Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joy to the World, Sunday December 16 2012

One of the few remaining traditions from CBC Radio Two is "Joy to the World", the holiday music programming from the European Broadcasting Union. Luckily, the program is produced by the EBU; otherwise, the CBC would likely have killed it along with many of the other programs that we came to know and love during the glory days of CBC Radio Two.

Forthwith, here is the schedule as noted on the CBC Radio Two blog:

Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012
9 a.m.: Kallio Church, Helsinki
The day gets off to an energetic start with an all-Vivaldi concert from the Baroque Ensemble of the Finnish Radio Orchestra. They'll play Vivaldi's Concerto for violin and strings,Il riposo, per il santissimo natale. And soprano Tuuli Lindeberg joins the orchestra for the motet Salve Regina.
10 a.m.: Garrison Church, Copenhagen
Inaugurated in 1706 as a parish for Copenhagen's militia, the Garrison Church is a popular concert venue. The Ars Nova Vocal Ensemble, directed by Paul Hillier, will perform a program of antiphons and carol, including Adam Lay ybounden, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen and Ding Dong Merrily on High.
11 a.m.: Small Guildhall, Riga
Conductor Maris Kupcs leads the Collegium Musicum Riga Baroque Orchestra, choir and a quartet of soloists in a concert of 18th-century music, the centrepiece being Telemann's Missa sopra 'ein kindelein so lobelich.' Riga's historic Small Guild Hall is mostly used nowadays for conferences and the occasional disco, but serves on this occasion as a concert venue for baroque music.
12 p.m.: Vzlet Culture House, Prague
Off to Prague for Bohemian seasonal music from the Czech Radio Children’s Choir and the Brno Radio Folk Instruments Ensemble under the direction of Frantisek Cerny. The concert includes highlights from Harmonia Caelestis, a cycle of cantatas composed by Paul I, Prince Esterházy of Galántha and published in 1711.
1 p.m.: Northern Lights Hall, Reykjavik
This concert features a jazz trio comprised of pianist Kjartan Valdimarsson, bassist Valdimar K. Sigurjonsson and drummerEinar Valur Scheving. They join vocalist Sigridur Thorlacius and other winners from the annual Icelandic Music Awards for traditional Icelandic and international Christmas songs.
2 p.m.: Christinae Church, Gothenburg
The Swedish Chamber Choir won the 2011 Let the Peoples Sing Euroradio Choral Competition. They're featured today singing music by Poulenc, Part, Alfven, Liljefors, Ohlsson, Sandstrom, Nordqvist, Rosenburg, Ohrwall, Nielsen, Mealor and Lange-Muller. Simon Phipps conducts.
3 p.m.: German National Museum, Nuremburg
A mix of 17th-century baroque music and traditional carols with Ensemble NeoBarock and the Eismannsberger Strings and Women Singers. The German National Museum is the largest museum of cultural history in Germany.
4 p.m.: Tbilisi State Conservatory Grand Hall, Tblisi
A program of traditional Georgian carols, songs and hymns performed by a number of groups, including Shavnabada, Didgori, Shalva Chemo and the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral Choir.
5 p.m.: Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal
A CBC tradition "with heart and soul and voice," the 33rd annual CBC Christmas Sing-In features carols and other music for the season performed by choir, organ, brass and percussion, and an audience of over 1,000 singing along at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Radio salvation for drivers!

Life used to be so simple when driving. Turn on the radio to CBC Radio Two and you could be guaranteed of some pleasant listening while you drove. Not anymore. CBC Radio Two is such a hodge-podge of music formats, not to mention annoying hosts, that I don’t even bother trying any more.

CBC Radio One is often an alternative, but once again there are times when I can’t stand listening to Radio One. During “The Debaters”, for example. “All in a Day (Ottawa)” is bearable, but there are times when I have to turn the radio off because the music that is being played is just too annoying. I could go on.

