Punish success. Reward failure. Isn't that what state ownership is for? - Macleans.ca

Punish success. Reward failure. Isn’t that what state ownership is for?

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Let’s connect three data points that don’t quite fit together seamlessly but which, if the trend they seem to depict is accurate, is incompatible with any claim to sanity on the part of CBC management.

• I got a nice email on May 28 from the CBC, proclaiming, “CBC RADIO ACHIEVES UNPARALLELLED SUCCESS: Radio One smashes recent record highs,  The New Radio 2 achieves wider appeal.

The numbers to back up these claims come from the BBM S2 2009 survey results. Let’s stipulate that things look good for Radio 1. “The service picked up an incredible 100,000 new listeners since last fall, reaching a record number of Canadians at just over 3.6 million each week,” the release says. Excellent. But Radio 2? “The changes at the New Radio 2 are resonating. The national music network saw growth in the under 50 demographic, gaining nearly 64,000 new listeners – a 17 per cent jump – while retaining most of its over 50 audience for a total reach of 1.6 million listeners.”

If I were a skeptical type, I might notice that the Radio 2 part of the news release doesn’t compare the network’s total reach with that in earlier time periods, nor does it provide a number for over-50 audience loss (it retained only “most” of that group) to compare to the “nearly 64,000” new under-50-year-olds. And I might wonder whether that’s because the reach isn’t bigger and the lost audience outnumbers the gained.

But I don’t know that for sure, not even after reading my second data point:

• The timing of this analysis of Radio 2 demographics suggests it relates to BBM S1 2009 results. So it’s not directly comparable to the more recent data I quote above. Good thing too, because it looks a mess:

— because radio use increases with age, the over-50 audience is way bigger than any younger demographic, and a loss in that audience should normally be reckoned to be larger than in others;

— the number of Canadians who “ever listen” to Radio 2 is a bit larger. But listeners are spending less time with the network and audience share has gone down. And audience share in the larger over-50 demographics is down  more than audience share is up in the smaller under-50 demographics.

— audiences are above average in the very musical styles — classical and jazz, if “Tonic” can still be called a jazz show — the CBC is trying to drown in the bathtub. And what of Buck 65’s “Drive” show? Well, it’s lost half its audience since Juergen Goth was running the kind of sleepy, popular show that CBC execs so reliably despise (which is how Rita MacNeil got replaced on teevee by Ralph Benmurgui, who gave it a mighty try for naught).

Stipulate, again, that everything may have changed between the first and second BBM surveys I describe here. But if it hasn’t — and the arch phrasing of the CBC news release suggests it hasn’t — then what should the Corp do?

• Give Buck 65 (or Rich Terfry, as he calls himself offstage and on air) an extra hour; move Katie Malloch’s “Tonic” back two hours; and further savage the CBC’s mandate to record live music. Well, no, you’re right, that’s not what they should do. It’s just (UPDATE: Oops, I forgot the link at first. Here it is now:) what they’re doing.

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