts Report”, which according to the CBC “provides CBC Radio Two listeners with up-to-the-minute coverage of the arts in Canada and abroad”. Who knew?

The web site goes on to say that:

With contributions from arts reporters in major centres across Canada as well as from freelancers abroad, The Arts Report covers everything from cultural politics on Parliament Hill to a new art exhibit in Vancouver to a play première in Halifax.

During its 23-year history, listeners have come to rely on The Arts Report to provide a broad-based, regionally balanced account of artistic life in Canada.

In 1993, The Arts Report won the Imperial Oil Award for Excellence in Arts Journalism, presented by the Canadian Conference of the Arts.

It would be nice if it were true, wouldn’t it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How have you adapted to the demise of CBC Radio 2?

How have you adapted to the demise of CBC Radio 2?

For many long-time listeners CBC Radio 2 was an integral part of their lives. When a part of your life is taken away from you, you have to adapt. Generally, you find a substitute for what has been taken away. If Coke is not available, you drink Pepsi. If Pepsi is not available, you might drink a no-name Cola. There are usually substitutes for most products or services.

Not so for Classical music radio stations. In the case of classical radio, CBC Radio 2 was the only game in town in most Canadian cities. I wrote one of my early blog entries on this subject on May 4 2007. What do you do without a source of classical music? Some readers suggested playing CDs. Others suggested listening to your iPod. I discovered other radio stations in the Ottawa/Gatineau area but I eventually found each of these wanting.

I soon discovered the pleasures of Sirius Satellite radio and wrote about it in a blog entry on Nov. 24 2008. It took some time, but I eventually developed my Sirius Satellite radio installation to be an acceptable substitute for CBC Radio 2, with the help of a roof-top satellite antenna and a radio repeater installed in the attic. I eventually grew my Sirius Satellite radio installation to three radios: one for the bedroom, one for the kitchen and one roving unit for car. It’s true that you could use a single unit for all three purposes, but I prefer leaving the house units where they are. I’m sure Sirius is happy with this arrangement too.

Even though I was very satisfied with Sirius Satellite radio, I found another source of Classical music: WiFi internet radio. While some may think of internet radio as listening to music streamed over the internet on your PC, in this case “WiFi internet radio” refers to a device which is dedicated to receiving internet streamed music over your home WiFi router. It looks just like an AM/FM radio, except that it connects to the internet and can receive any radio station worldwide which streams its programming over the internet. The internet radio also has an FM tuner and can play MP3 files, but I use it for internet radio only.

I soon had some favourite stations, which I described in a post on Jan. 16 2009. Ottava from Japan, Radio Stephensdom from Austria, Bayern 4 Klassik from Germany, Concert FM from New Zealand and ABC Classics from Australia. I must admit, I even broke my self-imposed ban on all things CBC by listening to CBC Radio Classical. I began to narrow my listening to just a few stations. Ottava was interesting at first, but I found there are long periods of spoken introduction to each piece. Unless you are a student of Japanese and are practising your verbal comprehension of Japanese, it starts to become tedious.

The same is true of Radio Stephensdom and Bayern 4 Klassik. At first I enjoyed listening to the news and trying to follow the broadcast using my extremely limited knowledge of German. But I don’t know enough to follow, and the spoken broadcasts became less interesting.

Concert FM from New Zealand and ABC Classics were interesting to listen to too. It was refreshing to hear news from the other side of the world, and to hear the weather forecasts for cities in Australia during the depths of the Canadian winter. (I learned that broadcasters in Australia will use the term “and fine” to refer to, I assume, sunny weather; for example, “The forecast for Brisbane today is 34 degrees and fine.”) I still listen to ABC Classics from time to time.

As I note above, I broke my self-imposed boycott of all things CBC Radio by listening to CBC Radio Classical. I eventually realized, however, that this is the white bread of radio broadcasting. It has no character, no context, nothing but the same top-40 classical hits streamed over the internet. It’s not radio; it’s Muzak for classical listeners. The periodic interjection of “This is so-and so and you are listening to CBC Radio 2 Classical” became annoying in the extreme. Even so, I continued to listen to CBC Radio Classical until, not surprisingly, my internet radio would no longer connect to the site. Can’t the CBC get even this right?

