‘Modernizing’ RCI to death!

En français ici

On December 3, 2020, Canada’s national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada announced “a major transformation” of Radio Canada International (RCI) titled “Modernizing Radio Canada International for the 21st century. And if you didn’t know anything about the toxic relationship between the two, you would really think this was great news.

After all the budget cuts the national broadcaster has imposed on RCI (for example an 80 % cut in 2012) the news this time is more languages, greater visibility, and an expanded editorial line-up.

Let’s take these “improvements” one at a time.

How has CBC/Radio-Canada decided to give “greater visibility” for RCI’s Internet content? They’re going to bury it in inside the CBC and Radio-Canada websites, and not allow RCI to continue on a site that has existed since 1996.

In this same announcement, CBC/Radio-Canada says it’s adding complete sections in Punjabi and Tagalog to the existing services in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. In fact it’s adding one journalist to work in Punjabi, and one in Tagalog – not whole sections.*

As far as the Spanish, Arabic and Chinese services which each have three seasoned experienced presenter-producers offering tailored content for their target audiences outside Canada, only one will remain, the other two will be fired.** Who will remain is one “journalist” (formerly host-producer) per language, who will be obliged to translate texts from the CBC and Radio-Canada websites.***

And now we come to the sections working in Canada’s official languages of English and French. Again, each of these services has three seasoned experienced presenter-producers offering tailored content for an international audience that needs explanations that the domestic service is not obliged to do. So what will Canada’s Voice to the World be obliged to do in this “major transformation”? Fire all six producers and have an editor at CBC, and one at Radio-Canada, choose some stories, and place it on the “RCI website” which is just a section of the CBC and Radio-Canada websites. Yes, the ones that give RCI “greater visibility”.

The CBC/Radio-Canada announcement speaks glowingly about how RCI has provided a Canadian perspective on world affairs, but then starts skidding into talking about “connecting with newcomers to our country”, “engaging with its target audience, particularly newcomers to Canada”, and making this new content “freely available to interested ethnic community media.” Certainly sounds like CBC/Radio-Canada is intent on servicing ethnic communities in Canada.

But there’s a problem. That’s not RCI’s mandate. And CBC/Radio-Canada has no right to change that mandate. Because Canada’s Broadcasting  Act,  Article 46 (2), makes it a condition of the national public broadcaster’s licence to provide an international service “in accordance with such directions as the Governor in Council may issue.”

And the latest Governor in Council, Order in Council, PC Number: 2012-0775, says Radio Canada International must “produce and distribute programming targeted at international audiences to increase awareness of Canada, its values and its social, economic and cultural activities”.

This latest announcement by the CBC/Radio-Canada is, unfortunately, yet another in a string of actions over the last 30 years to eliminate Canada’s Voice to the World.

After failing to shutdown the service in 1990, 1995 and 1996 when pressure from listeners from around the world, and from Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators stopped the closure, the national broadcaster went about dismantling RCI one section after another, one resource after another in a death by a thousand cuts.

This assault on RCI really started in earnest in 1990 when Canada’s Voice to the World was a widely popular and respected international service of 200 employees, broadcasting in 14 languages heard around the world. The 1990 cut removed half the employees, and half the language sections. Over the years, under the guise of streamlining and improving the service, it’s been one cut after another. With this year’s announcement RCI will have a total of nine employees!

Not satisfied with cutting resources, CBC/Radio-Canada has also continually tried to undermine RCI’s international role.

When in 2003 a Canadian parliamentary committee agreed with the RCI Action Committee, in emphasizing RCI’s important international role and suggested more resources should be given to RCI, CBC/Radio-Canada responded by removing two key corporate policies that specifically outlined the necessity for producing programmes for an international audience, again, despite an obligation under the Broadcasting Act.

The reductions in resources, the limiting or decreasing of RCI’s outreach, culminated in 2012 when CBC/Radio-Canada announced it was taking RCI off of shortwave radio broadcasts which had been the main way of communicating to the world since 1945.

This decision deliberately ignored the 2003 Order in Council that specifically obliged CBC as part of its licence to have RCI broadcast on shortwave. Two months after protests by the RCI Action Committee highlighted the illegality of this move, the Canadian Heritage Minister at the time, changed the Order in Council, eliminating shortwave from RCI’s obligations.