But I have found radio salvation! It is 1310 News, All News Radio on the AM dial in Ottawa. News, weather, sports, commercials, news, weather, sports, commercials, news, weather, sports, commercials ad infinitum. But I love it! I never get bored or annoyed, even if I’ve heard the same news story for the third or fourth time that day.

When was the last time you tried listening to AM radio? Give it a try. You might like it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The CBC, intent on further destruction!

The management of CBC, not being content to have destroyed CBC Radio 2, now seem intent on obliterating the on-line music industry by offering a taxpayer-subsidized service that undercuts the commercial services.

The CBC argues that it is within their mandate to offer on-line services to Canadians. The on-line music industry claims that the CBC, by offering the service for free, draws subscribers away from the services that require a subscription. Who is right?

Let's consider broadcast radio. Broadcast radio is free - one only has to own a radio to receive the content. Commercial broadcasters funded their operations through advertising. The CBC funded its operations through government support. The playing field was level.

That is not the case with the on-line music industry. The on-line service providers rely on subscription fees from users to fund their operations, not advertising. The CBC still relies on government funding to fund their operations, and hence have an unfair advantage. The playing field is not level.

The CBC should be allowed to offer on-line services, but it should be required to follow the same business model as the on-line service providers; i.e. subscribers should pay for the service. To do otherwise risks the destruction of the on-line music industry.

But then, the CBC has quite a lot of experience in destruction, doesn't it?

This article appeared in the October 12, 2012 edition of The Globe and Mail:

I've reproduced the content of the article below, for posterity.

CBC Music losing millions as content costs surpass revenue

Last updated 
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will lose millions of dollars a year on its free music service for the foreseeable future, as the high cost of content surpasses the advertising revenue the service earns.
CBC Music was launched in February just as the broadcaster was bracing for deep budget cuts that would lead to the loss of 650 jobs and prompt the CBC to request permission to sell advertising on its Radio 2 service.
Private companies who charge for digital music services have complained about the CBC’s encroachment, arguing the public broadcaster uses taxpayer money to run a service that will put them out of business.
The stakes are high: Canadians spend about $500-million a year on music and digital sales account for about 34 per cent of the market. Dozens of competing services such as Rdio and Galaxie are trying to woo consumers to their sites, hoping to take a bigger piece of that spending away from traditional retailers.
Chris Boyce, executive director of radio and audio for CBC English services, said the broadcaster is providing a unique service to Canadians. That means plenty of Canadian content, including interviews and live concerts in addition to the actual 40 channels of music.
“We have a very different business model than a for-profit company focused on the shareholder bottom line,” Mr. Boyce said. “Revenue is important to us, in that it allows us to reinvest in Canadian content and deliver on our mandate as a public broadcaster.”
The service has been hugely successful from a listener perspective, with 7.8 million visits on the web since launching. Users have streamed 17.6 million hours of music – the equivalent of listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’sCall Me Maybe on repeat 880,000 times.
But despite its popularity, the broadcaster only expects to sell about $750,000 in advertisements this year to help offset more than $6-million in costs (some of those are one-time costs associated with launching the service).
While it expects costs to go down marginally, much of the money it spends is to pay musicians and producers royalties and to produce programming. Other companies operating in the space estimate it costs about $6 a customer to run an online service, once copyright fees, infrastructure and marketing costs are considered.
“We do expect that expenses will continue to be larger than costs for some time, largely because of the cost of creating all the rich content on the site,” Mr. Boyce said. “Though we expect ad revenue to continue to grow and the gap to close.”
Monetizing music is a problem affecting much of the online music industry. Pandora, one of the largest services in the world, lost $5.4-million in its last quarter even as more subscribers joined. Sirius Canada Inc., which charges users a monthly fee, has never posted a quarterly profit despite having more than 2 million Canadian users.
Eric Boyko, whose Montreal-based Stingray Digital is one of the largest music companies in the world with more than 75 million subscribers for its Galaxie music service, has been one of the CBC’s most vocal critics. It’s not the service he has a problem with, it’s the broadcaster’s refusal to charge for a service that he thinks has value.
“If music is given away for free then people will say that it’s free,” Mr. Boyko said in a recent interview. “It will upset the market. That remains a threat, and that is why I’m mad at the CBC – someone is always paying.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Taking Responsibility" - the Spring 2012 CBC Radio Two audience survey

One of the popular buzz-phrases these days seems to be “take responsibility”. People are being urged to “take responsibility” for their actions, or are stepping up to “take responsibility” for what they’ve done, even when it seems there is no need to do so.

