Racks of CD's in the Montreal French language Radio-Canada network headquarters in Montreal, soon to close. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

Public broadcaster music library closing, CDs to be digitised, destroyed


Canada’s public broadcaster CBC (English) and Radio-Canada (French) is going through massive changes.

The sprawling headquarters of the Radio-Canada network in Montreal have been sold, and the organisation will move to new and much smaller rented quarters being built on one of the former parking lots. PHOTO- google street


As mentioned in its news release of December 12, 2017, Radio-Canada is taking the necessary steps to ensure the long-term preservation of its collections of vinyl records  and music scores.

Fully digitizing the 151,000 unique commercial CDs (music content, disc covers and liner notes) will protect them from wear and tear over time, thus keeping them available to production teams.

As for the vinyl LPs and 56,000 duplicate CDs, Radio-Canada has clearly stated that its goal is for the items to be given a useful second life in another context, while remaining available to meet occasional production requirements. That’s the thrust of the initiative referred to in the article.

A call for interest for the commercial music scores is currently underway and others will be issued for the vinyl LPs and duplicate CDs. Discussions are also in progress with Library and Archives Canada for the musical manuscripts.

Marc Pichette
Premier directeur
Relations publiques et Promotion
Direction générale, Communications, Marketing et Marque

With huge funding cuts from the government and increasing costs, this has meant equally massive staff and production cuts. Rapidly developing technological developments are also driving the changes. The broadcaster with its stations across the country has, over the decades, amassed a vast collection of recorded music and other artefacts at each of its locations but most especially in the two main headquarters of Toronto and Montreal.

Shortly after his death in 1997, the collection of legendary CBC broadcaster Clyde Gilmour was donated to the CBC in Toronto . It consisted of more than 10,000 long-play records, 4,000 CDs, programme scripts, notes, correspondence, files, tapes and reference materials. This was added to the already extensive and often historic collections at the public broadcaster. In 2012, CBC transferred the Gilmour collection to the Toronto Public Library system. PHOTO-CBC

In 2012, and subsequent to a massive budget cut, the CBC began a policy of digitizing its collection to save space and storage costs, even as a move began to sell off its buildings and move into smaller quarters.

Digitized and destroyed

The main French-language production centre of Radio-Canada in Montreal has also been digitising its collection. However, recently it was revealed that most of the collection of over 200,000 CDs will be destroyed when the process is completed in 2019 and prior to the move to new quarters in 2020. The destroyed materials will be recycled.

Radio-Canada will keep the recordings that it produced. PHOTO- Pascale Fontaine

The collection consists of some 151,000 CDs, and 56,000 “doubles”. The huge headquarters building of the French broadcasting network has been sold and the remaining entity is to be moved to a new smaller rented building being built on the property on one of the former parking lots.

The Montreal headquarters has a vast collection of music books and scores, some very old, and many very rare. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

An executive with the project said, there will be no room in the new building for storage of the library.

In addition to the almost 200,000 CDs, the library houses thousands of LP’s, some now relatively rare. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

She added the doubles will  first be open to offers from cultural or educational organisations. Certain special compilations however will be preserved as will some of CBC/Radio-Canada’s self-produced recordings.

The executive also noted in a Radio-Canada story that they can’t give away the rest of the discs without first verifying the copyright situation, adding that doing that for the whole collection would be a far too expensive and time-consuming task. Another option of putting the collection in storage would also be too expensive.

In addition to the racks of LPs, the library also holds thousands of old and rare 78s. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

The solution apparently is to destroy the CDs, along with the disc covers and liner notes. Producers have said that liner notes can provide useful information for programmers and hosts, and that much of that would be lost without the hard copies, although the liner notes are also being copied.*
Some people aware of the situation have said that as the broadcaster eliminates its “hard copy” libraries, many rare items are likely to be lost forever.

The Montreal library also houses about 200,000 vinyl LP records. Many of these are now quite rare. Even more rare are the approximately 70,000 old 78rpm discs. Few of these were ever re-recorded on LP, and almost none of these exist on CD.

