About 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: wojtekrciaction@gmail.com
Website: http://rciaction.org/blog
Admin RCI Action Committee Website has written 111 articles so far, you can find them below.


New RCI Director Meets Staff

RCI’s new Director Helene Parent held her first meeting with staff this morning. She told employees she had wanted to come to RCI, and looked forward to working with them. In her introductory statement Parent said that she would make time to talk to employees individually to hear suggestions and observations about the international service. She said she has great hopes for the future of RCI. She also added that there would be more cuts at the service.

Helen Parent has extensive experience in managing radio in the French service of our domestic radio- television service CBC/Radio-Canada, which is responsible for Radio Canada International.

Parent’s appointment as Director came suddenly on December 22, 2010. Roger Tetrault had been interim Director for the previous two years, after the departure of Jean Larin. Tetrault returns to his former position of Program Director. The position had been abolished when he became interim Director.

20th Anniversary of decision to cut RCI

Today, December 5th, is the 20th anniversary of the day Gerard Veilleux, the president of our domestic radio-television service CBC/Radio-Canada, announced Radio Canada International would only continue if the Canadian government paid for it.

This decision set off two decades of vulnerability, questioning, and changing of mandates that continues.

It also set off reaction through letters and faxes from Canada and around the world from listeners and from other broadcasters, and three successful campaigns to block RCI’s closure in 1991, 1995 and 1996.

FLASHBACK: 1945 first broadcast of int’l service

From the CBC Archives:

Broadcast Date: Feb. 25, 1945

The Second World War is winding down in Europe, but Canada’s new international shortwave radio service is just getting started. From its studios in Montreal and a web of shortwave transmission towers in Sackville, N.B., the service targets both Canadian and foreign listeners. In this inaugural broadcast, Prime Minister Mackenzie King says the International Service of the CBC will extend Canadian ideals of equality and freedom to the world.

King is joined by Justice Minister Louis St-Laurent, who addresses the audience in French, and by Howard B. Chase, chairman of the CBC board of governors. The three talk about the service’s goal of reflecting Canada beyond its borders. The International Service will broadcast to the United Kingdom and western Europe in three languages — English, French and German — with a signal that is strong and clear.

TO HEAR THE BROADCAST please go to: http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/arts-entertainment/media/radio-canada-international-canadas-voice-to-the-world/broadcasting-to-the-world.html

Radio Canada International employees still strive to tell the world about Canada in the best tradition of honest Canadian journalism, despite attempts to shut it down, or change its international mandate.

To find out more about the international mandate please go here.

For the latest news also check out our twitter feed at twitter.com/rci_action

FLASHBACK: 2008 Cttee spokesperson suspended!

February 2008 – Action Committee spokesperson suspended!
Radio Canada International tries to “muzzle” communications union which represents RCI employees

From left to right, Wojtek Gwiazda, spokesperson for the RCI Action Committee, and Alex Levasseur, president Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada

The Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (FNC-CSN) is outraged by and condemns the three day suspension without pay of one of its union stewards, Wojtek Gwiazda. For years he has defended the international mandate of Canada’s Voice to the World, Radio Canada International (RCI).

The union’s president Alex Levasseur says he’s shocked at CBC/Radio-Canada’s actions, “As a union we defend not only our members’ salaries and rights, but we fight to preserve and defend the idea of public broadcasting. Since 1991, when RCI faced closing,” continued Levasseur, “Wojtek Gwiazda and employees at the international service have fought to prevent the closing of the service and from having it’s mandate changed. This tireless effort was done as part of the RCI Action Committee, an inter-union committee.”

Unfortunately, in the last year and a half, RCI’s international mandate has been radically changed to focus on broadcasting to new immigrants in Canada, and has re-directed resources away from the core mandate of telling the world about Canada.

Last November, concerned by what was going on at RCI, Gwiazda as spokesperson for the RCI Action Committee contacted members of the Canadian Heritage Committee, which is examining the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada (and Radio Canada International). As a result, members of parliament questioned outgoing CBC President Robert Rabinovitch and French Vice-President Sylvain Lafrance.

Following this questioning, Gwiazda was informed he was being investigated for disciplinary action, and then called in for a disciplinary meeting. In a letter dated February 6, 2008, he was informed that he could face more serious penalties if he continued to raise questions about the change of mandate at RCI with the House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee.

“By taking this action, CBC/Radio-Canada is not only interfering in internal union matters, but the public broadcaster is attempting to muzzle the Syndicat des Communications. This is unacceptable,” concluded the union president.

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Source: Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (FNC-CSN)
14 February 2008
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For more on the mandate of RCI, the RCI Action Committee’s efforts, and the actual questions raised by a member of parliament which led to the suspension, please go to the following link

FLASHBACK: 1982 – Ottawa news was important

On March 26, 1982 RCI inaugurated its Ottawa bureau. RCI Director Betty Zimmerman (fourth from left) with staff: three English and three French journalists. At the time, they were all kept very busy covering the nation’s capital. In 2010, one of the two (!) journalists of our reduced Ottawa bureau was sent to the city of Halifax, in Atlantic Canada. We now have one journalist in Ottawa. Priorities have certainly changed in only a few years.

See other photos from our past in our photo gallery ( which is growing from day to day).

With the policy change of December 3, 2020, there will be nine ( 9 ! ) employees left in all of RCI, no daily reports, no one in Ottawa. For more details on the radical change in the mandate of Radio Canada International please go here.