For example, Jared Connaughton, the member of the Canadian 4 x 100 metre relay team who caused the Canadian team to be disqualified, was quoted as saying “he had to step up and take responsibility” for the disqualification. Teammates were quoted as praising Mr. Connaughton for stepping up and “taking responsibility” for the disqualification.

Why was it necessary for Mr. Connaughton to “take responsibility”? It was an accident. I very much doubt that he deliberately stepped on a lane line to disqualify the team. Stuff happens. There was no need to “take responsibility”.

Michael Bryant, the former Attorney-General for Ontario who was involved in the accidental death of Darcy Allen Sheppard, recently appeared on “The Current” on CBC Radio One. Listeners subsequently castigated Mr. Bryant for not “taking responsibility” for his actions. What actions? He attempted to flee from an individual who was attacking him and, in doing so, Mr. Sheppard died. There was no evidence that Mr. Bryant acted in a deliberate manner to harm Mr. Sheppard. It was an accident. What does it mean for Mr. Bryant to “take responsibility” for an accident?

I’m sure pundits, critics and media commentators will be urging Lance Armstrong to “take responsibility” for his alleged doping infractions. But Mr. Armstrong denies the allegations. What should he be “taking responsibility” for?

It’s one thing to be told to “take responsibility” for something that you didn’t do, had no intention of doing or was an accident, and quite another thing to “take responsibility” for something that you knowingly, deliberately did.

Which brings us to the CBC and the latest BBM radio survey data. When will someone from the CBC step up to the plate, belly up to the bar, [insert favourite saying here] and “take responsibility” for the CBC Radio Two restructuring fiasco?

Without further ado, here is the table summarizing the decline in the CBC Radio Two listening audience since the CBC embarked on their audacious plan to “restructure” Radio Two. As can be seen from the table, the audience for CBC Radio Two has been decimated in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton since the restructuring effort was initiated. Anyone willing to “take responsibility” for this fiasco?

Monday, May 28, 2012

To mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Radio Two

I unfortunately let several anniversaries slip by the notice of this blog. The first was the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the end of the old CBC Radio Two. This was, of course, March 19. It was on this date in 2007 that the CBC launched their stealth attack against the CBC Radio Two listening audience by cutting “The World at Six” from its 6:00 PM time slot, cancelling Danielle Charbonneau and the much-loved “Music for a While” and replacing “In Performance” with Eric Friesen with the reviled “Canada Live”. Oh yes, I forgot to mention: “Two New Hours”, “Brave New Waves” and “Northern Lights” were also cancelled. But it is easy to overlook these changes in the general slaughter that took place.

Of course, that was just the beginning. Even more drastic changes to the programming schedule were about to take place, commencing in September 2007 and finally being completed in September 2008. But for many of us, March 19 2007 was the day that the music died on CBC Radio Two.

So I thought it would be fun to mark the fifth anniversary of this blog by listing here all of the letters and correspondence that I sent to various individuals (and in some cases, the replies I received) during the course of my five-year protest against the changes that were made to CBC Radio Two. For those of you who have just discovered this blog, it’s an easy way to catch up on what has happened during the last five years. For those of you who have been following along, it’s a handy summary of what has taken place in the past five years.

