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.

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