So what am I listening to now? When I’m in Toronto, I listen to 96.3 FM, CFMZ FM, Moses Znaimer’s classical music station. When I’m at the cottage, I listen to CFMZ. And I recently found that I can tune into CFMZ over my internet radio when I’m in Ottawa. So we listen to CFMZ.

It’s true, the announcers on CFMZ can be a bit irritating at times – I won’t name names – and the commercials can be even more annoying. But I find it comforting to hear Robert Upward’s traffic reports for Toronto, even when I’m in Ottawa and they’re of no use to me. Jean Stilwell has the sexiest voice in perhaps all of Canadian broadcasting and I would tune in to her program just to hear her read names from the telephone book. Even some of the commercials become part of the fabric of your life.

Which brings me to the point that I have been leading up to all along, in a somewhat long-winded and round-about manner: radio is all about ambience, context and connections. We listen to radio stations because we have some connection to the announcers and programming that is meaningful to us in a context that is familiar or because we have developed such a connection over time. The programming and announcers become part of our own history and the daily fabric of our lives, whether it is listening to Joe Cummings and the Arts Report and Tom Allen’s ‘Cage Match’ while you are shaving in the morning, Howard Dyck and Choral Concert while preparing breakfast on Sunday morning, Jurgen Gothe talking about the cats while you are driving home in the evening, Robert Upward reading the traffic report and telling us about the congestion on the DVP, Jean Stilwell laughing her husky laugh while you are drinking your second coffee of the morning or Danielle Charbonneau (the previous holder of the 'Sexiest Voice in Canadian Broadcasting' title) while you are drinking your pre-dinner drink. Radio is all about context, ambience and connection with your day-to-day life.

Overseas radio stations can be enjoyable but it’s much more difficult to make a connection to a foreign broadcaster or foreign country that makes the station integral to your life. CBC Radio 2 Classical is just too bland to ever make a meaningful connection. The new CBC Radio 2 is too variable, too unpredictable and too annoying to ever make that connection, at least with me. The old CBC Radio 2 had those connections but broke them forever for many listeners. This is what the management of the CBC has failed to understand and what has led them to make some disastrous decisions, in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Latest CBC Radio 2 survey data: the "S9 2010" results

Two years have now passed since the CBC completed their restructuring of the CBC Radio 2 programming.

As you may recall, the first phase of the changes to the CBC Radio 2 programming occurred in March 2007. The last survey of the CBC Radio 2 audience listening to the “old” programming conducted by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement was, in the BBM’s terminology, S1 2007. The most recent survey available on the BBMs web site covers the period from July 26 – October 24 2010 and includes data for Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and is based on data compiled using the Portable People Meter, or PPM. Radio audience survey data for Winnipeg and Ottawa is based on data compiled using diary data and so is not available for this period, the last survey period for these markets covering the period March 1 – April 25 2010. I term the period from March 1 – April 25 2010 “S4 2010”, to be consistent with prior survey naming, but it should be noted that the BBM does not use this term.

Anyone interested in the success or failure of the new programming on CBC Radio 2 can therefore compare the current audience for CBC Radio 2 with the audience for the “old” Classical format. Since the goal of the restructuring of the CBC Radio 2 programming was apparently to increase the total audience, we would expect that the CBC Radio 2 audience has increased in the major markets surveyed by the BBM. At the time of the programming changes, the management of the CBC admitted that they were going to alienate many loyal listeners, but contended that they would gain additional listeners and would therefore increase the total audience for CBC Radio 2. So what actually happened?

As readers of previous entries to this blog are no doubt aware, the audience for CBC Radio 2 has plummeted. Changes in the survey methodology from diary data to the PPM data are no doubt one factor, but the decline in the CBC Radio 2 audience was evident even before the changeover to the PPM measurements. The audience has declined 41.4% in Montreal, 39.4% in Toronto, 67.1% in Vancouver, 56.3% in Calgary and 45.2% in Edmonton. This is a decline in market share of almost unheard of proportions. The charts below summarize the results for S9 2010. Note that the last survey for which full market data is available is S4 2010, which included data for Ottawa and Winnipeg.