This whole sorry tale underlines a key problem facing Radio Canada International:

A domestic national broadcaster is deciding whether or not Canada should have an international voice to the world, and how well it should be funded.

Clearly however, the decision of whether Canada has a Voice to the World and how well it should be funded, should be a decision made by Parliament.

In the meantime, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault should tell CBC/Radio-Canada that it is not allowed to make this latest policy change. Then he should freeze any changes to the service until there is a serious renewal of the Voice of Canada, one that will give it financial and political protection from a toxic relationship with the national broadcaster.

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* Correction to sentence, it originally stated “In fact it’s adding one “field” journalist to work in Punjabi, and one in Tagalog – not whole sections.”  The word “field” has been removed. Corrected 2021-02-05

** Correction to sentence, it originally stated “As far as the Spanish, Arabic and Chinese services which each have three seasoned experienced presenter-producers offering tailored content for their target audiences outside Canada, well, they’re all fired.” Correction “…only one will remain, the other two will be fired.” Corrected 2021-03-30
*** Correction to sentence, it originally stated “What will remain is one “journalist”  per language, who will be obliged to translate texts given to them in English and French.” We now know that no one will give the journalists texts, they will translate texts from the CBC and Radio-Canada websites. “Who will remain is one “journalist” (formerly host-producer) per language, who will be obliged to translate texts from the CBC and Radio-Canada websites.” Corrected 2012-02-05 and 2021-03-30

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December 3 policy announcement does not respect international mandate of RCI, details here

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RCI Action Committee

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Le STTRC dénonce à nouveau une coupe à blanc faite à Radio Canada International

MONTREAL, le 3 déc. 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Le syndicat des travailleuses et des travailleurs de Radio-Canada (STTRC) dénonce la suppression de 13 postes permanents et 3 postes contractuels à Radio Canada International (RCI). La Société Radio-Canada (SRC) invoque une restructuration nécessaire pour assurer la pérennité et la pertinence de RCI. Mais dans les faits, ces compressions auront plutôt comme principal impact d’amputer le caractère international de RCI.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que RCI subit les assauts de la direction de Radio-Canada. Mais cette fois-ci, la direction a choisi de délaisser le mandat de RCI, d’être la voix du Canada à l’étranger pour plutôt « se rapprocher des communautés installées au Canada ». La loi sur la radiodiffusion explique pourtant clairement que Radio-Canada doit fournir un service international (article 46,2).

En pratique, cela veut dire de permettre à des auditrices et des auditeurs se trouvant sur les cinq continents d’avoir accès à une information qui leur permet de mieux comprendre les réalités canadiennes. Les avancées technologiques des dernières années devraient encore plus facilement rendre possible l’atteinte de cet objectif.

Au lieu de cela, l’actuelle direction de la SRC choisit une approche qui met l’accent sur la mise en valeur du multiculturalisme canadien. Ce n’est pas le mandat confié par le Parlement canadien à RCI.

Le STTRC demande que Radio-Canada annule les suppressions de postes annoncées et donne à RCI les ressources humaines et techniques nécessaires pour réaliser pleinement son mandat. RCI ne doit pas devenir un média qui ne s’adresse qu’à certaines communautés culturelles canadiennes, mais demeurer la voix du Canada à l’étranger.

À propos

Le syndicat des travailleuses et des travailleurs de Radio-Canada (STTRC, ancien SCRC) compte plus de 2500 membres au Québec et à Moncton. Il est affilié à la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) et à la Fédération nationale des communications et de la culture (FNCC).

SOURCE Syndicat des travailleuses et des travailleurs de Radio-Canada (STTRC)

Renseignements: Thierry Larivière, Conseiller aux communications à la CSN, 514-966-4380

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Communiqué – Radio-Canada/CBC – ici:

https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/fr/salle-de-presse/transformation-majeure-de-radio-canada-international

Five years ago, last day of radio at Radio Canada International

Five years ago, Radio Canada International stopped being a radio station, and only an on-line web service.

On the last day of radio programming on June 24, 2012, some of the newsreaders and host/producers ended their last broadcasts and then shared their reflections on Radio Canada International in this series of five videos.

