Dear Jian and “Q” Producers:
By now you will know that a few people in CBC Toronto are about to completely obliterate CBC Radio’s live music recording program across the Prairies and in Newfoundland. This is not just about Harper and his cutbacks. This is also about CBC Toronto deeming our prairie musicians and music events unworthy of regular recordings and historical archiving. It is about the journalism side of CBC being favoured disproportionately over the arts side of CBC’s mandate.
Of all the national radio shows currently on air, “Q” is THE show that people go to for important news on the state of the arts in Canada and around the world. I would like to know when you will be covering this insulting and rather outrageous state of affairs? Is this not the job of a show like “Q”?
When the live music of four provinces is completely ignored by our public broadcaster, how can that be fair? Why should musicians playing in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Halifax be deemed any more important than those playing Winnipeg, Edmonton, or, for that matter, Ness Creek?
CBC is funded by millions of prairie taxpayers — why shouldn’t our musicians also be recorded for national airplay and for the public, historic record, just like those in Ontario, Quebec, BC, etc? The job of CBC is to reflect the diversity and excellence of the music made ACROSS the country, not just in a few places that often consider themselves to be the centre of the universe. And speaking of diversity, this decision also impacts our ability to record the music of our Fransaskois, aboriginal, and other cultural groups who deserve to be heard and better known to the rest of us.
The CBC mobile recording units that will soon be sold off (no doubt for far less than they’re worth) allowed our producers to run all over the place to capture unusual events and artists in many unexpected places. These recordings helped to tell OUR stories to ourselves and the rest of Canada. These mobiles and our beautiful studios (at least they’re beautiful in Regina) will be mothballed, torn apart, never to be used again. It’s wasteful, ridiculous, appalling.
Beyond the issue of live recordings, when I worked for CBC Radio Arts in Saskatchewan in the eighties, the arts were a respected, well-funded part of our public broadcasting vision. The vision was threefold: to help create art, to record the arts, and to cover arts issues. To accomplish this, eight or so people worked full-time in the Radio Arts department (including me), PLUS a few dedicated technicians, PLUS a few freelancers. It was a vibrant group doing good work, and our existence supported what we artists are constantly saying: THE ARTS ARE IMPORTANT!!!!
As of this last round of cuts that same Radio Arts department in Regina is now 1.5 positions, with NO dedicated tech and NO freelancers.
This time, of 90 existing CBC positions in Saskatchewan, there were 3 full-time people cut: one an already redundant position in LaRonge, and then two in the tiny Radio Arts department, thus leaving the aforementioned 1.5 positions.
So, as it turns out, CBC is really not so enlightened. When money gets tight, CBC is really no different than schools that cut back their music programs, or a government that doesn’t see the point in having a Film Tax Credit. It seems as long as CBC can point to a great show like “Q”, (and Wachtel and Rogers) then it has done the artsy part of its job and we don’t really need to spend too much more of CBC’s dwindling funds on the arts anywhere else.
CBC sees the arts as a frill!!! Who would have thought? Not me, until now. Turns out CBC is now run by journalists, for journalists.
It is unbelievably appalling, and you, Jian, as a public broadcaster, an artist, a musician, a person of integrity who speaks out regularly and forcefully on injustices against artists, YOU ought to say something about this situation.
I hope you do so soon.
Brenda Baker
An additional note sent to Q some hours later:
Dear Jian and “Q” Producers:
Further to my 2 a.m. missive, I failed to mention that this coming Friday night in Moose Jaw, Jeffrey Straker will be the LAST Saskatchewan musician recorded live by our own “cultural curators” (to borrow Jian’s term) who live and work here in Saskatchewan. Like the end of the radio drama era (more evidence of the anti-arts slant of CBC) this Friday night would appear to be the end of an era in Saskatchewan.
CBC Toronto reps have insisted there will be some kind of live recording in the prairies down the road. Their “don’t worry, be happy” letters on this matter have been extremely vague, and one has to wonder just who the “cultural curators” will be for these recording projects? More decisions made by the “smarter” CBC people in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, I presume.
As it is, it’s rare to hear anyone from Saskatchewan on existing national radio arts programs. Like the other provinces being abandoned by CBC Radio, Saskatchewan musicians, writers and artists have so much to offer Canada, and public broadcasting. It’s a terrible shame that their talents are no longer properly and respectfully recognized by the CBC.
Brenda Baker