The “Questions” e-mail I sent to Chris Boyce, Executive Director of Radio Music & Audio and Mark Steinmetz, Director of CBC Music, copied to John Agnew, Manager of CBC Radio Saskatchewan

Dear Mr. Boyce and Mr. Steinmetz:
I am writing to express my dismay over the way in which CBC Radio management is choosing to deal with the unfortunate 10% cutback in its services to Canadians, many of whom believe a large part of CBC Radio’s mandate is to keep them informed about our arts and culture in all regions of the country.
Some of my earliest live shows were recorded and archived by CBC Radio Saskatchewan  in the 80s and early 90s. I recorded portions of a CD and another in house project with the help of CBC studios and staff, songs that were broadcast several times by CBC. For decades musicians here have benefitted both by being paid for our work and through the exposure we received regionally and sometimes nationally. CBC Radio Arts played a huge role in my early songwriting career, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities they gave me. Young Saskatchewan artists deserve to be supported as I was.
CBC Radio Arts has also contributed significantly to the bottom line of most Saskatchewan music festivals, both through the promotion of our events and by paying artists to record live. They have truly done a fantastic job of documenting our diverse musical heritage in many parts of the province, on a shoestring.
In an interview I heard CBC VP Kirstine Stewart say that Saskatchewan musicians can still be interviewed on regional shows. She said we can get our tunes into the mix of the 100,000 Canadian songs they are making available now for free through CBC’s new downloading service. How can this possibly be a reasonable substitution for live recordings?
Neither of these options will give the kind of exposure of the live recordings, or provide the historical record, and CBC doesn’t have to pay us for our work. Neither of these options has the cache of the live music event recording. That prestige will only be bestowed upon musicians in 4 large cities, or those willing to travel there (if you can get yourself noticed by their producers).
Mr. Boyce, you are quoted as saying, “We will continue to record more live concerts than anyone in the country.” I was very sorry to read this because if it’s an accurate, quote, it’s a cop out. If CBC were to record 3 concerts a year it would still be more than anyone in the country! That is the CBC’s job, in part, and now you will do almost nothing in my province. That just isn’t good enough. We are taxpayers who help pay for CBC, too.
Could you please tell me:
1) Why are musicians on the prairies and in Newfoundland bearing the brunt of these cutbacks?
2) When Saskatchewan already was a bare-bones arts operation, why is OUR radio arts programming being almost completely obliterated? Why are OUR arts experts the ones to go when you had 90 positions to choose from?
3) What is meant by “using different technology” to record? How is that going to make any difference if there’s no one and no budget to do the recording?
4) Who will do the few recordings you say we will have? Will these people be experienced with recording music?
5) Nationally, while the Harper cuts were 10%, my guess is that with the end of radio drama and the gutting of music, the arts are being cut by 70%. How can you justify cutting the arts so disproportionately to the rest of your journalistic programming?
6) Has someone in management decided that the arts are no longer an important part of the CBC’s mandate? If so, whom?
7) By what authority can CBC management decide the arts are really just a frill, a pleasant passage between the hardcore news and the goofy call-in contests that pass for public broadcasting these days?
I could go on but I’ll stop there.
Besides my letter to Q below, I’ll close by saying this: In early 1997 I headed up our province’s “CBC: Ours to Keep” campaign — a national petition project to fight the cuts of the day. I worked as a volunteer for 3 months, practically every day and put in 8 to 12 hour days. I put my artistic career on hold. I managed some 80 petitioners all over the province and per capita Saskatchewan had the highest number of signatures – well over 20,000 names. As I stood in the airport to leave for Ontario to deliver my cargo, people around me were still offering to sign. I was so proud to serve CBC in this way because I really believe in the power of public broadcasting. I have been a great fan of CBC – both radio and TV.
But I’m losing my faith in CBC because CBC is losing its way. With this decision to cut live recordings I can now see the pattern here: CBC is leaving artists behind. That is not the CBC I want, nor is it one I can believe in.
Brenda Baker
P.S. By way of further expressing my take on these cutbacks, I share this letter I recently wrote to Jian Gomeshi and the Q producers who, shamefully, have not taken these unfair cutbacks up as a point of discussion, when they are supposed to be advocates for those of us who make our livings in the arts, even if that unfairness is coming from CBC itself.

Letter to Q