While very few of the 78’s would ever have been transferred to LP, let alone CD, many of these old 78’s are in French, making them even rarer. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

In addition the library houses a multitude of rare, and extremely rare, musical scores and books
It is not known at the point of this writing what will happen to the vinyl LPs the 78s, or the vast collection of music books and scores, but it was revealed that there is pressure to move quickly on the closure of the physical library and collection. Staff said they themselves did not know what would happen to these items, although it is possible they may end up in some cultural museum or educational institution context. In a memo dated December 12, 2017, Radio-Canada said it was consulting with Library and Archives Canada about the thousands of manuscripts and books.

Other artefacts include music scores, again some dating back decades, and which could be considered heritage and historical items. Photo: Marie-Claude Simard/RCI

Artists in Quebec are saying the news of the digitisation and eventual destruction of the CD collection is sad. One of Quebec’s iconic and much loved music stars, Michel Rivard is quoted in the Radio-Canada article saying, “it’s very bad news”.

additional information-sources

(**NOTE: an earlier version of the story seemed to indicate the liner notes would not be copied. They are in fact being digitised as well. Also an added note to clarify the Gilmour Collection in Toronto was transferred to the Toronto Library System)

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133 comments on “Public broadcaster music library closing, CDs to be digitised, destroyed
  1. Walter says:

    The sad destiny of the contemporary culture. In fact, the 21 centure is going to disapear. The long play or the CD is not the vinyl or the disc, it is the design of the paperback, the idea behind the material. Very sad. Walter

  2. Scott says:

    I would love to cherry-pick through the CD collection!

  3. Carla Dick says:

    This is outrageous … I would love to have a chance to get some of the records and 78s for my collection but more so would like to see them go to a music museum of some kind ! Please I’m begging you not to destroy such historic priceless masterpieces!

  4. jay says:

    i buy ever zappa vinyl and cd and elton cd or vinyl u have

  5. Rob Howard says:

    Since this seems to be an issue of MONEY (as per usual) why don’t you sell them instead of destroying them??? Have a Garage Sale??? And/or Auction off the more Rare Pieces, to help supplement the funding… It’s not Rocket Science LOL

    BTW, it’s a Win/Win for you since you got all of the Releases for Free in the First Place

  6. James Owen says:

    What time does the trashman come?

  7. This amounts to cultural auto da fe.. The erasure of a vast amount of significant and reportedly irreplaceable materials. What is the hurry? Can’t even take time to find responsible recipients?

  8. Jacqueline Halupka says:

    Sad news. Particularly sad that copyright, intended to protect, is a significant factor in the decision to destroy the collection. I hope that sales and donations have at least been considered…

  9. Andrew Chaplin says:

    My disappointment with the online CBC Music pages and subsequent app is that there appears to be no traditional or folk page. There must be oodles of stuff recorded of Alan Mills, La Bolduc and the like. Why cannot the public get access to that?

  10. Bill Steele says:

    As someone who just bought the Sackville RCI 1940’s VOICE OF CANADA, to house in my historic Jail in Dorchester, I would LOVE TO HOUSE, LOVE, and display and share this collection for all to see. I can save this. Contact me –

    • SY says:

      There’s been an update about contact information:
      Marc Pichette
      Premier directeur
      Relations publiques et Promotion
      Direction générale, Communications, Marketing et Marque

  11. Patricia Tilley says:

    Why can’t you save and store just the rare ones?

  12. Frank Madigan says:

    Clyde Gilmour’s albums I listened to him while writing essays by long hand . History shouldn’t have a price tag.

    It would be so nice if a city or town opened a radio museum to house all the old scripts etc

  13. Beverley Markowitz says:

    Perhaps people would make donations to keep the collection or at least digitise the rest if the collection. I would. I listened to Clyde Gilmour years ago. It s more than sad. To me, it’s outrageous.

  14. Hary RAZAFINDRAMBOLA says:

    Please don’t destroy. Donate.

  15. It will be a travesty if the CBC’s unique and massive collection of recordings is destroyed, particularly those that are recordings made by Radio Canada or CBC.

    Records cannot be digitally reproduced without losing a certain quality of sound. The collection likely includes one-off recordings such as celebrity interviews, local concerts, and such.

    Perhaps Library and Archives Canada would be willing to take these materials? It’s far too valuable to future generations to see them destroyed now.

