The “modernized” RCI website

The new “modernized” Radio Canada International (RCI) website produced by CBC/Radio-Canada was supposed to give our world service greater visibility and more content “to ensure that the service remains a strong and relevant voice in the 21st-century media landscape.” (CBC/Radio-Canada announcement Dec 3, 2020.)

Based on these goals, since its launch on May 19, the site has failed. The website’s address is no longer but has been changed to and the new site does not give access to the previous website’s massive archives of text and audio reports.

Obviously any new site has growing pains, things like links that don’t work, but our focus here will be on the kind of decisions that were made to change the former site of RCI and how these decisions affect the usability and utility of the new site for international audiences.

Radio Canada International name – gone

No longer “Canada’s voice to the world”

So what kind of decisions did CBC/Radio-Canada make to “modernize” the Radio Canada International website?

First they decided to get rid of the name Radio Canada International everywhere except at the bottom of the page, in the copyright notice. And RCI is no longer described as Canada’s voice to the world, but on the bottom of every website page RCI is described as “CBC/Radio-Canada’s multilingual service.”

Unlike the previous version of the website that had links to each of the available language services, the new site has a drop down menu, which, if you end up on a language page you don’t understand, will not be evident. If you look carefully, you will be able to see an article in a language you understand, and then by linking to it, you eventually get to the home page of the language you understand.

No search function

There is no search function, so that will not help you find a language service, or, for that matter any content on the new website, or from the old website. More on the “old” website later.

The homepage of each language service is more confusing than that of the old website because the thumbnails for both a given language page, and those that are at the top for other language services, are almost the same size and not really separated from each other.

In the “Latest News” section, which shows all the most recent text reports, the thumbnails are so big, that only a few stories are immediately visible when opening this section.

The few podcasts that are available to listen to (old RCI audio reports have no links on the new website) do not give the possibility to skip ahead, or to re-listen to audio content.

Less content

Overall the quantity of the  content on the new website has dropped radically:

Daily output per language service:

Now                               Before

Texts – 3 to 4                Texts 6

Audio – 0                       Audio – 3

Weekly output per language service:

Now                             Before

Texts – 15-20              Texts 45

Audio – 1                    Audio 18

Greater visibility for RCI or for CBC/Radio-Canada?

One other promise of the new CBC/Radio-Canada policy for RCI was “greater visibility” for RCI on the CBC and Radio-Canada websites. That so far is clearly not the case. In fact, there’s a question about which service RCI or CBC/Radio-Canada is getting more visibility.

On the Radio-Canada site, you have to click on menu, and then know that the redesigned RCI logo gives you access to the RCI website. If you don’t follow that route, and scroll down all the way down the homepage of Radio-Canada, and recognize the new logo, you’ll find a series of thumbnails linking to the different language services.

On the CBC website, the menu function does not show any link to RCI. And if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the homepage, you’ll find RCI listed under the “Services” column for the Ombudsman, Corrections and Clarifications, and Renting Facilities. The name Radio Canada International is at the bottom of this list, written with a hyphen between Radio and Canada, which is not the official name of RCI.

So if RCI does not have greater visibility on the CBC and Radio-Canada websites, what’s the situation on RCI websites? Every single web page on the RCI website now has at least five or six links to CBC and/or Radio-Canada websites.

Content all from CBC and Radio-Canada domestic national programming

In terms of content, English and French are just copies of what’s on the CBC or Radio-Canada website, with no adaptation for an international audience, in violation of the Broadcasting Act and Order in Council 2012-0775 which specifically directs RCI “to produce and distribute programming targeted at international audiences.”

The other language services on the new website have translation, and adaptation is spotty. And the reports that are featured are the ones that were conceived for the Canadian domestic audience. So the kinds of stories that RCI presented, and were tailored to a specific target audience, say in Latin America, dealing with Canadian – Latin American issues have disappeared, because those don’t exist on the CBC and Radio-Canada websites, and so are not among the stories to be translated and adapted.

No access to previous texts and audio from RCI website archives

One of the surprising decisions made by CBC/Radio-Canada in the new website is to totally ignore the content of the old website. Years of texts and radio reports, are still on line, but there’s no way to access them unless you have the exact web link to those reports, and since there’s no search function, either for the old or the new site, people find themselves in a strange limbo of the present offerings with no way to navigate this online programming except by backtracking through all the items.

This has even larger implications. The old site allowed you to search by keywords, by topic/category, and by author of the report. None of that is now available on the new site. As well, there are no links to old podcasts, nor links to RCI’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. It’s almost as if Radio Canada International never existed until this new version of RCI.

CBC/Radio-Canada’s limited world view is damaging RCI

Overall this change of the RCI website underlines CBC/Radio-Canada’s very limited view of the role of our world service and does not recognize that the international audiences, the people outside of Canada, are not one monolithic other, but a whole spectrum of “others” with different realities, viewpoints and needs.

And this quick review of the new website has just touched the surface of what is wrong. Where, for example, is there a web page to learn about Canada’s foreign policy, about our political parliamentary system. Where are the features on Canadian culture, the latest achievements in science, and on our special and different relations with Latin America, Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia?

And for that matter, where is the history of Radio Canada International on the new website? Here’s a link to that on the old website:

All of these deficiencies create a very vulnerable situation for our world service. Because if people outside of Canada think that this is all there is to our international service, there’s little hope for the future of Radio Canada International. In fact, it’s almost a perfect recipe for the destruction of the service. Surely, that’s not the goal?

More here on the new CBC/Radio-Canada policy announced on December 3, 2020:

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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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