The list is in the format of links to previous blog entries. Here goes:

Post to Jowi Taylor’s Blog, March 21 2007

Letter to Tell Us What You Think, March 24 2007

Letter to Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming and Jane Chalmers, Vice-President of CBC Radio

Letter to Robert Rabinovich, President and CEO of the CBC

Letter to Gary Schellenberger, Chair of the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Letter to Bev Oda, Minister of Heritage

Response from the office of the Minister of Heritage

Response from Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming

A second letter to Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming

A second response from the office of the Minister of Heritage

A second response from Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of Programming

Letters to the members of the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Open letters to the candidates in Carleton-Mississippi Mills during the 2008 election

Replies from the candidates in Carleton-Mississippi Mills during the 2008 election

Of course, we can’t forget the nation-wide protest that took place on April 11 2008 in response to the disbanding of the CBC Radio Orchestra and the Radio Two changes that were announced at that time:

Scenes from a Protest

Although it wasn't in the form of a letter received from these two individuals, I thought the interview conducted with Mark Steinmetz and Chris Boyce (the CBC Radio Director of Music and the CBC Radio Director of Programming, respectively, at the time of the interview) was interesting for what it revealed about the CBC:

Interview with Mark Steinmetz and Chris Boyce

In a subsequent post I’ll attempt to answer the question “Where are they now”, to track the careers of some of the major players in the CBC Radio Two restructuring debacle.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The CBC: running madly off in all directions

This article appeared in the Feb. 14 2012 edition of the Globe and Mail, and on-line here.

One has to wonder what's going on in the CBC. First, CBC management decimates the Radio 2 audience by making some ill-considered changes to the programming, then runs madly off in all directions by launching digital music channels that only a small percentage of Canadians are likely to listen to. What happened to the concept of serving all Canadians, not just those with high-speed internet connections?

CBC enters digital-music arena
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 6:00PM EST
Last updated Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 6:22PM EST

The CBC has taken a giant new step into the competitive digital-music arena. On Monday, the public broadcaster unveiled CBC Music, a website and mobile app with 40 radio stations covering genres from indie rock to classical. To keep listeners coming back (that all-important “stickiness” in digi-speak), the service also includes create-your-own  playlists and selections of songs by young artists such as Toronto’s Austra and Montreal’s Plants and Animals.

It’s not only a bid to attract more listeners, but also opens up “a whole bunch of ways to connect with them that [was] difficult to do on terrestrial radio,” said Chris Boyce, CBC’s executive director of radio and audio.

This comes as broadcasters are increasing their presence in the world of apps: Astral recently launched new mobile apps for its radio stations, with bonuses such as exclusive in-studio performances. Meanwhile, subscription streaming services such as Rdio are once again on the rise, offering users access to massive libraries of streaming music for a fee.

“Gone are the days when people first heard a new track of music on the radio,” Boyce said.The CBC isn’t trying to compete with online music retailers such as Apple’s iTunes, though. Instead, the site links to iTunes. And no, it doesn’t replace CBC’s on-air music. There are currently no plans to eliminate the Radio 2 music station, Boyce said.

The win

The CBC attracts savvy programmers. CBC’s independently spirited Radio 3, for example, brings listeners everything from singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards to local Charlottetown band, Milks and Rectangles. Now that expertise can be applied to a broad spectrum of genres, with streams devoted to Canadian classical composers, some of the best homegrown jazz and alt pop. CBC Music could become a key arbiter of the best, if lesser-heard, music out there.

The miss

It’s still radio: You can’t jump ahead to the next song when listening to a stream. So while CBC Music caters to the new-media crowd, it requires old-media patience. You can jump forward or back while listening to playlists though. (Radio 3 host Lana Gay’s colourful list, including The Gruesome’s garage rocker Hey, is a highlight at the moment). Still, the nascent service only has a precious few playlists so far. And features of individual artists have a grand total of seven acts right now.

The competition

The pay service Rdio gives users access to a huge library of music for a monthly fee. Astral’s free apps are an extension of its stations, with added content such as app-only performances of hot acts. In comparison, CBC Music feels like the CBC – with a wider cross-section of music, unencumbered by the tight programming formats of private radio stations.