It was an emotional day. All were professional, but clearly devoted to our international service and its tradition of presenting Canada to the world.

Last English Newscast – Radio Canada International – RCI

Last Chinese newscast – Radio Canada International – RCI

Last Arabic newscast – Radio Canada International – RCI

Last French Newscast – Radio Canada International – RCI

“El Castor Mensajero” in Spanish. Last radio broadcast from Radio Canada International – RCI

CBC TV report on last radio broadcasts from Radio Canada International – RCI

Last radio programme from RCI four years ago

That’s right, four years ago today on June 24, 2012, Radio Canada International (RCI) Canada’s Voice to the World broadcast it’s last radio programme. Live from our studios in Montreal, it was the Latin American section that said goodbye. Here’s a photo of the team during that last broadcast.

And here’s a link to a video of the beginning of that last radio programme:
https://youtu.be/gDGxWiwnTVM

Celebrating? 70 years of Radio Canada International

The flood of wonderful memories, fueled by the old and not so old photos of Radio Canada International’s 70 years, is now, as I write this, suddenly mixed with regret, lost opportunities, and missing colleagues.

In a way I dreaded this anniversary, not knowing how to deal with this important milestone.

RCI has survived all these years since its first broadcast on February 25, 1945, as Canada’s Voice to the World. But now, almost three years after an 80% budget cut that took us off shortwave radio, cutting us off from our listeners, how do you celebrate? How do you not look with some exasperation, regretfully, wistfully, at how little people, even colleagues, know about RCI’s proud achievements, and its path-breaking innovations?

The contradictions of how some viewed us and the reality is almost too much to bear. People say we used outdated technology, weren’t moving with the times, and no longer needed to explain Canada to the world.

Yet none of this is true.

Using shortwave radio we reached every corner of the globe. Using satellite, LPs, tape cassettes, CDs, Facebook, Twitter, partnerships with local stations in other countries, we reached the world’s citizens. People who, surprising as some might find, were very curious about this huge democracy called Canada, that tried to carve out its place in the world, beside the huge super-power to the south.

The other day a colleague asked me about a service referred to in French as “Transcriptions” and had no idea what it was about. As I talked about RCI’s record label that recorded Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, and a host of other classical, jazz and pop musicians, I saw my colleague’s eyes widen in surprise.

“We had a record label?” Yes, a respected catalogue of records which won Juno music awards, and was part of RCI’s mandate of telling the world about Canada, along with so many other services. Imagine, we broadcast live election night coverage of federal elections around the world, created an election website with instantaneous results in seven languages, sent out radio lessons to teach English and French, and produced area specific programming for Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, in English and French, in addition to all the other languages we broadcast in.

I shake my head as I hear people saying we need to change with the times, really get on board with the Internet. I shake my head because some of us were putting RCI on the web before there was a web.

The list of RCI’s achievements and all the talented people who worked for it could be the stuff of a television documentary series. But sadly, no one seems interested now.

A death by a thousand cuts, such an apt description, such a horrible process.

You’d think we would appreciate the experience of 70 years, the achievements of generations of journalists, producers, and technicians. And this week we trot out the old photos, say how great it is that RCI has been around for 70 years. Then we’ll roll up the posters, the displays, and put the awards we’ve won back in the cupboard.

We should have been allowed to think and work for the future. Because, our mandate to tell the world about Canada in a contextualized way, understandable to anyone, even someone who’s never been here, hasn’t gone away. Nor has the need for the honest journalism that many of us believe in, a journalism so necessary for those listening to what a country like us had to deal with and has to offer.

Wouldn’t it be incredible, if after the celebrations, we could concretely renew Radio Canada International? Build on our strengths and our experience, and not be limited by false constraints? Lovely dream.

RCI launches mobile website, and director accentuates the positive

Wednesday (May 15, 2013) Radio Canada International launched a mobile version of its website, after RCI director Helene Parent convened staff to a late morning meeting to showcase the new version, and to bring employees up-to-date on RCI news.

The presentation was almost cancelled, since the RCI website was off-line after the server hosting it (the server of our French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada) crashed. Service on the RCI website was off and on throughout the day.

