Thousands protest cuts to CBC

CBCbuilding

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David Iurescia, for sharing this story from Radio Canada International:

“Thousands of people marched in several cities in the province of Quebec and the New Brunswick city of Moncton on Sunday to protest ongoing cuts to the public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada.

Beginning in the 1990s, successive Canadian governments cut funding to the service. The latest round will lead to 1,500 job losses by 2020. That represents almost 20 per cent of the current, total number of employees.

Cultural groups in particular are concerned about the cuts to the English-language CBC and the French-language Radio-Canada. Preserving culture is particularly sensitive issue in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

Radio Canada International has also suffered from the budget cuts and had to dismantle its international shortwave service in 2012. RCI is now only accessible by internet.”

Also check out this article on the Montreal Gazette.

Senator Segal’s motion receives unanimous vote: special committee enquiry into RCI cuts

An excellent development in Canada: Senator Hugh Segal’s motion for a special committee enquiry into the CBC decision to slash the Radio Canada International budget by 80 per cent has received a unanimous vote in the Senate. Committee hearings will begin as early as February.

Below is the full press release I received from Senator Segal:

(Source: Office of Senator Segal)

Senator Hugh Segal has issued this statement on the unanimous vote in the Senate to have a special committee enquiry into the CBC decision to slash the RCI budget by 80 per cent.

“I am delighted that, in a non partisan way, the Senate voted to have the RCI matter go to a full review of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.   My motion was amended by Senator Champagne to go to a full committee hearing rather than a one day appearance before bar of the Senate.

That a ten percent cut to the CBC budget produced an 80 percent slash and burn of  Radio Canada International reflects an internal CBC management decision which needs to be better understood.  CBC management may well believe that if they let people go and dismantle transmitters, the problem will go away.

The importance of Canada’s voice to the rest of the world is not a detail of no consequence. The chance to call witnesses, pursue how other enlightened countries have expanded their short wave capacity, among other facts, will be a constructive step ahead in strengthening Canada’s international voice.”

Committee hearings on this matter may start as early as February2013.

 

Toronto Sun: Killing RCI was shortsighted

(Source: Toronto Sun)

BY  ,QMI AGENCY

The chipping away at Canada continues apace.

Radio Canada International’s shortwave service was, quite literally, Canada’s voice to the world for nearly 70 years — through wars, through triumphs and disasters, through it all. It has been part of our history. And, now, it’s gone.

…[T]he service became a means by which we could subtly promote democracy, and the Canadian way of life, in far-flung corners of the world. In places like China, Russia and North Korea — where the Internet can be censored, but shortwave can’t be — RCI was heard by many. In post-Communist Eastern Europe, shortwave radio receivers are still the way in which many receive news from the outside world.

I know this from experience. When I was an election observer in Bosnia in 1996, billeted with a Serbian family, I was glued to my tiny shortwave radio at night. I’d listen to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the news from back home, and I was always pretty grateful that RCI existed.

Our allies — the U.S., Britain, Germany, France and Australia — have all expanded their national shortwave service.

In Canada, meanwhile, we’ve killed it.

The Harper regime, which has taken a chainsaw to the CBC in recent months, is ultimately to blame for this short-sighted decision. They will say that government needs to tighten its belt, and they’re mostly right about that.

But getting rid of RCI’s shortwave service is pennywise and pound foolish. In all, keeping RCI on-air would have cost about 35 cents a year, per Canadian. In comparative terms, it’s as much as it cost taxpayers to rent a couple of panda bears from China for zoos in Toronto and Calgary. Or, it’s a fifth of the cost of building gazebos in Tony Clement’s riding and fake lakes for the G8/G20 summit.

Meanwhile, KPMG did a study on RCI, and found it was the most efficient — that is, cost-effective — broadcaster of its type in the world.

Why should you care? Does it matter? It matters. Billion-dollar fighter jets and super jails, before a pittance for a radio station that promoted democracy and decency around the world? The idiots who came up with this outrageous decision should all be fired.

Perhaps you didn’t notice the death of RCI because you have access to lots of media here in Canada, or because you don’t ever need to tune in to shortwave radio. But to people around the world — to our men and women in uniform — the death of RCI won’t go unnoticed.[…]

Read the full Op Ed piece in the Toronto Sun

Help us record shortwave history: Radio Canada International’s final day of broadcasts

RCI's Sackville Transmission Site

As many SWLing Post listeners know, today marks the end of an era. Radio Canada International is being forced to conclude many decades of shortwave radio services in a short-sighted attempt to cut costs. In lieu of exploring numerous cost-cutting solutions, such as implementing the newly-installed remote operations of the Sackville, NB transmission site, they have decided to cut all shortwave broadcasting and all content creation for the medium, essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I have written extensively about the potential harm this will cause to those who rely upon shortwave radio as a lifeline of information, not to mention to Canadian diplomacy as a whole.

We want your RCI broadcast recordings

Nonetheless, for archive purposes, I will attempt to record as many final broadcasts today as possible. We invite listeners from around the world to participate in this process: please send us your recordings of any RCI broadcasts today–any language, any frequency.

Thanks to Glenn Hauser, here is a schedule of broadcasts today:

1500-1559 UTC: Maple Leaf Mailbag (MLMB) Finale–11,675 and 15,125 kHz

1800-1859 UTC: MLMB Finale–11,765, 9,530 and (best for N America) 17, 810 kHz

2000-2059 UTC: MLMB Finale 2–17,735, 15,330, 15235 kHz

RCI Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish and Portugese final broadcasts should end at 2330 UTC today on 11,990, 13,760 and 15,455

As for our friends with RCI, we wish you well! Many thanks for your years of dedicated service.