While it is true that the total radio audience has declined in each of these markets, with the exception of Montreal English broadcasting stations, the decline in Radio 2's audience has been much more dramatic.

Many former listeners of CBC Radio 2 will not be surprised by this. You may recall that listeners protested the changes in most large Canadian cities in April 2008. There was a public outcry when the extent of the CBC’s plans were revealed to the Canadian public. Although the audience was vociferous in their condemnation of the CBC’s plans for the new programming, the CBC management proceeded with the restructuring in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Consider how other corporations have implemented change and how they have reacted when their customers reacted negatively to such change. The most well-known example of a marketing debacle is, of course, the introduction of “New Coke” in the late eighties. For those few who may not know the story: Coke attempted to increase the market share for Coca-Cola by introducing a new formula for Coke that they dubbed “New Coke.” Their customers were outraged. New Coke sales plummeted. Coca-Cola relented and reintroduced “Coke Classic” to placate their customers, offering both “New Coke” and “Coke Classic”. Sales recovered and “New Coke” was quietly retired by an abashed Coca-Cola corporation.

Consider a more recent example. The Gap recently decided to change their logo. Their logo! Customers were outraged and protested. The Gap, having learned something during the past twenty years from other corporate missteps, quickly retreated, admitted their mistake and reinstated their old logo. Note that nothing apparently had changed with respect to the merchandise, shopping experience or pricing. The only thing that was altered was the logo! Yet the management of The Gap was quick to realize that they had made a mistake and recovered from the mistake in order to keep their customers happy.

Not so the management of the CBC. Not only did they ignore the public outcry that greeted the initial announcement of the restructuring of the CBC, but have apparently been oblivious to the declining audience of CBC Radio 2, judging by the lack of public statements to their shareholders, the taxpayers of Canada.

You can’t get away with stuff like this if you are a company operating in a competitive environment. If you’re a corporation that lives off the public purse, apparently you can.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Globe and Mail readers react to the departure of Mr. Stursberg

From the August 9 edition of the Globe and Mail:

For devotees of CBC Radio 2’s intelligent, mature presentation of serious classical music programming on offer before his arrival and subsequent reckless drive for popularization, Richard Stursberg’s departure is unimaginably sweet music to our ears (Top CBC Executive Leaves Broadcaster – Aug. 7).

Clifford Garrard, Ottawa

As a former dedicated CBC Radio 2 listener, the sudden departure of the head of English-language services is good news indeed. Perhaps now there will be a slow and imperceptible move (to preserve reputations) back to quality programs, replacing so many recent mindless ones, and making that nauseating promo spot every half-hour unnecessary.

Malcolm Niblett, Kingston

The importance of the departure of Richard Stursberg as head of CBC’s English-language services and the manifestation of his enduring legacy I can now state in one sentence: “Peter Mansbridge, you may now sit down.”

Bill Casselman, Dunnville, Ont.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Bushification of CBC Radio Two

I recently decided that the English language needs a word that succinctly describes the case when a corporate manager, leader of a country, religious leader or other zealot assumes control of an organization, country or religious group, makes significant changes to said organization or country and then rides off into the sunset, leaving the organization, country or religious group in significantly worse condition than before.

Since Sarah Palin is busy ‘refudiating’ the policies of those Godless Communists, the Obama administration, I thought I would step in here and offer a term. In honour of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United Sates, I offer the term ‘Bushify’.

I thought I was being original. Of course, the term has long since been coined. I see it has already been defined as “To get something very wrong, in any area of life” ( and “the act of taking a word that wouldn't normally have "ificate" or "ify" at the end and adding one or both said suffix's’ ( However, I think my definition is broader in scope, and certainly more useful.

Consider the origins of the term ‘Bushification’ or “to Bushify’. When George W. Bush assumed office, the U.S. was running a budget surplus, unemployment was at record lows, the U.S. was at peace with the rest of the world and the future seemed bright for the U.S. Of course, we all know what happened. Tax cuts for the wealthy, budget deficits, two wars in the Middle East, a housing bust, a financial system meltdown and record unemployment. Don’t you think that the U.S. was really, truly Bushified during the Bush administration?