The mobile version is something a number of employees were calling for, even before last year’s 80% cut of RCI’s budget, and the elimination of shortwave radio broadcasting.

In her presentation to staff Parent said a mobile version had been a priority, to make up for the loss of shortwave. This version comes only weeks after RCI radically changed the appearance of the website to better highlight the material posted by the English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic language services.

Parent emphasized how well the new website was being received by staff and administrators in the national public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada, and also by senators in Ottawa.

Parent said she accompanied CBC/Radio-Canada president Hubert Lacroix to a senate committee presentation on May 1, where they presented the website, and Parent said numerous senators came up to the two after the meeting to congratulate them for their success with RCI.

We’ll have more on the senate testimony of Parent and Lacroix, as well as the questions and comments made by the senate committee members, in a future post.

What’s wrong with Senate testimony on RCI’s 80% budget cut?


On May 1, 2013, the director of Radio Canada International (RCI) Hélène Parent and her boss Hubert Lacroix, the president of Canada’s national radio and television public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada were before a Canadian senate committee to explain the 80% budget cut to RCI.

Lacroix made the opening statement before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. In the statement he addressed the question of why CBC/Radio-Canada, which manages RCI, cut 80% of the international broadcaster’s budget as part of the larger CBC/Radio-Canada cuts in 2012.

What’s striking is the use of studies by Graham Mytton, formerly with BBC audience research, as justification for eliminating shortwave broadcasts at RCI as of June 25, 2012 in favour of the Internet.

What’s also striking is the emphasis that both Lacroix and Parent put on the “new” website, almost as if there had not been one before, and conveniently not mentioning RCI was a pioneering leader on the Internet in addition to its shortwave, satellite and partnering with local broadcasters.

Also surprising was the insistence that the Internet now gave RCI access to a bigger audience around the world.

Most disturbing was the belief expressed by both Lacroix and Parent that RCI’s shortwave broadcasts could not be heard in Canada – they most certainly were.

What was also disturbing was the overall sense from the testimony and the reaction of the senators that did speak, that the 80% budget cut was perhaps the best thing that happened to RCI, given this new website which only started in April, ten months after RCI has shutdown its shortwave radio broadcasts.

The entire testimony of the two before the senators can be found on line here. The video of the testimony is here.

Below are a few excerpts of the testimony. Please bear in mind that we are not in agreement with some of the interpretations, or even some of the facts presented to the Senators.

If you have any comments please make them below or contact us at rciaction@yahoo.ca

From his prepared speech CBC/Radio-Canada President Hubert Lacroix:
Our decision to end shortwave broadcasts of RCI and move the service to the Internet was not an easy one, The reality is that the use of shortwave around the world has been declining since the end of the Cold War. That, combined with the growth of cellular phones, Internet, traditional radio and television, has led broadcasters around the world to cut back on their shortwave services, if they do maintain them at all.

The trend is clear. While it is difficult to measure worldwide audiences to shortwave, a 2009 study by former BBC shortwave expert Graham Mytton identified a significant drop in shortwave listeners to Radio Canada International, beginning in the 1980s and continuing through the 1990s. He attributed the decline to the limited types of content offered and the very limited number of broadcast hours. In fact, that is one of the key advantages of moving RCI to the Internet.

Because RCI did not provide round-the-clock programming on shortwave, listeners had to tune in at the right time during the day or night in order to catch the one hour of programming each day in English or French; the 30 minutes a day in Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian; and the 30 minutes each week in Portuguese. We would repeat these programs depending on the market.

On the Internet our programs are available anywhere, at any time. They can also be downloaded and listened to later. We believe that transforming RCI into an interactive, Web-based service actually increases its value for Canadians at a lower cost.

Furthermore, in countries where governments attempt to block access to foreign websites or shortwave transmissions, our local partners can download free audio content from a dedicated server. RCI also offers a daily cybermagazine available by email. You will find samples of these cybermagazines in your folders.