The next big thing

Spotify, officially unavailable in Canada, is nevertheless seen as a standard bearer with its personalized playlists (Obama just posted his) and its highly searchable library of artists. CBC Music, by comparison, is more like enhanced radio. Yet some digital radio sites, like American public broadcaster NPR, have taken a sharp direction toward nuanced, esoteric music. The question is whether users will want more breadth or more eclecticism? More searchability or more of a curated radio feel? 

What the CBC and the industry knows for sure is that we always want more music.

With files from Steve Ladurantaye

CBC faces budget cuts - but do we care?

This article appeared in the Feb. 12 2012 edition of the Globe and Mail and on-line here.

I find the statement "While vociferous protests would let the government know people value the CBC ..." laughable. Didn't CBC Radio 2 listeners protest against the programming changes that the CBC implemented in 2007? Did the CBC listen to its supporters? No, it didn't. The CBC continued to merrily dig themselves deeper into the hole of irrelevance. And now, former CBC listeners who have abandoned the CBC in droves should rise up a fight for an institution that has betrayed them? I don't think so.

This time, the CBC cuts will be noticeable
From Monday's Globe and Mail (includes correction)
Published Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 6:00PM EST
Last updated Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 2:56PM EST

When music critics and public broadcasting analysts gather in a cavernous TV studio in downtown Toronto Monday, they can expect a splashy presentation about a digital music streaming service with no less than 40 channels. But the celebratory tone over the launch of CBC Music might be a bit forced: The public broadcaster is widely predicted to take a 10 per cut to its $1.1-billion grant when the federal budget comes down in late February or early March and moving radio music services online is a way to both save money and generate ad revenue. If Music Canada! is a bouncing new baby,old Radio 2, the CBC’s English-language music channel, looks decidedly sick.

As part of a government-wide belt-tightening process, the CBC was asked last fall to present Ottawa with two possible budget scenarios, cutting five or 10 cent over three years. The broadcaster cannot discuss the contents of those scenarios, but in a recent meeting with The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix made it clear that he considers 10 per cent the most likely possibility. “You’ll notice it,” Lacroix said.

Were it simply made in one place, a $110-million hit to the CBC would eliminate French radio or half of English radio services or remove more than a day’s worth of television programming from CBC-TV every week, said Karen Wirsig, communications co-ordinator at the Canadian Media Guild, the CBC’s main union.

While it is unlikely the CBC will target an entire service in that way, a $110-million cut would force the broadcaster to make visible changes to programming. In the 2000s, with both cuts and inflation eating away at its budget, the CBC streamlined its administration and sold off real estate; to deal with $170-million in lost ad revenue during the 2009 and 2010 recession, it made cuts across the board, eliminating 800 jobs and paying out $40-million in severance. Now, though, the cuts are expected to be vertical – in lower priority areas – rather than horizontal – or across all services. Lacroix calls this a “Sophie’s Choice” for the broadcaster.

That choice will flow from the CBC’s current strategic plan, which emphasizes going digital, putting Canadian content in prime time, and restoring or initiating services to under-served regions: Anything not in that plan is vulnerable, Lacroix has said. That is why many observers expect deep cuts to national radio, which does not fit within those priorities, and especially to music programming, which can be delivered more cheaply online by services such as CBC Music.

The new service will be a beefier version of its French-language equivalent,, which Radio-Canada launched last June. Some critics have asked why the CBC is competing with iTunes, but like, CBC Music will operate on a broadcast model not a retail one, offering streaming rather than downloads. Still, unlike Espace Musique, its sister radio channel, doesn’t have hosts and carries ads, allowing the broadcaster to generate revenue from music programming.

Broadcasting veterans say the CBC is unlikely to axe an entire service, such as Espace Musique or Radio 2. While vociferous protests would let the government know people value the CBC, they would be unlikely to shift the government’s position and might backfire, spewing ill will at the broadcaster itself. Certainly, the abandonment of a radio frequency would seem too great a retreat. 

Rather, these services could be cut to the bone, including an elimination of all broadcasts of live performances, with online radio offered as the alternative.

