Musica Viva’s AD counters criticisms of factual inaccuracy from the ABC while continuing to focus on the bigger picture.

Carl Vine has defended comments made to Limelight on the recent drastic reduction in outside broadcasts by Classic FM after the ABC accused him of “factual inaccuracy and false claims”. In a wide-ranging interview published last week, Musica Viva’s Artistic Director focussed on the bigger picture of government cuts and the station’s more than halving of outside broadcasts across all classical music presenters – from a total of 610 concerts in 2013 to 300 in 2016. He also told Limelight that he had been warned in face-to-face meetings by “people at Classic FM” that there could be a further reduction to 100 in 2017.

“Contrary to the report and the claims made by Musica Viva Artistic Director Carl Vine, Classic FM has held no discussion with Musica Viva about the number of committed recordings for 2017 other than to propose an increase in recordings with Musica Viva in 2017,” said Nick Leys, the ABC’s Media Manager. “In 2016, Classic FM recorded 18 events for broadcast, including covering the Huntington Estate Music Festival. By comparison, in 2017 Classic FM are planning to record 24 concerts for broadcast including the Musica Viva Festival and the Huntington Estate Music Festival. This programme was confirmed via memo from Classic FM to Musica Viva in late December 2016. Classic FM management has held no other discussions with Carl Vine regarding live recordings in 2017.”

Vine, who in fact had made no claim that Classic FM had proposed reducing its specific broadcast commitment to Musica Viva, welcomed the figures from the ABC and clarified his remarks. “I’m not aware of Classic FM ever having made public statements about its performance targets, and the views I expressed [in the Limelight interview] were compiled from informal advice received from several interested parties. In the absence of public statements from the ABC, my opinions in the interview could never be construed as incontrovertible fact. However, it is empirical fact that Classic FM has halved its broadcast of live concerts over the last few years, and it is entirely reasonable to assume the trend continues given all the other clear signs of belt tightening in the current climate.”

“I heard the figure of ‘100’ concert broadcasts per year from several people, but, of course, never as an officially stated position of Classic FM. If Classic FM has clear plans to increase the frequency of those broadcasts that is wonderful news, and I congratulate them on being able to increase productivity in the face of ever-reducing funding and resources.”

While the new total of 24 concerts is an increase on the 2016 figures, when pressed for a breakdown the ABC admitted that Musica Viva’s international season and its coverage of the Huntington Festival (strictly speaking a private festival and not a Musica Viva event) would remain the same at 10 and eight concerts broadcast respectively. The increase is as a result of an agreement to broadcast six concerts from the 2017 Musica Viva Festival, an event not recorded in 2016.

Vine once again reiterated that he was not complaining about the service provided by Classic FM to any particular concert organisation, especially to Musica Viva which, as ABC management notes, is faring comparatively well. “The increase in broadcasts they now propose would almost take us back to the level of five years ago, though without the level of performance fees that were being offered back then – already radically reduced from a decade before that,” he points out. “However, it is a matter of serious concern for Australian music performance organisations and their audiences across the country that there be no further erosion… Some form of public statement from ABC Management confirming its commitment to our wonderful national fine music producers would be welcome and productive.”

Limelight put those comments to the ABC, but they declined to make any statement on what Vine sees as the bigger picture.

“I must also add that my concern throughout is not directly with the management of Classic FM,” Vine continues, “but rather with the senior management of the ABC and the Federal government for the successive decimating funding cuts that continue to flow throughout the ABC, and in a disproportionate level to Classic FM. No lover of fine music in their right mind could imagine that all of the reductions in air-time and on-air talent, or the concomitant increase in program automation, are a good thing for the musical health of the nation. I believe that Classic FM management are struggling against daunting odds to maintain an effective national fine music service.”

“If Classic FM is now in a position to comment about other commonly circulating rumours, it would be wonderful to hear a public statement about the suggestion of Classic FM being combined with Triple J as a single music broadcasting station, and of the more alarming rumour of plans for Classic FM to stop broadcasting altogether on the FM band, and to become a strictly digital streaming service, effectively alienating most, if not all, of its current audience.”

Limelight put Vine’s further comments to the ABC, but again they declined to make any statement other than to say that “like all parts of the ABC, we are constantly looking at ways to improve how we meet our charter and provide value to our Classic FM audiences.”