So here it finally is – an announcement that CBC Radio will be reducing the number of recordings of live music (see: CBC Radio trims live concert recording by two-thirds). Wow, did it really take this long for this story to get noticed? No, I’m not talking about today rather than yesterday, this week rather than last week, or this month, or even this year, rather this decade! It’s literally been happening for that long. Year after year funding for CBC Radio has been eroded, and with each reduction, the funds for recording music has been front and centre on the cutting block. So why are we suddenly making a hue and cry about it?
Despite what Chris Boyce, executive director of radio and audio at CBC English radio says, CBC has not been in the live music business for a long time. It has been steadily getting out of the business for years. Once upon a time, it was a leader in the development and exposure of Canadian composers and musicians. It was a central player in the discovery of young talent, providing the first opportunity for promising talent to be presented in prestigious performances and later broadcast locally, regionally and nationally. It was an important partner with other public and private presenters, making many high-profile events possible and giving them far greater exposure than would be otherwise possible.
Not only was CBC an indispensable part of the music making in this country, but it was a lifeline for the Canadian listener as well. Nobody else was broadcasting our musicians in most of the genres. Folk, alternative, singer-songwriter, jazz, and especially classical music were (and continue to be) a wasteland in the Canadian broadcasting environment. Today, despite valiant attempts to compensate for the erosion of this important role, CBC has become irrelevant to the musical community and listeners. This latest announcement just confirms what many of us have known for years: CBC is no longer a player in the game. It’s biggest role today is telling the listeners it still has where to go to hear good music.
The quote by Boyce at the end of the above-mentioned article is the real punch-line: “We will continue to record more concerts than anyone in the country.” Taken out of context, it’s clearly a false statement – there are even individuals across the country who record more than 100 concerts a year. Perhaps in the realm of broadcasters they do more, but the others have never even been players. The fact is that this is the whimper of a dying animal. CBC is clearly now only a journalistic organization. It has bowed out of the cultural industry, probably for good.