Stop CBC from dismantling our transmitters to the world

See updates below – In the next few days the transmission lines that allow Canada to broadcast to the world will be taken down one by one. For more than 67 years Radio Canada International’s shortwave transmitters have guaranteed that Canada’s voice would be heard despite the Cold War, despite natural disasters, and Internet blocking. Now this efficient, cost effective communications tool will be dismantled by Canada’s public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada.

Those of us who understand how important this lifeline to the world is to world communication are sick to our stomachs at the rapidity with which the broadcaster wants to make the transmitters disappear. Shortwave broadcasts of Radio Canada International ended on June 24, 2012. Other countries’ use of our transmitters will end on October 31.

But CBC/Radio-Canada has already started the process of dismantling unused transmitters, and will start taking down still functioning transmission lines very shortly.

Why are they in such a hurry?

CBC/Radio-Canada has never understood the importance of international broadcasting, and is betting that Canadians will ignore the fact that a web-only service has limited impact while shortwave radio can reach more than 800 million radio receivers around the world.

The short sightedness of administrators obsessed with web page clicks fails to take into account that shortwave not only transmits radio broadcasts, but has been used for teletype and data transmission. Recent experiments reveal that with free software, shortwave signals could transmit texts where the Internet is not available. A tool that once again would get past Internet blocking, natural disasters, and wars.

The transmitters are there, they don’t cost much to maintain. Why do we want to cut ourselves off from being able to communicate with the world? Who should be making these decisions?

Please contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore and tell him to stop CBC/Radio-Canada from dismantling our transmitters.

And please send us any suggestions you may have


UPDATE: October 23, 2012 – Five transmission lines have already been taken down! Two are in the process of being dismantled. By next week almost all of the 28 lines will be dismantled. Only two will remain temporarily for the Quebec Northern Service.

UPDATE: later on October 23, 2012 – U.S. listener Thomas Witherspoon has started a petition to stop the dismantling of Sackville. See the post on our website, the petition is here

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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 108 articles by Admin RCI Action Committee Website
24 Comments Post a Comment
  1. The capacity could be rented to foreign stations who understand the value.

  2. Ken W. English says:

    What people don’t realize is, a “click of a mouse” can kill the internet in a controlled-country. Radio transmissions can always get through, somehow.

  3. Roger Tidy says:

    RCI, if they really believe they are reaching a vast audience on the internet, should tell us how many people are visiting their website.

  4. Karl Zuk says:

    Unfortunately, the CBC is a business. They need to meet their budgets including the expenses required for maintenance and insurance. The sooner they clear off this property, the sooner they can sell it. The Harper government has been particularly supportive, either. I am very grateful so much Canadian material is available on-line and over Sirius Satellite Radio. For example, CTV now offers complete shows of their evening news and Canada AM. I listened to RCI from 1965 until its dying day. It was a wonderful ride. Ian McFarland lives! There are still two CBC R1 outlets on 6160 and CHNX on 6070. Enjoy them while you can. Sackville and CBA 1070 were great friends. I’ll always remember them fondly.

  5. Robert Jeans says:

    Canada has now joined Italy as the two G8 countries without a national broadcaster on shortwave. It’s tougher to carry international influence when you have no voice. Some wonder why Canada gets passed over for international leadership roles such as the UN Security Council, it’s this sort of withdrawal from the world community which reduces the influence of a nation, sharing diplomatic consulates with Britain would be another abdication of the responsibilities of leadership.

    The CBC may not be concerned about international leadership, but you would think someone at Foreign Affairs would understand this. Tearing the antenna site down is incredibly short sighted.

  6. Nora Hague VA2NH says:

    Many 3rd world countries and those under oppressive regimes have limited access to electricity, and a computer is out of the question. Many of these populations use a hand cranked shortwave radio to find out what’s happening in the rest of the world. Shutting down RCI is assisting those regimes in keeping their populations ignorant and powerless.

  7. Robert Merkley says:

    Ken English is 100% correct. The Ice Storm of 1998 proved it that cel phones and internet were useless. I know . I’am a retired broadcast engineer and ham radio operator who helped out.

