I am — conditionally — jubilant at the news that the CBC will soon expand its FM radio operation. Already CBU-FM in Vancouver has been broadcasting experimentally; early in 1962 it will join the present three-city (MontrealOttawa-Toronto) network: eventually
there should be a coasl-to-coast chain of affiliated CBC-FM stations.
There are now private FM stations in most major cities. Unfortunately, too many of these simply furnish forth their FM schedules with their regular AM programs — and everyone knows what they're like these days. By contrast, here is what CBC-FM offered, among many other things, in one recent week: the whole of Wagner’s Die Walküre recorded at the 1961 Bayreuth Festival; a selection of the current European jazz; a performance of Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust featuring Lois Marshall; and readings from the music criticism of GBS.
Some people have liked this sort of thing all along. But in matters of mass communications, it seems to me, the highbrows have been the most docile and conciliatory minority of all. They’ve been like the two characters in the Jules Feiffer cartoon (another highbrow
tastc) who are instinctively repelled by the terrible rallying cuteness of the female recreation director, then decide, “She’s only doing what she feels is right,” and end by joining in her games because “It’s we who have insight who must make (he concessions.”
The highbrows, understanding that their taste is unpopular, have conceded (he right of the majority to all broadcast and telecast prime time.
Now CBC-FM has managed to suggest that here is some time it may be all right for them to have. It doesn’t cost the CBC very much: eighty-five percent of the schedule is music, and hi-fi records or transcriptions are used mostly, with an operator to play them and an announcer to announce. It takes up hardly any room: there are the two full CBC-AM networks for everybody else, plus private-station AM and FM, plus all of TV. It’s not occupying time or airwaves that anyone could possibly covet for important national services like Wayne and Shuster, farm reports or reading letters-from-home to weathermen in the Arctic: FM broadcasting only works within a radius of fifteen to twenty-five miles of the actual transmitter. In fact the FM service is really
not going to get in anyc ’s way at all.
I wish, therefore, to applaud the CBC. A self-sorted minority, otherwise neglected, is being admirably catered to. This seems entirely in accordance with what 1 believe to be known as The Corporation’s Mandate. It is, further, being done at a cut rate to the taxpayer and so beautifully unobtrusively that those ballet-hating backbenchers may never get to hear of it. I hope they don’t.
1 also profoundly hope that just because CBC-FM is going national no one in the corporation starts getting nervous. Already there’s loose talk about “more varied fare” and “well-balanced programing.” Late last month Laurence Wilson, Toronto Network Program Officer (Radio), said, “I would like to see the new FM network include programs that will appeal to that large minority of the Canadian population whose tastes lie somewhere between the highbrow’s and those whose tastes are tuned to the razzle-dazzle razzmatazz of today’s commercial radio.”
I don’t say CBC-FM’s programing is perfect; but I certainly hope that isn’t handwriting, there, on the wall.
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