From Senator Stephen Greene question and answer:
Senator Greene: Tell me if this impression I have is right or wrong. You cut 80 per cent of the budget of Radio Canada International, but my impression is that the cut of 80 per cent has not diminished the service by 80 per cent because you have skilfully been able to expand your Web presence, et cetera. In terms of service delivery of Radio Canada International, where is it now, if you could estimate, in percentage terms with respect to where it was?
Mr. Lacroix: You are absolutely right. I will ask Ms. Parent to come in here in a second. We think we are a much more relevant service because now, through social media and the Internet, we can actually know who the audience is. We can count clicks and we can count the presence. It was nearly impossible to do that in the shortwave world.

Ms. Parent: What we want is to have a greater international presence, because Graham Mytton’s study told us that in 2009, Radio Canada International was no longer a relevant player over shortwave, and even recommended that we go over to the Internet. A few years later, especially given the cuts, this change had to be implemented faster.

Ms. Parent: On the Radio Canada International website, you will note — and this is important for us — a link for our listeners. We are appealing to Internet users. On the right hand portion of the screen they are invited to share with us their comments as well as photos they take of Canada. As you know, our mandate is to raise Canada’s profile around the world.

Mr. Lacroix: To answer your question, Senator Greene, you heard we are more connected to the audience in order to have the ability to follow the audience, to understand and connect with them so that we get feedback. When you transmit shortwave, there is no way in the world to know whether people are actually listening and whether they are on their little set at the exact time that your 30 minutes or hour is going through. We think this is a neat way to transform RCI, not to have made it disappear but to have transformed it into something that is easy to access, vibrant and in tune with the digital virage.

From Senator Art Eggleton question and answer:
Senator Eggleton: It is very impressive what you are demonstrating to us, but I want to go back to the topic of shortwave. I notice that a number of other broadcasters are reducing their shortwave, but some of them are keeping some of it, and I sense that it might be because there are people you cannot reach through these means. You pointed out, Mr. Lacroix, in your comments that in Africa, Internet access is only about 3 per cent. Then there is the question of oppressed countries, where people are denied Internet access. Throughout history, certainly modern-day history, one associates the ability to get to these people using shortwave means as being very important in expressing what Canada is about by getting Canadian stories and messages through hopefully to many of these people living in oppressed situations.

Mr Lacroix: You talk about reaching people in these countries. We think that through the ability we have of delivering stuff through mobility and partnerships with local radio programmers in those countries — I will ask Ms. Parent to tell you more about this as well as the famous dedicated server. The numbers we have right now indicate that 3,000 hits — I am going to look for my number. People are coming to our site and downloading — here it is. Between September and November of 2012 on this famous dedicated server — which is a server available to our partners. If you are a partner of ours, let us say an organization in another country, you can come here, it is free, you download it and add it to the program that you have in your own country as programs coming from CBC/Radio-Canada. To show how relevant we are, we had 3,000 clicks from our partners where they downloaded this and incorporated that programming in their own stuff.

Senator Josée Verner question and answer:
Senator Verner: Thank you for your opening statement. It was clear and removed the drama which could have come with the cutbacks which were announced in the supplementary estimates for Radio-Canada and Radio Canada International.

What happened to you almost constitutes good news. I don’t want to exaggerate, but what you have achieved is fairly extraordinary. My question follows on those asked by my colleagues.

We know that in Africa mobile phones really are the best way to connect with others. In your opinion, do you reach more people this way than the traditional way?

Ms. Parent: That is our objective and we firmly believe that we are going to reach more people. We also broadcast on the FM dial. Our partners broadcast on local radio stations. BBC and Voice of America can confirm this. But what is very important in Africa today is to be a presence on local FM radio. These radio stations broadcast our productions, and, for us, the fact of being available on mobile phones is really a significant step forward.

Senator Verner: The fact that you were asked to make cutbacks in your budget in fact accelerated the process, because ultimately, when you look at what came of that, we could almost be tempted to ask you whether it should not have happened earlier.

Ms. Parent: I believe the team from Radio Canada International was thinking about this thing for many years. Moving to the Internet, on the recommendation of Graham Mytton, was something we had started to do. This is not without precedent. We did have a website before, but it was a complement to our programming. But sometimes it is important to resort to creative thinking.

