Monday, 21 December 2009

Memo to CBC/Radio Can Brass: Remember This is Another Country and We Like Serious Music

Changing measuring systems can mean big differences in results, and that's what appears to be happening with widespread use of "portable people meters" of PPMs, little devices that pick up what a sample of the population (all volunteers) is listening to. PPMs have been use in Montreal and 12 major areas in the US for a year now, with some disconcerting results, particularly in the US. (Previously, the ratings were based on listener diaries. The switch is being made in other markets, including Toronto, this fall and winter.)

Last week the first year-long ratings comparisons were available in the US, showing that less classical music was being listened to than had been thought. Classical radio’s market share fell 10.7 percent in the 12 markets which include New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to The New York Times.

There are inherent dangers in comparing listenership measured in two different ways, of course, but it's interesting that not much difference shows up for the BBM figures for Radio Two stations before or after the switch. (See my blogs of a year ago last spring and last week.) What is clear that the dumbing down in Radio Two programing--which coincided with the change in measurement--has not done anything to increase listenership.

On the other hand, a story in the weekend's Le Devoir gives some comfort to those who think the Mother Corp has taken a very wrong turn in decreasing serious music in its programming. The highest rated programs on Radio Canada's Espace Musique (the equivalent of the CBC's Radio Two) were classical ones, it seems: a Sunday morning show animated by a pianist, a Saturday morning one hosted by classical music buff Edgar Fruitier and the opera on Saturday afternoon.

The Brass at CBC and Radio Canada should take a close look at these figures, and do some serious reflection on what they should program. Unfortunately, they may do what they'd done in the past, which is fall all over themselves to try to reproduce what is happening south of the border.

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