On Friday, August 6 2010, the CBC announced that Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president for English language services, was leaving the CBC, effecitve immediately. The announcement included this statement:

“When Richard was appointed executive vice-president of CBC Television six years ago,” said Mr. Lacroix, “he brought with him a revolution that shook the foundation of the organization and eventually of the whole of our English services. He challenged every premise, attacked conventional wisdom, and uprooted whole parts of the internal culture.”

Wouldn’t if have been more succinct to have simply said “Mr. Stursberg thorougly Bushified the CBC during his tenure.”? I find the term “Bushify” to be much more evocotive, and concise, than Mr. Lacroix’s more long-winded statement. (In fairness to Mr. Lacroix, I should also note that he is also quoted as having said “Six years later, the institution is better off than it was. I want to acknowledge his success in turning CBC Television around and thank him for his contribution.” But I think we can all read between the lines of his statement and see the thinly veiled reference to the Bushification of the CBC.)

What other applications can we think of for this term? Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority government has thorougly Bushified Parliament? Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are attempting to Bushify Statistics Canada? The possibilities are endless.

So remember: Bushification, the act of Bushifying an organization or country. You heard it here first.

CBC Radio Two market share - the "Spring 2010" results

After I completed my last entry on this blog analyzing CBC Radio 2’s market share, I tried once again to access the Top Line Radio data on the BBM web site and, lo and behold, I was able to access the site. The “Spring 2010” radio diary data is now available on the BBM site, as well as new PPM survey data for Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. The “Spring 2010” survey (former the “S2” survey using the BBM’s terminology) covers the period March 1 – April 25. PPM data is available for the periods January 25 – April 25 and for March 1 – May 30 for those cities surveyed using the PPM. (Note: I wrote this blog entry at then end of June, then neglected to post it. The BBM now has data for March 29 - June 27 and for April 26 - July 25 for those markets surveyed by the PPM on their web site. I'll analyze these results in a subsequent blog entry. Sorry about that.)

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, the BBM previously released four surveys per year to the general public, terming these surveys S1, S2, S3 and S4. The surveys relied on listener diary data.

The introduction of the PPM, first in the Montreal market, then in the Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton markets, meant that the survey data no longer aligns precisely with the S1, S2, S3 and S4 periods previously used. To date, there are surveys based on PPM data covering the periods Nov. 28 2009 – Feb. 28 , Dec. 28 2009 – March 28 2010, January 25 – April 25 and for March 1 – May 30. There is a single survey based on diary data. I term the surveys based on PPM data “S1 2010”, “S2 2010”, “S3 2010” and “S4 2010” for consistency with past analyses. It should be noted that the BBM does not use these terms. I am aligning the “Spring 2010” survey with the “S4 2010” survey, for the purposes of comparison with past years. Once again, this is not the BBM’s terminology, but mine.

As you may recall from past blog entries (S2 2010, S4 2009, S3 2009, S1 2009, S3 2008), we are comparing CBC Radio 2’s market share, as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement in their latest survey, with CBC Radio 2’s market share before the first phase of the program restructuring was implemented in March, 2007. The last BBM survey to measure the CBC Radio 2 audience listening to the “old” programming (i.e. the programming before Phase I of CBC Radio 2’s restructuring was introduced) was, using the BBM’s old terminology, the S2 2007 survey. The latest survey data is taken from the BBM’s web site, at, for the major radio markets surveyed by the BBM for S4 2010.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, the stations included in the BBM surveys have varied from survey to survey. Please see this entry for a discussion of how I have compared the total listening audience for stations surveyed by the BBM between survey periods.

Now, onto the results.