Senator Betty E. Unger question and answer:
Senator Unger: Thank you for your presentation. I would like to know a little bit about the audience that RCI had in terms of numbers, composition, age, region, country, et cetera, and how that has changed. You have been the voice of Canada for years, so I am just wondering about who these people are that will now be served by this new technology that, quite frankly, at my age, I would never be interested in.

Mr. Lacroix: I will ask Hélène to tell you about our current listenership.

It is difficult for us to tell you what it was before because we could not count. It was very difficult to count the number of people picking us up on shortwave because there was no connection. We had to rely on data that came and was delivered to us in a very incomplete way.

With this technology, we can actually count now, and Ms. Parent will tell you who the audience is and whom we speak to. About 55 per cent are Canadians in Canada, and about 45 per cent are outside of Canada. Perhaps Ms. Parent can elaborate.

Ms. Parent: Forty-five per cent of our listeners are abroad. We have not identified the profile of our Canadian listeners. People who listen to Radio Canada International are between 50 and 65 years old. They are educated. In fact, they are basically the same people who listen to CBC/Radio-Canada, but to be precise, 31 per cent of Canadians are aware of Radio Canada International, which is excellent, given the fact that Radio Canada International was not very wellknown and did not have a deep penetration rate in Canada in the past.

It should said that with shortwave radio we were not broadcast in Canada and Canadians from diverse backgrounds did not have access to RCI content; now, we focus on people who know little or nothing about Canada, no matter their background.

We focus on citizens of the world because with the Internet there are no borders. We still target the same audience, people around age 35 and older, people who want to educate themselves and learn, who have that ability to reach us. We are aware that for some, it is important to have a certain level of income, especially for Internet lines, except for wireless where now, in Africa, it has become accessible.

We are targeting a much larger audience and we are targeting a Canadian audience, in addition. We did not have access to Canadians.

Senator Leo Housakos question and answer:
Senator Housakos: Congratulations on the initiative and the presentation. I have mostly a comment to make, which you can speak to, and then I have a question.

It is amazing how you have become innovative and efficient with 80 per cent less money and one third of the employees. You have managed to reach out using modern-day technology and technology that, over the last decade, has established itself as the way of the future. The question is, though, why did it take so long.

The other question is that, as parliamentarians and as taxpayers, we would like our Crown corporations to be looking for initiatives to be able to become more efficient and the most cost-effective possible without having to have governments send down draconian envelopes to force our Crown corporations, be it the VIA Rails of this world or the CBCs of this world, to take cost-saving initiatives. This is an example of how a major, drastic cost cut has spun out to great innovation and positive results. That is a comment from my point of view.

The other question I have, and forgive my ignorance, is how many shortwave radios were sold in Canada in the last year? What would be the number of shortwave radios that Canadians would possess living in the Middle East or Eastern Europe or wherever?

Mr. Lacroix: Frankly, I have no clue. I cannot answer that question.

Senator Housakos: The last time I walked into Future Shop or any one of the electronic stores, it does not seem that they sell shortwave radios anywhere

Mr. Lacroix: They could not pick us up here, so that would not be helpful.

Again, the entire testimony of the two before the senators can be found on line here. The video of the testimony is here.

Please comment below or write us at rciaction@yahoo.ca

BREAKING NEWS: CBC, RCI directors to testify at Senate Committee

BREAKING: 6:45PM Ottawa 22:45UTC today CBC and RCI directors to explain 80% budget cut at Senate Committee hearing in Ottawa http://tinyurl.com/cvgwyy2 Radio Canada International

Respected Canadian Senator Hugh Segal raises RCI issue in Senate

BREAKING NEWS: Conservative Senator Hugh Segal spoke in the Canadian Senate yesterday, October 25, about the 80% cut to Radio Canada International’s budget, and reiterated his intention to have a Senate Committee ask questions of management about the cuts.

You can read his comments here

We’ll have more details about this later.

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And don’t forget the petition to save our transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick tinyurl.com/sackvillepetition

U.S. listener starts petition to save Sackville transmitters

Many thanks to U.S. listener and RCI fan Thomas Witherspoon of Ears To Our World (ETOW) for getting this petition out to stop the dismantling of Canada’s only international broadcasting site, the transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick. Click on the photo below or this link for details. Thanks to all who have already signed up!

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