Cross-Canada protests decry CBC Radio changes, orchestra's end
Dedicated CBC Radio 2 listeners and other classical music fans assembled outside CBC locations across Canada on Friday to protest recently announced programming changes and the public broadcaster's decision to disband its radio orchestra.
One-hour protests were staged outside a host of CBC branches, including in St. John's, Halifax, Fredericton, Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Regina.
Across the country, the demonstrations varied in number from small gatherings of about 20 to an estimated 300 in Vancouver.
"It will be one more step towards a homogenized CBC whose musical purpose is undemanding background noise," composer James Rolfe, president of the Canadian League of Composers, told protesters in Toronto.
Lydia Adams, artistic director of the Toronto-based Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir, urged the public broadcaster to "take a step back" and reconsider the decisions.
"We expect the CBC leadership to reflect the Canadian voice, our Canadian voice," she said to loud cheers from the Toronto crowd, huddled under umbrellas in the rain.
Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith also spoke in Toronto.
Set to musical accompaniment that ranged from blaring trumpets (in Halifax) to blasting boom boxes (in Calgary) to bullhorns (in Montreal) to drum beating (in Toronto), the protesters toted signs bearing slogans like "Save our CBC," "Classical Music Rocks," "My CBC includes the CBC Radio Orchestra," "We are your demographic" and "Are 1,100,000 classical listeners irrelevant?"
In Saskatoon, Anne Frost, who described herself as a loyal CBC listener for the past 30 years, disputed the notion that the programming changes are being made to better reflect Canada's diversity.
Diverse voices are already reflected on CBC Radio 1, which offers news, current affairs, arts and other cultural programming, she said, adding that a bigger mix of musical genres will hurt Radio 2.
"If somebody really likes country and western, do they want to hear an opera aria at the end of it? No. They are not going to listen. They are going to go to" a country and western station, Frost told CBC News.
The cross-country protest originated on a Save Classical Music at the CBC Facebook group that has enlisted approximately 13,000 members.
"What we heard there, at protests in all the locations, was a very passionate commitment to classical music in general, to individual programs, and to Radio 2. We see that as a good thing," CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said.
"There's always some unease when you talk about any kind of change," he added.
"We have a mandate as a national public broadcaster … to represent the musical diversity and creativity in the country, and that's exactly what we're going to do. Classical, yes, but other kinds of music as well."
In an open letter published earlier this month, CBC Radio programming head Jennifer McGuire defended the decision to feature "a broader, richer and diverse spectrum of music: classical, jazz, folk, world, R & B, singer-songwriter and roots.
"Radio 2 does not belong to one genre, one constituency, one taste," she wrote, adding that "current listeners can take comfort in the fact that classical will remain the most represented music genre on Radio 2."