I find the results for the latest survey absolutely astounding. Consider this: while the total listening audience in the major markets surveyed by the BBM has fallen 8.6% compared with S2 2007, the last quarter during which CBC Radio 2 featured the “old” classical format, CBC Radio 2’s audience has fallen a remarkable 40.2%, from a total of 710,800 listeners to 425,400 listeners. Consider the Vancouver audience: the number listening to CBC Radio 2 has fallen by 62.3%. 62.3%! Isn’t that just a stunning reversal of fortune for CBC Radio 2 in the Vancouver market?

While the change to the use of the PPM has been identified by some media commentators as one cause for the change in listener totals, one has to assume that this is only part of the cause. Another reason? I suspect that the radio listening audience is simply abandoning CBC Radio 2, finding the programming too similar, and not as enjoyable, as commercial radio stations.

Given that the CBC management implemented this programming restructuring to broaden the appeal of CBC Radio 2, can we not therefore conclude that this experiment has been a big, fat, resounding failure?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The CBC Radio 2 new programming - success or failure?

Time once again to review how CBC Radio 2’s new programming has fared amongst the listening audience.

As you may recall from past blog entries (S4 2009, S3 2009, S1 2009, S3 2008), we are comparing CBC Radio 2’s market share, as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement in their latest survey, with CBC Radio 2’s market share before the first phase of the program restructuring was implemented in March 2007. The last BBM survey to measure the CBC Radio 2 audience listening to the “old” programming (i.e. the programming before Phase I of CBC Radio 2’s restructuring was introduced) was, using the BBM’s terminology, the S2 2007 survey. The latest survey data is taken from the BBM’s web site, at, for the major radio markets surveyed by the BBM.

Now, here’s where it becomes a bit complicated. The BBM previously released four surveys per year to the general public, terming these surveys S1, S2, S3 and S4. The surveys relied on listener diary data.

The introduction of the PPM (Portable People Meter), first in the Montreal market, then the Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton markets, meant that the survey data no longer aligns precisely with the S1, S2, S3 and S4 periods previously used. As well, the BBM has announced that the “Summer” surveys will no longer be issued for those markets relying upon diary data. So, in this latest blog update, we have only the S4 2009 data for Ottawa and Winnipeg. We have two more recent surveys for each of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, one covering the period Nov. 28 2009 – Feb. 28 2010 and the second covering Dec. 28 2009 – March 28 2010. I term these surveys “S1 2010” and “S2 2010”, respectively, simply for convenience and consistency with past terminology. It should be noted that the BBM does not use these terms.

Furthermore, the stations included in the BBM surveys have varied from survey to survey. This means that if you are trying to compare the total audience surveyed by the BBM in a major market (Toronto, for example) in S2 2007 to S2 2010 then you have to exclude stations that were included in the S2 2007 survey but not surveyed in the S2 2010 survey. This ensures that you are making a valid comparison when calculating the growth or decline of the total market surveyed. As an example, using the Toronto data again, the S2 2007 survey included CJBC and CJBC FM, but these stations were not included in the S2 2010 survey. So, to compare the total audience surveyed in S2 2010 with S2 2007, I have subtracted the radio audience for CJBC and CJBC FM from the S2 2007 totals to enable a valid comparison of S2 2010 totals with S2 2007 totals.

My analysis of the BBM survey data was delayed by that fact that I haven’t been able to access the BBM web site from any of the personal computers (a total of three) from which I have posted these blog entries. Strange, eh? I had to go my local branch of the public library to download the data. There may in fact be more recent survey data available on the BBM web site, but I haven’t been to my local branch of the public library lately. (Shortly after writing this blog entry, I discovered that I again had access to the BBM web site from my home PCs. So I will follow this blog entry with an analysis of the latest data from the BBM.)

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, the introduction of the PPM data revealed some dramatic changes in audience for some stations compared to the previous diary data. Some in the media have speculated on the reasons for such disparities and I described some possible causes that have been suggested by media commentators in my previous blog entry. Since these disparities do not seem to be specific to any specific radio stations we can assume that it is a systemic anomaly and we will not let ourselves get sidetracked by this. We’ll assume that the survey data is a correct representation of the market share for any specific station.
What does the data show? Using the S4 2009 data, CBC Radio 2’s audience has fallen 38.4% in those major radio markets surveyed by the BBM since Phase I of the CBC Radio 2 programming changes was implemented. In comparison, the total audience for those major radio markets surveyed by the BBM declined by only 8.5%. Pretty bad results, eh? What about the latest survey data?

