An overview of the issues involved in RCI’s international mandate.
November/December, 2007 – Questions about the international mandate of Radio Canada International (RCI) were once again raised at a parliamentary committee as it prepares to issue a report on Canada’s public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada. The public broadcaster is responsible for RCI. And according to Canada’s Broadcasting Act it is part of the CBC/Radio-Canada’s condition of licence to provide an international service.
However, RCI employees and others are raising questions about how the mandate of Canada’s Voice to the World has been affected by its focus on programming on immigration and new immigrants in Canada.
Nothing preventing more changes
On May 25, 2007, the union representing most of RCI’s employees (Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada) called on parliament’s Canadian Heritage committee to protect RCI’s mandate saying “there will be nothing preventing the CBC from changing its international service” unless “the Broadcasting Act has been amended to protect RCI’s Mandate.” See testimony parliamentary committee here.
On November 27, 2007, at the parliamentary hearings in Ottawa, Maria Mourani, the Heritage critic of the opposition Bloc Quebecois Party questioned the CBC/Radio-Canada Vice-President responsible for RCI, Sylvain Lafrance about the mandate: “I am not saying that it has been abolished. Does one mandate take precedence over another? If so, how can that be done without contravening the act?”
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is now in the process of writing a report on the Role of the CBC/Radio-Canada as a Public Broadcaster in the 21st Century, including services such as Radio Canada International.
Not first time Committee hears warnings
However, this is not the first time the Standing Committee has dealt with the issue of RCI’s mandate.
In its 2003 report “Our Cultural Sovereignty”, the Standing Committee quoted the RCI Action Committee submission extensively and called on the “appropriate department [to] review the mandate of Radio Canada International, with a view to identifying the necessary resources required to strengthen its services.”
RCI Action Committee proposes Broadcasting Act changes
The 2003 report highlighted the following from the RCI Action Committee submission:
“The Broadcasting Act must outline RCI’s mandate to “attract an international audience” and develop “international awareness of Canada” [the CBC's Corporate Policy No. 14]. It must specifically oblige RCI to prepare such programming in both official languages, English and French. There should be sufficient guidelines in the Act to ensure most regions of the world are covered, and to ensure RCI broadcasts in major foreign languages, and any others deemed important or useful. Without necessarily enumerating each region and language, these directives must be strong enough to prevent anyone but Parliament from being able to change the mandate of RCI. At the moment, there is very little that prevents the CBC from cutting services back radically.”
See entire submission here. See report here.
Mandate guidelines eliminated
In 2005, two years after this report was released, CBC/Radio-Canada abolished Corporate Policies No. 14 and 18, which specifically outlined the need for RCI programming to be adapted to attract an international audience. See details here.
Programs and positions eliminated
In the autumn of 2006, programs for Africa, Europe, and India were replaced by generic programs in English and French focussing on immigration and new immigrants. In addition, an increasing number of contractual employees were hired, and a number of permanent positions eliminated. See details here.
In 2007, the integration of RCI into the domestic service (CBC/Radio-Canada) has been so pronounced that even the news copy on RCI’s website has been replaced by links to CBC (see here) and Radio-Canada (see here) news links which have not been adapted to the needs of an international audience.
The above text is from the RCI Action Committee web site: