Why has Canadian govt minister agreed to stop flow of news to China and Russia?

Why would a Canadian government minister decide to cut off uncensored news from Canada to China and Russia? That’s what we’re asking ourselves today.

We’ve just learned that last week the 2003 Order in Council that obliged Radio Canada International to broadcast on shortwave radio has been amended, and that obligation removed. As well, the obligation to consult with the Foreign Affairs ministry regarding geographic target areas and languages has been removed.

Both changes were made on the recommendation of Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, and came into effect on June 7, 2012.

This is a major setback because we had been counting on the government to make our national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada respect its responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act which obliges it to have an international service. And its obligations in the 2003 Order in Council.

Ever since April 4, 2012, when CBC/Radio-Canada announced it was cutting Radio Canada International’s budget by 80% we have argued that the public broadcaster does not understand the concept of international broadcasting, the crucial role it plays, and the fact that most people in the world have limited or no access to the Internet.

We have also underlined that this is a part of a pattern that has continued since 1990 when CBC/Radio-Canada decided to shut us down completely. It was only because of the intervention of the Canadian government at the time that we were saved.

WHAT THE ORDER IN COUNCIL SAID, AND SAYS NOW

Both the 2003 and 2012 Orders in Council list the obligations of CBC/Radio-Canada under its licence requirement in running an international service. They direct RCI to provide programming to an international audience to increase awareness of Canada.

But in the 2003 version it obliged RCI

(ii) to provide that service through shortwave, as well as through other means of distribution, as appropriate

In the new 2012 version, this article now reads:

(ii) to provide that service through the Internet and, as appropriate, through other means of distribution

The 2003 version also obliged CBC/Radio-Canada to consult with the Foreign Affairs ministry regarding the areas we broadcast to and the languages we broadcast in. The entire article  (see below) has been removed in the new 2012 version.

(iv) to establish geographic target areas and languages of broadcast in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Link to the 2003 Order in Council here The link to the new 2012 Order in Council here

It is perhaps worth noting that the 2003 Order in Council was the first change regarding Radio Canada International since 1968.

WHAT THIS MEANS

What is most troubling is that these changes come two months after CBC/Radio-Canada announced its cut on April 4, 2012, and now appear to clear any parliamentary objections to the rules in place at the time of the announcement.

It appears our campaign to highlight CBC/Radio-Canada’s disregard of these articles led to the elimination of these obligations.

We continue to be convinced that it should be Parliament and not CBC/Radio-Canada which should decide on how strong, or how weak, Canada’s Voice to the World – Radio Canada International, should be. That is why we have been calling for financial autonomy for RCI.

At this point we have no idea how aware members of the government are of the consequences of these changes in the Order in Council that came into effect last week.

But it does suggest that at least one minister has agreed to clear the path for CBC/Radio-Canada’s gutting of Radio Canada International. We will no longer be a radio station, we will no longer be heard in China because our website is blocked by Chinese authorities, and we will turn our back on millions of listeners around the world who have little or no access to the Internet.

SUMMARY OF SOME OF THE IMPACT OF THE RCI CUTS

•  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, RCI’s shortwave transmitters shut down
•  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 is 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 have 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

WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?

Help us find out what’s going on, and share your thoughts with Minister Moore and the rest of the government (Conservative Party) MPs.
You’ll find details on how to do this here: http://rciaction.org/blog/what-you-can-do/

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Article by Admin RCI Action

Admin RCI Action: Wojtek Gwiazda is the spokesperson for the RCI Action Committee which is supported and funded by the union that represents almost all RCI employees: the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC). E-mail: rciaction@yahoo.ca Read 79 articles by Admin RCI Action
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