  16. Demetrios Tsimon says:

    The oldest information records in existence are Sumerian clay tablets. Longevity was not a problem but available “software” to decode/translate them was. It was indecipherable until the 19th century. The only information that survives from the first moon landing is what was transcribed on paper from the computer punch cards. It is one thing to archive the music in digital files but quite another to preserve it in formats that future generations will have access to. Digital formats come and go. Legacy formats disappear or become inaccessible.

    Arguments about cost are just excuses. aSurely this country can afford a decent depository for an irreplaceable cultural heritage.

  17. Wendy Leigh-Bell says:

    this is reminiscent of the destruction of the scientific libraries where much valuable material was destroyed, during the Harper era. Sadly the Harper appointees are still in charge at the CBC. They were appointed not for expertise in the broadcast, or musical world, but for their connection to the former primeminister.

    This is disgraceful.

  18. Nicole Blain says:

    I am a former employee of the CBC and managed the Music Library in Toronto for over 16 years. There are several factual errors/omissions in this article.

    1. The Clyde Gilmour collection was transferred to the Toronto Public Library – Special Collections about 7 years ago.

    2. Radio-Canada publicly posted a call for expressions of interest for their published sheet music collection in January 2018. They WANT to find a home for this part of the collection.

    3. The liner notes were being digitized in 2014 before I left. There is no reason to think that they no longer do that (perhaps they do).

    This new is quite shocking to hear because of the volume involved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a librarian and archivist. I love collections and preserving culture and heritage.
    Radio-Canada is following the advice from their legal team: you can make a mechanical reproduction (i.e. digitization) of a commercial sound recording so long as you keep or destroy the original; you cannot sell or give it away unless you have permission from the rights holder. They are following the Copyright Act.

    Also, it looks like there will be no room in the new building for physical collections and these CDs are starting to deteriorate. Does it make sense to store them off-site at a cost if they are disintegrating. Would you be as upset if they were digitizing and destroying 151,000 cassette tapes?

    At least they are planning on digitizing EVERYTHING in the collection. ABC in Australia plan to digitize only 5-10% of the collection.

    Nicole Blain
    Former manager of the CBC Music Library, Toronto

  19. TR says:

    Technical error in the article. CDs do not need to be digitized. The data on a CD is already digital.

  20. Darren Harte says:

    The BBC here in the UK and Radio France have sold duplicate copies of their library stock with no problems, so why the problem with CBC? Radio France and the BBC have purpose built archives for their CD and Record collections that are still used on a daily basis.

  21. Kathy Bjorseth says:

    I have loved the CBC ever since moving to Canada in 1972. This is very sad news – there must be some way to preserve this wonderful collection. What about universities? Big city libraries? This was amassed at the taxpayers’ expense – they should continue to have the benefit and the access. Please, don’t destroy these precious archives!!

  22. Deryk Barker says:

    This is vandalism, pure and simple and should NOT be permitted.

  23. Speedy says:

    Please don’t destroy. Sell or donate.

  24. bernard j. murphy says:

    to destroy the cd’s and records is a very ecological disaster…not to mention a cultural disaster. surely selling ought to be considered, or finding other avenues for saving the treasure trove of music ought to be found. please do no destroy this art. i m very surprised at this decision by the world renowned cbc to destroy instead of at least recycling. come on cbc, you can do so much better than this. be the leader in positive change, show the way…sincerely, bjm…..

  25. Cathy B says:

    What huge funding cuts are you referring to?? You got another $675 million over 5 years as soon as Trudeau was elected. Technically that stuff is owned by taxpayers, perhaps we should have a say in what happens to it.

  26. R Halstead says:

    What a huge loss.

  27. Edith Wenzel says:

    I agree that it should not be destroyed. None of it. There should be an effort made to find someone who can take the various pieces. To digitize everything means no one will look at them. The priceless books are nothing digitized. Another case of disrespect for history. Given this was all funded with tax payer money we need some say in it – not some bureaucrat making the decision!

  28. Don Chapman says:

    This is crazy. It is one thing to digitize much of the media, but quite another to destroy old vinyl that will not be digitized. Surely there is some organization that can come up with the resources to preserve this collection, even if it no longer is held by the CBC?

    Perhaps this is a perfect project for crowd sourcing?

  29. David Law says:

    The CBC received a $75 million INCREASE in its budget last year so a key fact cited in the story is simply wrong.

    There is no good purpose in the destruction of archived material. The story sounds like a threat to extort more money from taxpayers. $1.1 billion a year seems like enough to save some CDs. How many nurses or teachers do we lay off so that CBC News can spend even more?

  30. Corinne osko says:

    Send them to me I,ll take them omg ! Are they nuts! All those CDs and lps ! I,ll take them ! But I live in Scarborough ont, will they ship them ?

  31. Jsobiz says:

    Why don’t they donate them to community radio stations?

  32. Minh Tan says:

    Don’t destroy the CDs! The CBC should put out a broadcast to registered used CD stores to submit their registration info if they want to be eligible to get a piece of this library, within some deadline like a month or two. Then divide by some rough amont (i.e. don’t break up collections for the sake of math in dividing the CDs “evenly”) and either mail to the stores. If shipping costs might be too high, get the stores to pay for shipping (make clear in broadcast), or get them to pay up to some maximum amount if they want to get some CDs (i.e. en “entry” fee), and the CBC can share the rest of the shipping. The CD market isn’t what it used to be, sure, but there is still a market out there for it!

    • RS Corky says:

      CDs unfortunatley decay extremely rapidly. 100% of CDs will be unplayable in 20 years.

      No point keeping something that is going to be unplayable, especially when many CDs from the 90s already are.

      This is pure sentimentality that is not connected to technical reality. If we keep the CDs, it will just be to hold them as plastic souvenirs. The music on them is guaranteed to be lost forever because the CD format is unstable and only has 20-30 years before it completely decays.

      • shane b. says:

        Commercially produced CD are very robust and if stored correctly should last a very long time. “Homemade” CDs burned on computers etc employ organic dyes which will decompose over time rendering them unplayable. The article does not say what kind of discs make up the collection but I suspect the majority of are factory pressed commercial releases. This story is really about selling off the CBC building.

      • Brad M says:

        This isn’t true. I own hundreds of CDs manufactured in the ’80s and ’90s that still work perfectly well. I’ve found a decayed one exactly once.

      • Eric Berman says:

        That’s what they used to say, but I don’t think so. The idea was that the aluminum (or aluminium) base of the CD will oxidize and the new pits will so corrupt the recording on that same surface that they will be unplayable. But I have CD’s considerably older than that and they are fine. Still, I would probably save them in a nitrogen vault to keep any oxidation from continuing.

      • My cds from the middle 80s are in excellent shape. Tests have been run on how long cds should last. Test show most should last 100 years.

      • jaan salk says:

        When video started becoming popular 40 years ago, people used to say VHS tapes would decay in 5 years, and you had to wind and rewind them every year. I have many VHS from 35 years ago, and every one recorded at SP (fast) speed is still good. You might have the odd CD that does disintegrate, but it is presumptive to generalize that most CD’s will be gone.
        My concern is that whatever is being digitized will be put into some sort of hard drive. That raises 2 problems. All hard drives will fail eventually (much more often than CD’s), and the software needed to read the hard drives can become extinct.

  33. Cynthia Huckle says:

    This is very unfortunate that rare LPs, 78’s and written materials unique to this library are just to be destroyed! Surely, the collection can be parcelled out to other CBC offices. Or give the collection to Archives Canada or the central library in Montreal it other libraries in capitals around the country! Don’t let this one of a kind collection be lost because the facility has to move!!

  34. Ray Keating says:

    shocking, try burning the libraries and rewriting history….

  35. Can we just fundraise enough money to rent them a storage property for all this stuff???
    This is terrible!!

  36. James King says:

    I’m sorry, but this is just incredibly short sighted and narrow minded. What in the world is happening to the CBC?
    I cannot even contact any of your journalists directly any longer – unless I use either Twitter or Facebook…Your on line comment pages are a morass of pointless bickering and the TV news spends more time on dog stories than actual journalism of substance. The only reason I still pay ANY attention is because private broadcasting, hard to believe, is even Worse.

  37. Alan Smithee says:

    Let me take them, and I won’t even charge a storage fee.

  38. Linda Munroe says:

    It seems like several stupid decisions in a row. Sell the building and then rent space elsewhere that is too small for the mandate. Whose idea is that and how does it save money?
    The Government of Canada bought and paid for all of this music including creating some of it. So who decided to destroy what is a cultural archive?
    I wish whoever is the decision maker here would rethink this.

  39. Patricia says:

    What a shame, especially for the musicians who would like to have access to their own music. Why not give it back to them?

  40. WHY destroy these? Gilmour’s Albums, to use one example, are iconic. Would it not be more beneficial to offer them to the public for purchase? I’d love to have a few of his CDs! CBC would make much-needed $$. We’d all win. Destruction of such remarkable albums is simply unacceptable to me as a taxpayer and CBC listener.

    Please, PLEASE make them available to us. Set a price and give Canadians a chance to share in this legacy. After all, we’ve supported CBC and its programming for many years. Give us back some measure of our loyalty.

  41. Gerald Tomyn says:

    I thought Trudeau promised to restore funding for the CBC so things like this would not happen?

  42. Kira Bowen says:

    This is rather disgusting. Sell them or give them away. Don’t send them to the landfill.

  43. They should sell it on consignment. Have someone evaluate the potential value of each CD, and then get the copyright clearance figured out for the most valuable ones. Take some fixed percentage of each sale. Complete sets of a single artist could have considerable value as original recordings.

    While there isn’t enough space to store these things in a library, it’s not so many CDs that they couldn’t be stored in a large home with some spare rooms.

    The items that could not be cleared, or the owner refuses to clear, could be sent to the performer, if they pay a fee to have it packaged and sent. This would be a good job for a retired person, or two, to make a little side money.

    While this doesn’t sound aw responsible or nice as having it in a museum or public archive, it would keep the material from being destroyed, and possibly available for collection in the future, should funds become available.

    • I’m sorry, I thought those were CDs of performances. I just re-read it and realized they are probably promotional CDs.

      I don’t know the situation in Canada, but people sell those in the US all the time, without repercussions, even though it’s prohibited.

      A dealer might be willing to get permission from record companies.

  44. Breanna says:

    These should not be destroyed!!! Donate them to somewhere or auction the collection. Destroying all of these is a huge waste and there are many people out there who would love to have them

  45. Travis (Barrhaven) says:

    I’m all for digitizing, but the destruction of the originals (records, cd’s, liners, sheet music, etc.) should be considered a crime. If they are destroyed, that will be it for me. I’ll wipe CBC/RCI from my life for good. Whomever thought this was a good or viable idea should hang up their coat and resign in embarrassment, then get their heads checked because they may have flipped their lids.

  46. Crackmacs says:

    Sad to see things like this will be destroyed rather than preserved 🙁

  47. Jim Poltrone says:

    Digitize, but do not destroy. IMO, This is as bad as the BBC’s Great Purge, or the burning of the library in Alexandria, Egypt.

  48. Emily says:

    Move everything to the cavernous space at the “new” CBC buildings in Toronto. Nobody really uses that space most of the time. It could easily house these treasures with lots of room for cafe goers etc.

  49. Mark Morris says:

    Copyright fears didn’t stop CBC Alberta donating all their LPs to the Edmonton Goodwill store. I bought hundreds of them. Absolutely no-one is going to sue CBC Canada for breach of copyright if they donate these items(imagine the terrible publicity!). What CBC is presumably worried about is that they will have made a digital copy of something they currently own, but will then not own (as they will have given it away). They (like us) are are currently allowed to make a copy of something they already own, under Canadian copyright law.
    But has the CBC thought this right through? If they destroy the original item after making a digital copy, and keep the digital copy, then we are in a really interesting legal zone. This might be well constituted as a breach of copyright, since the original has not been preserved, CBC will no longer own it. The digital copy will not be a faithful copy of all the material in the original, and thus misrepresent the original intent.
    It might be well worth one of those copyright holders – e.g. a living Canadian composer or a performer – challenging CBC over this, as the best way to stop CBC’s philistine actions. It might well be that if it came to court, the court would decide that if the CBC is destroying the original material, it has to destroy the digital copy it has made as well.
    finally, it might be noted that so much of this material will be of classical music – something CBC no longer cares about.

  50. Martin Stockton says:

    There are hundreds of stores in Canada that sell used CD’s and vinyl records every day. Does the CBC think that these businesses research copyright for anything they sell? No way! CBC should donate the entire collection to some other org, or donate chunks of it to charities for re-sale. Destroying everything would be an obscenity.