Dec 292008

… and CBC Radio 2 is not faring well. After the cultural vandalism by its bureaucrats last September, the ratings of Radio 2 here in Ottawa are down by a full one third compared to the same period last year: in 2007, the market share of CBOQ was 5%, now it’s down to 3.3%.

The theory behind the revamping of Radio 2 was that by going for the lowest common denominator, pop music, Radio 2 will attract a bigger audience and will better represent Canada overall. What was forgotten was that it is not the mandate of a public broadcaster to be popular… commercial radio already does that. The public broadcaster should be the guardian of high culture (and if that sounds elitist, maybe it should be) not a promoter of pop culture.

The ratings prove my point.

Ratings of CBC RAdio 2 in Ottawa

Ratings of CBC RAdio 2 in Ottawa

By the way, some people argue that it’s wrong to promote music written by middle aged white men. (Not that the CBC was exclusively about music written by middle aged white men. I learned a lot about jazz, Canadian folk, South American music, African music, and more on the “old” CBC.) Anyhow, when I hear that argument, I feel the urge to respond by asking, are you also upset that science classes teach the physics or math of middle aged white men? That engineering schools teach the engineering of middle aged white men? For better or for worse, much of our world’s science and technology was developed by Europeans, and until recently European civilization was very male-oriented (some argue it still is.) This doesn’t change the validity of, say, Boltzmann’s thermodynamics, Einstein’s gravity, or Feynman’s QED. Why should it be different when it comes to music? Is the music of Beethoven less valuable because there weren’t that many symphonic orchestras in the 19th century (or even today) in sub-Saharan Africa? I don’t think so. In any case, if we think that an area of science or culture is dominated by middle aged white men, the correct solution is not to banish their contributions, but to make sure that they become accessible to others… which is precisely what the CBC is no longer doing. Now that’s real “elitism” in the most pejorative sense of the word.

 Posted by at 4:56 pm