Ottawa news was important for RCI in 1982

On March 26, 1982 RCI inaugurated its Ottawa bureau.

RCI Director Betty Zimmerman (fourth from left) with staff: three English and three French journalists. At the time, they were all kept very busy covering the nation’s capital. In 2010, one of the two (!) journalists of our reduced Ottawa bureau was sent to the city of Halifax, in Atlantic Canada. We now have one journalist in Ottawa. Priorities have certainly changed in only a few years.

See other photos from our past in our photo gallery ( which is growing from day to day).

With the policy change of December 3, 2020, there will be nine (9 !) employees left in all of RCI, no daily reports, no one in Ottawa. For more details on the radical change in the mandate of Radio Canada International please go here.

Bittersweet memory – March 22, 1991

Monitoring Times May 1991It’s hard to believe it’s already 19 years ago that our reality at RCI changed so radically. In December of 1990, our parent company the public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada announced that the international service would be eliminated unless the federal government paid for it (CBC actually had up until then budgeted about $20 million for the service). After months of lobbying, and weighing numerous scenarios, staff learned what would happen to Radio Canada International on March 22, 1991.

In a Monitoring Times article published in May of that year I began by describing the minutes before the staff meeting:

10:10 AM FRIDAY 22 MARCH 1991 – Two RCI journalists are asking where the meeting is. A production assistant asks if this is really the end of RCI. This morning two supervisors told staffers we’d probably find out at ten, but it’s already ten minutes past.

What we found out was we were losing half of the language services, half of our staff and about three quarters of RCI produced programming.

We were saved, but at a huge price.

It would be the first of three times, 1991, 1995, 1996 that RCI was scheduled to be eliminated.

So many years later, walls are being demolished, we lose colleagues one or two at a time, and the whole reason of our existence, our international mandate to tell the world about Canada, continues to be undermined.

But you know what, we’re not giving up the battle to protect the mandate, nor the autonomy of Radio Canada International, we just can’t.

FLASHBACK: KMPG: RCI Should Have Independent Funding

Study says RCI should not be integrated into the domestic service, the CBC/Radio-Canada

In October 1996, the Canadian component of KPMG, a accounting, tax and professional firm, released a report on RCI commissioned by the domestic radio and television service, CBC. The report came out at a time when RCI’s financial future was unsure. The report made numerous suggestions, some of them unworkable, or unlikely, even in the minds of the authors of the report. But they had some very clear recommendations about the future financing of RCI. And there was absolutely no ambiguity in their opposition to the integration of RCI into the CBC.

Prepared for: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
Toronto, October 29, 1996
KPMG

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with the participation of the Department of Canadian Heritage, commissioned KPMG to conduct an operational review of Radio Canada International (RCI)…

In carrying out our work, we reviewed the existing costs and cost structure both in relation to their historical levels and benchmarked against equivalent players from other countries. The objective was to determine whether, from a straight-forward efficiency and effectiveness perspective, RCI is operating in an appropriate manner…

In terms of efficiency, we believe that in its own right and benchmarked against other similar organizations, RCI is an efficient operator…

In a nutshell, we found that RCI is minimally funded compared to other broadcasters, and is an efficient operator, carrying out significant activity with the resources at hand….RCI is shown to be a very low-cost programmer…

With respect to the minimum level of funding necessary to maintain RCI, given its current mandate, we suggest that the figure is in a range of approximately $16 million to $16.5 million, roughly the same as its 1996/1997 budget…

If RCI is relatively efficient and if external sources of revenue are not the answer to its financial difficulty, what next? We believe the answer is for Canada to determine if it wants to have an international broadcaster and if so, with what mandate…

Given our findings, the realities and perceptions about RCI’s role in Canada, we believe the choices faced by the CBC (and the government) are clear and involve fundamental public policy decisions: either commit to funding it appropriately, reduce its mandate significantly, or close it…

[Some of KPMG’s recommendations:]

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….

While RCI and the CBC should cooperate as much as possible (and there is significant cooperation today), we do not recommend integrating RCI into one of the CBC radio services. The focus of RCI is necessarily foreign and, in our view, would be diminished if it were not a separate entity with its own direction…

If a decision is made to continue RCI with its current mandate, it should have a long-term funding arrangement (3-5 years). The financial stability provided by such funding would allow the organization to engage in planning for the long run, reduce employee stress, allow RCI to shape future financial goals and have the ability to seize unforeseen opportunities which may arise.

This text appeared originally on the web site of the RCI Action Committee:
http://rciaction.org/KPMG960929.html

FLASHBACK: It’s always been about int’l mandate

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?”

Lafrance testified that the “basic mandate has absolutely not changed” but suggested it was “evolving”. See testimony parliamentary committee here.

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:
http://www.rciaction.org/RCIHeritageCttee20071127Mandate.html

FLASHBACK: Parl Cttee: RCI essential int’l service

Ottawa, 11 June 2003 – In a massive report on broadcasting in Canada called “Our Cultural Sovereignty”, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage described RCI as “an essential international service.”

Among its 97 recommendations the Committee 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.”

In the two and a half pages devoted to RCI, the Heritage Committee reported that “Two groups, the RCI Action Committee and the Canadian International DX Club, made passionate submissions to the Committee.”

Quoting from the brief of the RCI Action Committee, the Heritage Committee 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.”

The Heritage Committee has requested that the government respond to its report.

The entire report is available on the Heritage Committee’s Website Link to site
The text on RCI is in Chapter 7, page 253 in the section on International Services.

See the RCI Action Committee’s entire submission here.

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