  8. Andi says:

    As Harper/CBC shutdown Canada’s voice to the world, Harper announces continued support for TV5MONDE. Investing approx. $70million into the channel since 2006.

    Its a shame that some people don’t understand the importance of such an excellent service.

    RCI, keep strong and dont give up!

  9. I realize that there are budget issues, especially with the current world trends, but once these beautiful facilities are dismantled, no government, or private corporation can afford to build a new. It is impossible. Here in the U.S. the same mistakes have been made, and can never be reversed. How sad. I sincerely hope that some powerful voice can stem the tide in Canada before its too late.

  10. Andrés Herrera says:

    Es una pena que estas personas estén cegadas y no vean la gran cantidad de recursos y oportunidades que ofrece la onda corta. Se están auto borrando del mapa.

  11. Ralph Cameron says:

    Its a shame the political pundits don’t recognize a useful asset both in educating people about Canada and her cultural distinctiveness as well as are generally well respected democratic processes. We’re not perfect but far better than most of the world. I have listened to RCI from Portugal, Cuba, Turkey and Greece and to hear news from one’s home country reassures me as to why I remain here.

    For shame on dismantling these facilities. Why not broadcast in limited fashion in English and French rather than trying to cover umpteen other languages?

  12. James F. Borek says:

    I recall senator Hugh Segal was to call CBC brass to explain there decision on cutting the RCI budget. I will send him an e-mail hoping he will follow through.

  13. Dave - KCØBRO says:

    Shortwave broadcasting is one of the most effective ways to get your message to the world. It’s very true the Internet does not reach a good share of the Third World countries and satellite is not an option. Shortwave may be considered old and outdated in this modern age but you see when countries like China disagree with your message they can switch the Internet off but they can not effectively jam shortwave radio signals and that’s a fact. Of course international broadcasting does cost to maintain but probably no more than domestic medium wave or FM broadcast stations they are all expensive. I have worked in radio broadcasting so I understand the cost aspect but you can make small changes and still maintain a healthy service.

    The Canadian broadcasting Corp. has called radio Canada international its poor cousin and has never liked radio Canada international. Removing the radio Canada international transmitting facilities will guarantee international broadcasting will never happen again in Canada. This is the ultimate goal of the Canadian broadcasting Corp. when they could just as well leave the broadcast facilities alone and make money off them by renting time to other foreign broadcasters of course it will cost to maintain but what doesn’t. A serious mistake has been made by the Canadian broadcasting Corp. and it’s time to let them know it’s not right turning radio Canada international into a Web page insurers the voice of Canada will never be heard by the world.

    I understand Canadian broadcasting Corp. has a business to run but on the other hand couldn’t they have also sacrificed their budget somewhat instead of cutting 70 percent which was the entire radio Canada international budget. One of the best relay sites in North America was the radio Canada international transmitting facility. Of course it must be removed and as soon as possible before anyone realizes it’s gone and when it’s gone it’s gone for good only the memories remain.

    PS I have been a shortwave listener since the 1980s and have been listening to radio Canada for about 30 years it’s not time to say goodbye yet…

  14. John Drake says:

    My friends,

    The old days of analog, free-thinking, free-access, broadcasts are over.

    So it’s best to dismantle (and by any means available) these old fashioned ways of communication. Now it’s all about the Apps and the Internet – two methods of outreach that suit the “needs of this age” just right.

    The 21st.Century is all about the Money and the Megacorps. This need to “reach out” and communicate by “free” means is strictly old fashion 20th.Century thinking.

    So get with the times and accept the new pay-as-you-go, digital access, internet/satellite only, access. It’s made by the elites, for the elites, and just right for the plebs. Because now it’s all “clear channel”… and the only static you can hear (or see) is the drone of the masses arguing amongst themselves.

    Those in the know, and in control, can hear you now.

    Be seeing you.

  15. Ken W. English says:

    When you say “Transmission Lines”, what are you talking about?
    Do you mean the Antennas (with their supporting towers and the wire antenna arrays on them), or do you mean the “lines” that connect the transmitters to the antennas?