The S2 2010 survey data confirms this trend. While the total audience has fallen by 16.8% (using the S4 2009 figures for those cities not surveyed by the BBM in the S2 2010 data), CBC Radio 2’s audience has declined by 49.3% since Phase I of the CBC Radio 2 restructuring was implemented.

As I have noted time and again, the purpose of the CBC Radio 2 programming restructuring was apparently to broaden the appeal of CBC Radio 2, presumably being intended to increase Radio 2 listenership. And yet just the opposite has happened. As a shareholder in the CBC, don’t you think you have a right to see your tax dollars spent in an efficient and productive manner? Don’t you think you have a right to have a say in how the CBC is managed? Don’t you think that the CBC Board of Directors, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and Minister of Canadian Heritage have a duty to sit up and take notice that this grand experiment in dictating programming to the Canadian people has been a resounding failure? You would think so, but apparently not.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

CBC Radio 2 market share: the BBM "Fall" survey

Readers of this blog may ask: why does he keep this up? Why continue to track CBC Radio Two’s market share, when apparently no one gives a damn? Well, the answer to that question is this: someone has to keep track of the success or failure of the CBC’s grand experiment in their attempt to dictate their tastes to the CBC listening audience. If I don’t, who will? The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage? Members of Parliament? The Board of Directors for the CBC? You would think so, but as far as I can tell none of them are doing this. So it’s up to me, as Don Newman used to say, to “keep them honest”.

You may recall from past analyses (S3 2009, S1 2009, S3 2008) that we are comparing CBC Radio 2’s market share from S1 2007, the last quarter before the CBC began to restructure CBC Radio 2’s programming, with the latest quarter’s market share (the “Fall Survey”, as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement). The CBC initiated the CBC Radio 2 programming restructuring in March 207 to make CBC Radio 2 “more relevant to Canadians”. One would assume, therefore, that market share is the primary means to determine whether CBC Radio 2 is “more relevant to Canadians”, correct? After all, if fewer people are listening to CBC Radio 2 then, by definition, it must be less relevant to Canadians.

If you have been following these analyses you may have noted a consistent trend. While the total radio audience in the markets tracked by the BBM has been flat or increasing, CBC Radio 2’s market share has fallen. The latest quarter is no exception. While the total radio listening audience has decreased by 3.2% in those markets surveyed by the BBM since S1 2007, CBC Radio 2’s audience has declined by a whopping 38.4% since S1 2007! The following chart tells the tale:

It should be noted that the latest quarter’s results include a change in survey methodology by the BBM. In the past, the BBM relied on listeners to maintain a diary to record the stations that they listened to during the survey period. The BBM has now introduced the PPM (“Portable People Meter”) to record audience listening habits. The PPM does not rely on the survey respondent to record what they are listening to; instead, it automatically records the stations that the respondent is listening to.

Recent news reports (National Post, Dec. 17 2009) have highlighted the differences observed between the diary survey data and the PPM data. Some have suggested that respondents were previously fudging their diary reports, either intentionally or unintentionally, to appear more sophisticated. So, instead of saying they were listening to “CDUD, Classic Rock from the 70’s 80’s, 90’s and today”, they may have been saying that they were listening to “COOL, Cool Jazz for the Urban Über Hipster”. Or they may simply have unintentionally been over or under-stating their listening habits. Whatever the reason, there are some glaring differences between CBC Radio 2’s audience numbers for S3 2007, the last survey to used diary data (with the exception of Montreal, which has been using PPM data in all recent surveys) and the Fall 2009 survey, where PPM data is used for Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton for the first time. It should also be noted that the drastic decline in CBC Radio 2 listenership was also observed for the Montreal market when the Montreal survey changed from diary data to PPM data, so we can only assume that the PPM data from those markets which are now using PPM measurements is correct.

What, then, does this tell us? It seems to indicate that the CBC’s experiment with CBC Radio 2 has been a big, fat, resounding failure. Why does no one seem to care about this? Have CBC managers been denied their bonuses for this year because of this abject failure? Did their managers note in their performance review that they completely misread the market and should try to improve their performance in this area? Has anyone been reprimanded for destroying a much-loved Canadian institution, that being CBC Radio 2?
And what have the CBC Board of Directors been doing all this time with respect to overseeing the operations of the CBC? What oversight of the CBC has the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage provided? What have our Members of Parliament been doing? As far as I can tell, no one has been paying attention, with the exception of those former listeners to CBC Radio 2 who have given up on CBC radio in disgust. I may be wrong and I wish someone would tell me that I am. But as far as I can tell, no one seems to give a flying hoot.

Friday, January 15, 2010

CBC Radio 2 Overhaul - more cheerleading from the desperate

The following article appeared in the January 11 edition of the National Post. You can read the article on the National Post’s web site here. I’ve also copied the text below in case the link to this article is ever broken, as often happens in the world of the internet.

CBC Radio 2: The mix fix

16 months after CBC’s overhaul of Radio 2, it’s like the all-classical version never existed — in a good way

T’cha Dunlevy, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010

"Hi, I'm Laurie Brown. Welcome to The Signal." These are a few of my favourite words. And I can hear them six nights out of seven on what just might be the best show on Canadian radio.

It's The Signal, like the lady said, on CBC Radio 2. Therein, Brown presents an array of evocative sounds, from the simply pretty to the esoteric and experimental, all with a fluidity and grace that can take you to unexpected places.

Much like Radio 2 these days. The dust has settled following the station's controversial makeover 16 months back, when it completed the transformation from an almost all-classical format to more varied programming featuring everything from indie-rock to folk, jazz, world and pop, with a little classical thrown in for good measure. The overarching emphasis is on Canadian content.

Brown arrived in 2007, at the early end of the change process. A veteran arts reporter for CBC-TV, it was her first foray into radio.

"I came to CBC and said I wanted to be able to do a music show that was capable of playing any kind of music, that was all about new music and about discovery," she says.

To her great surprise, her words fell on open ears: "For the first time in my entire career, CBC management was totally in sync," she said. "I hit the magic word: 'discovery.' I can't tell you how refreshing that was."

Another key player in Radio 2's overhaul is Rich Terfry, host of the station's recently expanded afternoon Radio 2 Drive. Also known as acclaimed rapper Buck 65, Terfry took over from revered DiscDrive host Jurgen Gothe in September 2008, replacing the classical symphonies of yore with a more youthful playlist.

He has been settling into his "first real job" ever since, weathering the initial storm of protest by keeping his head down, and emerging with one of Radio 2's most popular shows in the process.

"I don't look at emails," he said, reached at his Toronto home last week. "But I do get a sense of the people in the country, all over the country. After a while, you feel like you're beginning to develop a relationship with the whole country."

That's music to the ears of CBC programming director Chris Boyce, who sees Radio 2's metamorphosis as an opportunity to redefine the station's relationship with Canadians.

"We went into this with the theory that there is an amazing range of music being made in Canada," he said, "and very little of it is being heard by Canadians over the airwaves. We've been able to broaden the range of music being played on the station, being played on radio. It's been fantastically successful, if that's the measure."

It's not, or not the only one. Ratings matter, too, and Radio 2's are more or less on par with what they were before the change. The station reaches just over one million Canadians per week -- which is down 10% with a 2.7 share of the national market compared to its previous 3%.

So almost the same number, if not the same people, are tuning in. The average age of your typical Radio 2 listener before the facelift was a golden 65. It's now a sprightly 52.

"It's getting more evenly distributed," Boyce said. "To me, changing our audience is as important as increasing it. Is it about chasing younger listeners? No, we're a public broadcaster -- it's about serving all Canadians."

One of Radio 2's biggest coups has been its newfound support of Canadian independent music. A recent edition of Radio 2 Drive featured songs by Sarah Slean, Sarah Harmer, Chantal Kreviazuk, Native pop singer Elisapie Isaac, Sam Roberts, Joel Plaskett, K'naan, Stars, Feist, as well as established Canadian and international acts including Kate Bush, Wilco, Bob Dylan, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Police and Drive hero Neil Young, who gets a daily tribute.