Similarly, the CBC is committed to moving children’s TV programming online, arguing that is where most children watch shows these days. This would allow the broadcaster to rethink morning television schedules, replacing ad-free programming aimed at preschoolers with reruns of adult programming on which there would be ads.

CBC watchers also expect to see fewer special events, such as the multiplatform live coverage of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s inauguration of its concert hall last September. And, despite the commitment to under-served regions in the strategic plan, they question whether the broadcaster can really go ahead and open new radio stations in locations such as Kamloops, B.C. and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. as well as a new digital service in Hamilton.

“There is no more room for efficiency,” said Ian Morrison, spokesman for the public broadcasting lobby group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. “Every dollar is going to come off the air or off the screen.”

With files from Guy Dixon

Friday, January 27, 2012

CBC Radio 2 Market Share - the Fall 2011 Survey

Once again it is time for us to review how successful CBC Radio has been with their restructuring of the CBC Radio 2 programming.

Those of you who have been following this blog through its intermittent postings will know that we are examining the audience for CBC Radio 2 in the major cities surveyed by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. We are comparing the current audience for CBC Radio 2 stations in the most recent survey done by the BBM with the audience for CBC Radio 2 stations before the CBC began their program of restructuring. In this case, we are comparing the audience for CBC Radio 2 stations with the audience that the stations had in “S2” 2007, the last survey performed by the BBM before the CBC introduced its new programming. For those of you who have not been following this blog: now you know.

The idea is this: if the CBC Radio 2 programming restructuring has been successful, the audience will have increased. After all, this was the stated intent of the programming restructuring. If the CBC Radio 2 audience has fallen since the restructuring, then the initiative was unsuccessful.

“But wait” you may be saying to yourself “people are listening to radio less and less. The decline in the CBC Radio 2 audience may be due simply to the decline in the overall radio audience itself, not due to the decline in the CBC Radio 2 audience.”

So indeed we have examined this as well. We have compared the total radio audience from S2 2007 with the total radio audience for the most recent survey performed by the BBM to determine if people are listening to the radio less often. As the results show, this is the case. But more importantly, the decline in the CBC Radio 2 audience has been greater than the decline in the audience for radio programming in general. This, as you probably may realize yourself, is not good.

The results are summarized below.
While the total radio audience in Montreal has actually increased by 6.2% since S2 2007, the CBC Radio 2 audience has declined by 46.5% since S2 2007. Not good.

In Vancouver, the total radio market has dropped by 17.2% since S2 2007. The audience for CBC Radio 2 has, however, been decimated, falling by 54.2%. This should be alarming to CBC Radio management, no?

The only bright spot for CBC Radio is Ottawa, where the audience for CBC Radio 2 has actually increased by 5.8% since S2 2007, in a market that has declined by 7.6% since S2 2007. We’ll have to watch this to see if it’s just a one-time blip, or a trend.

A word about the survey data: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are surveyed using the Portable People Meter, or PPM. Winnipeg and Ottawa are surveyed using Radio Diary Data. For an explanation of the differences between the two methods, see the BBM site.

Radio Diary Data is issued twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The latest BBM Fall survey covers the period from September 5 2011 to October 30 2011, while the most recent PPM data covers the period from August 29 2011 to November 27 2011, termed for the purposes of this analysis as “S8 2011”, to be consistent with previous BBM naming conventions.

This analysis therefore uses the Fall survey for Winnipeg and Ottawa and calls this data “S8 2011”, as well as the PPM data for the remaining cities. Data for S4 2010 is included in the Summary above since this was the most recent survey for which we did the analysis and which also included Diary Data for Ottawa and Winnipeg. We missed performing this analysis for the Spring 2001 Diary Data survey. We may add this analysis some time in the future, just to be complete.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coming to a Garage Sale near you! The CBC's collection of LPs and CDs!

From the January 24 2012 Globe and Mail:

CBC dismantling LP, CD archives
Published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 5:00PM EST

The CBC is quietly dismantling its archives of LPs and CDs across Canada – a cultural treasure trove built over decades – even as it prepares to launch a major new music service online.

With uncertainty over levels of funding from Ottawa, CBC management has told archivists to winnow the music collections at regional bureaus by the end of March. This could mean donating, selling or discarding thousands of records and CDs – a cost- and space-saving measure as recordings are increasingly digitized.
This is happening just as the CBC’s need for music could grow heavily, as the broadcaster gears up to introduce a number of new music channels streaming online, possibly as many as 35, sources familiar with the project say.

While CBC management would not confirm that a new service is in the works, sources say it is expected to provide a number of musical formats (one for Canadian rock, one for Canadian hip hop and so on) all accessible from one central CBC website.

Some CBC archivists see irony in the fact that they are being asked to dismantle regional record collections just as producers will be coming to them for music. Many old LPs won’t be digitized, they say, and producers and announcers won’t be able to hold the physical albums and see liner notes and information that can’t be fully captured in a database.

“We believe that they are jumping the gun quite a bit by doing this,” said archivist John MacMillan, who has spent much of his career looking after CBC Vancouver’s music library. “We understand that at some point the hard-copy collection would not be needed any more, and the usage of the CDs has gone down. But the content in this virtual music library – as it’s known – is still far below the needs of the users.”

There is also a risk, some fear, of losing some valuable recordings when such large collections – some with tens of thousands of titles – are broken up. As one archivist said, not for attribution, it’s a question of whether CBC management sees the collections as a valuable archive for Canadians or simply as a resource for CBC producers.

CBC spokesman Chris Ball said that the cull isn’t affecting its Toronto-based archive, and the CBC will continue to maintain an extensive physical collection. At the same time, he notes, the CBC has been relying less and less on CDs and albums and more on digitized music, like much of the industry. The broadcaster’s digitized library is said to already contain about 1.5 million titles.

“We’re going to look at what content has historic value, what has a programming value to us,” Ball said. “The goal here is that we are digitizing that content in the virtual music library. What that’s going to be able to do is give everybody across the country [in the CBC] desktop access to our entire music library.”

Out of the approximately 650,000 CDs housed in CBC bureaus, only 140,000 CDs are unique to those libraries. The rest are duplicates of discs already housed in Toronto, Ball said. Unique physical titles will be shipped to the CBC’s permanent collection in Toronto, which currently has about 135,000 unique CDs.

He added that the physical library will continue to add new discs. “This isn’t the end point. … We’re still going to support regional artists who want to provide us with their music,” he said.

So the push is now on not only to scour the bureaus’ collections for records to ship to Toronto, but to simultaneously digitize more of those titles. This isn’t expected to eliminate many, if any, jobs since most CBC archivists also maintain other collections, such as TV and radio archives.

CBC’s popular online Radio 3 service, which features new music and has a largely separate collection, is expected to integrate more of its library into the CBC’s larger digitalized music system.

So far, the dismantling of regional record collections only applies to the English-language side. The question is whether there’s enough time to input enough of the rare LPs into the virtual music library by the end of March, and how much of the information in the liner notes will be lost.

MacMillan acknowledges that this kind of information is not necessarily used every day. “But the point of this, and I think with any library, it’s there for next year or the year after when someone goes ‘Oh, how about …?’ and they can look up something that is here and readily available, something that iTunes just will never have, ever,” he said.

The collection in Vancouver, for instance, has an unusually large array of South American titles and other music from around the world. These could be viewed as extraneous when the collection is dismantled. It also has a large number of 78-rpm records and Edisons (early 78s recorded without amplifiers or microphones).

“I can think of one or two collectors in Vancouver who would love to have them and preserve them,” MacMillan said. “Some records are in such poor shape that they may have to be thrown out. But [with] much of it, we would endeavour to try to save it as best we could and to make sure it went into a collector’s hands or [to] a university.”

He added that “it is a time-consuming process to go through, to make sure that we’re not tossing something away that doesn’t exist in a modern format … The thing about this that is most rankling to me is that, sure, we knew that this had to happen. But it is happening way too fast.”