  16. This is stupid! What’s going to happen to international broadcasters who want to reach North America, especially Radio Japan and Radio Australia? I want this action stopped!

  17. Mike Terry says:

    Shortwave is so important for informing the world across boundaries, its tragic that this is happening.

  18. Killing off Short-Wave is a very short-sighted idea. It’s one thing to scale back broadcasts (not good, IMHO) but to completely destroy the means of operating on SW is almost criminal – you’re completely dismissing the millions who depend on SW for news, information & culture from Canada in the parts of the world not blessed with broadband Internet access – and leaving those with such access vulnerable to their governments’ internal control of Internet. (Think China, or the Middle East, or any number of other places.)

  19. Alan says:

    I am a listener to CBC in Africa, and work with Shortwave radio broadcasting in Africa. CBC may not target where I live, but I can hear it sometimes.

    No other medium is as efficient at mass communication, or as reliable. Internet connections are far more easily compromised than any of us may believe.

    Shortwave radio, as was demonstrated during the cold war, is almost impossible to block or jam, even with the best of technology and efforts.

    DRM (digital shortwave) makes analog shortwave sound like FM radio and would increase its usefulness significantly. Sackville was doing some phenomenal DRM broadcasts, but dropped them all.

    An efficient and sophisticated shortwave transmission site installation like Sackville is a public investment and resource that should not be dismantled like yesterday’s sweaty shirt or last year’s government. The government should not waste the investment that has been made over many decades by destroying it. If it is not a priority at this time, at least preserve its usefulness for the future.

  20. Antonio Avelino says:

    Prezados Senhores da CBC,

    Não destruam o parque de transmissão de Ondas Curtas de Sackville, porque mesmo com os avanços tecnológicos as Ondas Curtas ainda é um meio de transmissão segura e eficaz. Se não querem mais o parque o aluguem para outras emissoras que tem interesse em utilizar este meio.
    Não destruam pois já é patrimônio cultural do povo canadense.

  21. Richard Cuff says:

    @Karl Zuk, the CBC is not a business. It is a public service broadcaster, a unique type of institution that deserves to exist as a unifying, national voice reflecting Canadian ideas, heritage, and culture.

    I wouldn’t trust a for-profit business with that charter. The current status of for-profit radio in the USA should be proof positive of that!

    What I find most distressing was that the Sackville site was the best way for shortwave to reliably reach eastern North America from outside the USA and thus not subject to Smith-Mundt censorship.

    Countries like Canada that voluntarily give up their international voice are also giving up their stature on the world stage.

    While I can certainly access the CBC via the Internet, it’s my opinion that shortwave use needs to be a “backup of last resort” if nothing else.

  22. Chuck Parone says:

    Hey Richard Radio Australia gets into North America just fine even though don’tt target us. 9.58 and 21.74 megs have been around for decades. Couple of new freq are 11.945 and 19 Megs. (yep 19.000000 )

    These guys know what works when the going gets tough. And not just when it gets tough in the Pacific. Their CE wrote about the KISS principle for homeland broadcast disasters.

    Radio Japan just bought four new 250 kw shortwave transmitters so they are not stupid either.

  23. Kai Ludwig says:

    Has word already got around what just happened or still happens at Sackville?

    As it is certainly well known the CBC kept relaying NHK World, KBS World and Voice of Vietnam only until the summer season was over this Saturday. But the control system at the apparently unmanned station still powered the transmitters up until at least today, 9:40 local time (have not seen later observations so far). The NHK feed still had program audio (picked up by Montréal master control from satellite I guess), the KBS feed only a test tone anymore and the Vietnam feed only the music loop which Babcock (who had arranged the Sackville transmissions for Vietnam) at its London master control puts on unused audio circuits.

    This sloppiness can not even be considered a funny anecdote or welcome last reprive, since some of the former Sackville slots have been moved without changes to other transmission facilities (TDF French Guiana, WHR Furman/USA) and got ruined by these Sackville ghost transmissions for two nights in a row, at least so far.

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