Last month of RCI radio broadcasts, unless…

June 24, 2012, will be the last day of Radio Canada International’s radio programming unless we can convince Canada’s government that our national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada went too far when it cut our budget by 80% and decided we would no longer broadcast on shortwave or satellite, and be left with only a web presence on the Internet .

This decision to stop radio broadcasting fails to recognize that most people in the world do not have easy access to the Internet. It fails to recognize that there is very little access around the globe to contextualized Canadian news, news for those outside Canada. And since RCI’s mandate is to explain Canada to as much of the world as possible, CBC/Radio-Canada is making that harder for us.

That is why we are calling on Canada’s federal government to step in, stop the cut, and protect Radio Canada International’s international mandate.

Here’s where we need your help.

Please contact government (Conservative) Members of Parliament and tell them why access to Canadian news is important to you.

You’ll find the e-mail addresses for the MPs, and some more information on the impact of the cuts, announced April 4, 2012, here:

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 “Tranforming 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

The ‘brutal gagging’ of RCI


Article by “Ears to Our World” founder Thomas Witherspoon in Toronto star:

“Even from the relative distance of the United States, it’s painful to witness the brutal gagging of the broadest-reaching voice of Canadian international diplomacy….”

Read entire article here.

Whole barracks hovering around small shortwave receiver for Canadian federal election

“It pains me to hear that RCI will be leaving SW in June.  Over the years I’ve counted on RCI to keep me connected with home, be it during my travels in Europe, Asia, and even the depths of the Amazon.  Most of those areas have no access to the internet.

I vividly recall during my time serving with the Canadian military in Europe, in the 1980s, the whole barracks hovering around my small portable SW receiver, and listening to the Canadian federal election report via RCI.

For the sake of a few dollars, RCI is going to be lost forever.  Don’t let it happen.

Sincerely,   Walt Salmaniw,

Victoria, BC, Canada”

[Admin editor: message used with permission]

Some keep jobs. Most don’t. RCI shutdown – almost!

Facing the reality of job cuts in any workplace is hard enough. When you’re an employee at Radio Canada International – it’s more than a job. It’s more than just a job loss.

Most of us have worked several decades for RCI. It may be an  under appreciated service in Canada. But in the last few weeks, since the April 4 announcement that we would be cut by 80% and stop being a radio station, listeners around the world have rallied to our cause to stop the cuts. They have also told us how much they appreciate what we do, and are astonished that our national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada would hit us with such a huge budget cut, much more then any other service under their control.

Strangely, even when we say an 80% per cent budget cut, it sounds sort of theoretical. When the letter is given to you that you no longer have a job, that your decades of service to Canada’s Voice to the World are redundant, well, that’s something else.

Today that happened to most of us.

About 15 permanent staff have been told they still have a job, 30 have been told they don’t. Three contractual webmasters will remain, but about 10 to 20 contractual employees (researchers, interviewers, hosts) will lose their jobs. Another 10 or 20 people who fill in for staff will have little or no work.

More importantly to us RCI has been almost made to disappear, no more radio programs, just a website, that is yet to be conceived, with little support. How much three employees in each of the five language services: English, French, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish can do, even with the best of intentions, remains to be seen.

Management is saying we’ll be putting up text, photos, audio, maybe even video. But details are scarce. In fact, that’s the most surprising thing of all. There’s little information on how the website will look or function, there’s no real lead up time to prepare it, we’ll all be busy doing are regular programming until June 24. Then the new website is supposed to be up and running and those of us left, will have to somehow magically make it work.

For those of us who have lost our jobs, the pain on our faces was all too evident. This was not just a job, this was a passion for an institution we believe in.

For those of us who remain, there is the pain of losing our experienced colleagues. There is also the concern about how we will manage.

Next week we are promised a blueprint of the new RCI. Today it’s hard to believe in that future.

Supporting colleagues at nat’l public broadcaster

On the day that most of us at Radio Canada International were getting letters that said we were being fired. We took time to show our support with other colleagues at Canada’s national radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada who also were getting their letters. For more on our struggle to stop an 80% cut to RCI’s budget please check out this blog and what you can do:

Many of the people you see in this photo are losing their jobs – many with decades of experience in international broadcasting.

More details on impact of RCI cuts.

RCI’s Director Hélène Parent met with staff today (April 24)  at 1PM to update us on the impact of the 80% cut to our budget that was announced April 4.

She announced that of RCI’s 45 permanent staff, only 15 will keep their jobs. Three contractual webmasters will continue to maintain RCI’s website. Of the other contractual employees who will be let go (which include researchers, interviewers and some hosts) they would continue to be paid until the end of their contracts. Temporary staff (who fill in for permanent staff) would be informed shortly about what kind of replacement work would remain once RCI stops broadcasting programs on June 24.

She said that tomorrow, Wednesday, April 25, redundancy letters would be given to employees whose positions would be abolished.

And she promised to present a blueprint for the future of the service next week.

She thanked employees for their professionalism in a difficult situation.

When she asked for questions, there were none.

More information about cuts?

Tomorrow, April 24,  on the eve of getting our redundancy letters following the 80% budget cut to our service, RCI’s Director Hélène Parent has convened an information meeting at 1PM Montreal time. No other details are available at this time.

So now, we hold our breath again.

Lots of listeners reacting to cuts

It’s been quite humbling and touching to read the many, many reactions from listeners around the world to the news of the cuts at Radio Canada International.

The comments are coming from all countries, in many languages. People are very upset. Others still in shock. Many ask what they can do. (Please check: here for suggestions.)

An American listener writes: “A very shortsighted decision to cut shortwave broadcasting in favor of the glitz of the internet. As has been observed around the world, the internet can be interrupted at a moment’s notice by governmental authority. Shortwave radio transcends borders and ideologies. The internet is not available to 90% of the people in the world, hard as that is to believe to us in the West.”

A Serbian listener writes: “This is absolutely dreadful. RCI has been one of the best shortwave radio stations and a much needed voice of solid, objective reporting. I’ve been a loyal listener from the mid-1990s and I am really saddened by this news.”

From a Chinese listener: ” It must have been 6 or 7 years since I started to listen to RCI Chinese section’s daily broadcasting via shortwave radio, I really enjoy it. However, when I heard that RCI will stop the mandarin broadcast to China at the end of June, it made me very sad, even depressed. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this decision… For me, the shortwave radio is the only way to know what happen in China, in Canada and in the world. Now you are burning this only bridge down! How sad. I hope it is not too late to reverse this decision!”

Some of the comments you will find on our blog. Others on different pages of the RCI website.

Here are a few links on the RCI website:

Some comments in English: here

Des commentaires en français: ici

En español: aquí

Em portugues: aqui

中文  请点击这里

Россия комментарии здесь

Common front on budget cuts

Common front meeting in Montreal of employees of CBC/Radio-Canada and RCI staff, April 18, 2012.

Yesterday at noon in Montreal, a common front of unions representing on air production staff, producers, technicians, administrative staff at our national radio and television public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada convened a meeting of hundreds of employees. The impact of the cuts on public broadcasting in Canada were discussed, and the near elimination of RCI was raised numerous times. The unions are working together to come up with a common strategy to fight the cuts.

RCI staff walking to common front meeting April 18, 2012.

Almost all of 60 plus RCI staff attended the meeting. This is a shaky picture of us walking to the meeting.


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