"Speaking not so much for myself but for Radio 2," Terfry said, "and listening to what management has to say, they want the show to be [one where] if people really want to know what's going on in Canadian music, what's up-and-coming, who are the artists making an impact, listen to this show and you'll know.

"The problem with that, the challenge from the beginning, is to get people to care about Canadian music. The average person doesn't."
The average person hasn't had much of an opportunity to care. Spin your way across the radio dial and you'll find station after station playing a mind-numbing loop of chart-topping pop, most of it from south of the border.

So for our national station to be presenting a homegrown alternative is a sort of quiet revolution. There has been resistance to Radio 2's makeover, from both the media and hardcore classical fans.

The latter can still hear their music during the daytime and on weekends, it should be noted, and all the time online on the first of Radio 2's four specialty channels: classical, jazz, Canadian songwriters and Canadian composers.

What's harder to hear is the emerging dialogue of a country coming to terms with its multi-textured musical identity. From Bob Mackowycz (weekdays) and jazz singer Molly Johnson's (weekends) eclectic Radio 2 Morning show to mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah's Tempo, Tom Allen's genre-spanning ( "from Bach to Bachman, Haydn to the Hip") early afternoon Shift, Andrew Craig's Canada Live and Katie Malloch's jazz show Tonic in the evening, there is lots to listen to.

Weekend offerings include Newfoundland musician Tom Power's Deep Roots, Bill Richardson's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap and the ever-gregarious George Stroumboulopoulos's new Strombo Show on Sunday nights.

It's a lot to fit into a week without coming off like an allover-the-place college station. The trick is to have it all make sense, and create a flow from one show to the next.


General manager and executive director of CBC Radio's English services Denise Donlon has come a long way from co-hosting CityTV's The New Music with Laurie Brown in the late '80s. She became MuchMusic's VP and general manager in 1997 before becoming president of Sony Music Canada from 2000 to 2004. She arrived at CBC in September 2008, just after Radio 2's transformation:
Her opinion "I agree with the changes. [Radio 2] was really a service that was very niche before -- which is great for commercial radio, but as a public broadcaster, it meant so much Canadian music had no other area for exposure."

On the naysayers "You can't make everyone happy. ...We're trying to please not only our audience, but the Canadian cultural community, independent artists, major label artists, the classical community. We're serving many masters to celebrate the best of Canadian music."

On the bright side "There's a real depth of conversation and richness of programming; any other station would be racing to commercials, while we're talking about all kinds of things."

The most remarkable statement from the article is this:

Ratings matter, too, and Radio 2's are more or less on par with what they were before the change. The station reaches just over one million Canadians per week -- which is down 10% with a 2.7 share of the national market compared to its previous 3%.

As I pointed out in my letter to the National Post, it should be remembered that the goal of the CBC’s restructuring of CBC Radio 2 was to make Radio 2 more “relevant” to Canadians. Presumably, one measure of relevance is the number of Canadians listening to Radio 2. After all, how can Radio 2 be relevant to Canadians if no one is listening?

Yet, as T’Cha Dunlevy states in the news report, CBC Radio 2’s audience share has fallen 10% (according to his/her figures) since this grand experiment was initiated. In fact, recent BBM results indicate a more alarming loss of market share of approximately 38.4% in the major markets surveyed by the BBM. See my next blog entry to follow. For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume a loss of market share of 10%.

In a public corporation, any corporate initiative which resulted in a loss of market share of 10% would result in those responsible for the intiative being sacked, or at least being given other responsibilities where they can do less damage. Has this happened at the CBC? Apparently not – management at the CBC is too busy patting themselves on the back at the so-called success of the Radio 2 experiment. Meanwhile, formerly loyal CBC Radio 2 listeners have abandoned CBC Radio 2 for other media which are more to their liking, such as satellite radio or Wi-Fi radio.

Please, tell me again – how is this good for CBC Radio?