Govt must step in, stop cut, save Radio Canada International

We are asking Canada’s federal government to step in, stop the drastic cut to Radio Canada International’s budget, and to protect Canada’s Voice to the World by giving the service financial autonomy from CBC/Radio-Canada.

Why are we asking for such a drastic step?

On April 4, 2012, as part of its budget cuts CBC/Radio-Canada said it was “transforming” our international service to “focus on webcasting”; that RCI “will provide multilingual service broadcasting in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin”. [See “Transforming Radio Canada International (RCI)” here. ]

What it did not say is Canada’s Voice to the World will stop being a radio station, and our budget will be cut by 80%.

We are not being transformed. We are being destroyed.

More than 80% of our $12.3 million dollar budget will be cut. More than two thirds of staff will be fired (none of them bureaucrats, all radio production staff). Two language services Russian and Portuguese will be closed down (we wonder whether there was consultation with Foreign Affairs as is outlined by the 2003 Orders-in-Council). There will be no newscasts, the newsroom will be shut down. We will no longer be a radio station (all shortwave and satellite programming will end on June 24). And our only presence in the world, as Canada’s Voice to the World, will be on the Internet, with a website that has yet to be conceived.

With these decisions we will cut off Chinese listeners from uncensored RCI news about Canada and the World, that’s because the Chinese authorities block the RCI website, and the majority of our Chinese listeners hear us on shortwave. We will also no longer offer the kind of radio programming one would expect from a member of the G8.

We know that the government does not want to interfere in the programming or internal affairs of CBC/Radio-Canada, and normally we would not want any interference. But with this latest budget cut to RCI, we think CBC/Radio-Canada has crossed the line, both ignoring the spirit of the Broadcasting Act (its obligation to have an international service) and the letter of the law (the revised 2003 Orders-in-Council which obliges us to broadcast on shortwave).

This process of cutting the RCI budget to solve CBC/Radio-Canada budget problems started in December of 1990 when the Corporation tried to shut down RCI completely. RCI was saved only because of the intervention of the federal government of the time. But we lost half our budget, half of our languages services, and three quarters of RCI original programming.

This has to stop.

Radio Canada International must be given financial autonomy. CBC/Radio-Canada’s control of the RCI budget must end.

This problematic relationship between Radio Canada International and CBC/Radio-Canada, has been raised numerous times in the past, and is why we need to push for financial autonomy.

Two examples:

In October 1996, the Canadian component of KPMG, released a report on RCI commissioned by CBC/Radio-Canada that recommended:

“If RCI is continued in the long term (whatever its mandate and funding level), independent funding is needed to avoid the difficulty it faces today with being caught up in a domestic vs. foreign competition for limited CBC resources. If the CBC management and Board have to choose between serving Calgary or China, Calgary will almost certainly win….”

In June of 2003, Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released its report “Our Cultural Sovereignty” wrote:

The RCI Action Committee told the Committee that the government’s support for an international service:

… must go further than just a general statement to “provide an international service”. 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. This despite the fact that all of RCI funding comes from the Canadian Heritage Department.

Clearly we have very little time to stop this cut, the broadcasting of our programs ends on June 24.

Again, please help us get Canada’s federal government to step in, stop the drastic cut to Radio Canada International’s budget, and to protect Canada’s Voice to the World by giving the service financial autonomy from CBC/Radio-Canada.

Please see for how to contact ministers, members of parliament and senators regarding the RCI budget cuts.

Here are a few of the key facts in point form:

•  RCI’s budget has been cut by more than 80% – from $12.3 million to $2.3 million

•  RCI newsroom will be eliminated, all newscasts cut

•  RCI will no longer be a radio broadcaster, whether on shortwave or satellite

•  Chinese audience will be cut off from uncensored news from RCI because only shortwave reaches the Chinese, the RCI website is blocked by China

• Important potential trading partners such as China, India, Russia, Brazil will be cut off from news from Canada, because the RCI website is blocked or the Internet not as accessible as in North America

• Russian and Portuguese services will be eliminated

• For the language services that remain, English, French, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish, there will be some kind of website presence, still undefined, and far less effective than radio transmissions

• People in many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America still have spotty Internet access, and depend on our broadcasts for Canadian news

• As Canadians we feel it’s essential Canada have a Voice to the World producing programming tailored for an audience not familiar with Canada

• RCI’s uniqueness is not that we broadcast in a number of languages, but that we explain Canada to the world in those languages

• Because of RCI’s contextualized programs for people with little or no information on Canada, trade, tourism, and immigration has been helped

• With the layoffs, Canada will lose people with decades of expertise at representing Canada around the world

• Canada’s Voice to the World has been a respected source of journalism for the past 67 years

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Article by Admin RCI Action Committee Website

Wojtek Gwiazda has been the spokesperson for the RCI Action Committee since 1991. The Committee is supported and funded by the union that represents almost all RCI employees: the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Radio-Canada (STTRC formerly SCRC). E-mail: Read 111 articles by Admin RCI Action Committee Website
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