Canada’s public broadcaster CBC (English) and Radio-Canada (French) is going through massive changes.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
An executive with the project said, there will be no room in the new building for storage of the library.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
- Radio-Canada: L-P Ouimet: Feb 21/18- numerisé et destruction (Fr)
- Globe and Mail: G Dixon: Mar 26/17: Quiet dismantling record libraries
- Vancouver Sun: J Mackie: Jun 1/12: CBC Vancouver collection sold
- Archives- CBC/Radio-Canada
- CBC Calgary: Jan 26/12 record library close
- Le Devoir: C Montpetit: Feb 23/18: CDs seront detruites
(**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)