Cabinet silences Canada’s international voice, RCI Action responds

Yesterday, as I toured Radio Canada International’s Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site, the Canadian press discovered that the Cabinet approved an order that paves the way for RCI to be dismantled. The Metro News reported:

Heritage Minister James Moore recommended an order in council, approved on June 7, that deleted a requirement for RCI to maintain a shortwave service.

That change removed an obstacle to the steep cuts the CBC had announced for RCI in April — $10 million of $12.3 million budget will disappear along with at least three-quarters of its work force.

RCI had planned to file an injunction this past week to prevent CBC from shutting down its shortwave broadcasting facilities, but the new order thwarted their lawyers.

“I don’t know how this happened. I’m just shocked that it did happen. I’m shocked that the minister would make this decision two months after CBC announced the budget cut, two months after the CBC announced they were cutting shortwave,” said Wojtek Gwiazda, spokesman for the RCI Action Committee, a union-supported lobby trying to save the international service.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted RCI Action spokesman, Wojtek Gwiazda, extensively:

“As of June 25, most of the original content will disappear,” he said, “because we won’t have the people to do it.”

Thirty of 45 permanent employees are being laid off, along with a dozen or more contract workers and other regular freelancers.

Gwiazda, spokesman for a group inside RCI attempting to salvage the short wave service and its original programming, said a proposed injunction on behalf of RCI employees was thwarted last week when the Conservative cabinet quietly and quickly changed two key rules under which RCI operates.

Under previous rules, RCI was legally obliged to provide a shortwave service and to consult regularly with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The government, in its June 7 rule change, has dropped both those requirements.

A spokesman for the Department of Canadian Heritage confirmed the change had been made, but refused to say why.

The Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions about the issue.

[…]NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar accused the CBC and the Conservative government of “taking Canada’s voice off the world stage.

“It is sneaky,” he said in an interview with the Citizen. “They are pretending they aren’t killing it, but they are. Our Commonwealth cousins and others in the G8 have made a commitment that the world should hear their voices. Why not Canada’s?

“How will we keep people in other countries informed about Canada and how will Canada’s voice be heard by the international community.”

Dewar says he’s hearing negative reaction to the RCI cuts from MPs in all parties, and the NDP has written to both Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Heritage Minister James Moore urging a reversal of the decision.

“We are appealing to them to find the money and put this essential service back where it belongs,’ added Dewar. “Canada needs its voice heard and we have to figure out a way to do it. It’s not a lot of money. Let’s find it. Let’s not leave RCI orphaned.”

The Metro News also quoted me:

Thomas Witherspoon, founder of an American non-profit organization called Ears to Our World, said it is shortsighted to cut RCI’s shortwave service because it represents a cost-effective way of showing Canada to the world.

Witherspoon, whose organization distributes shortwave radios to communities in the developing world, recently wrote an impassioned opinion piece defending RCI.

“Here on the overly-lit, information-saturated North American continent, it’s easy to forget that an estimated 1.6 billion human beings — a full one quarter of us — still lack access to reliable power and to the Internet,” he wrote.

“In remote, impoverished, often war-torn regions, radio has become a familiar voice in the darkness. Without radio broadcasters such as RCI — and the light of information they can relay — the night can become very dark, indeed.”

RCI Action formed a response to the Cabinet’s decision:

Hon. James Moore,

A little more than 24 hours ago we at the RCI Action Committee found out that on June 7, 2012, you changed the Order in Council that directs CBC/Radio-Canada in its obligations under the Broadcasting Act in dealing with Radio Canada International.

You have eliminated CBC’s obligation to provide programming on shortwave, depriving almost all Chinese listeners of uncensored news from Canada, since the website of RCI is blocked by the Chinese authorities. And you have made it impossible for most listeners in the world to stay abreast of what’s going on in Canada via radio, because most people do not have easy access to the Internet.

You have also abolished CBC’s obligation to consult with Foreign Affairs about the geographic target areas and languages we broadcast in. Letting it continue in the slashing of services to the Ukraine, Russia and Brazil.

And you have done this after two months of CBC being in contempt of the 2003 Order in Council. Just as we were preparing an injunction to stop the shutting down of shortwave transmissions.

You have cleared the way for the CBC’s destruction of a 67 year old institution. An institution that CBC/Radio-Canada has never understood. It does not understand international broadcasting, the importance of it, and the impact of the 80% cut you are letting them get away with.

It is ironic.

Chinese authorities block RCI’s website. They have not jammed the shortwave frequencies of Radio Canada International. So you’ve done it for them, by shutting down RCI’s Chinese radio programming.

Why have you done this?

Yours truly,

Wojtek Gwiazda

Spokesperson, RCI Action Committee

rciaction@yahoo.ca
rciaction.org/blog

Follow our tag, RCI Cuts to follow these developments.

The Link talks about the politics of saving RCI

On Friday’s edition of The Link, Mark Montgomery spoke with Amanda Pfeffer about how international radio is being cut around the world and, more specifically, Canada. They discuss how this happened, who is aware of it and if there is any way to save the service.

It’s an informative segment (though see my correction below).

Since this is one of several features in the show, I’ve recorded this specific segment and posted it for listening below.

You can also listen to the segment by downloading the mp3 here.

Please note that Amanda is a little mis-leading about the bureaucratic structure of US international broadcasting. It is rather confusing.

The BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors) is the governing body of US international Broadcasting. The IBB (International Broadcasting Bureau) is over all of the broadcast/transmission facilities, engineering functions, human resources, finances and other agency support services. To be clear, the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti and the Middle East Broadcasting Network all take direction from the BBG, not the IBB.

The organizational chart (below) can shed some light on this.

The BBG Organizational Chart as of May 2012 (Click to enlarge)

The Toronto Star publishes my thoughts on the cuts to Radio Canada International

As many of you know, I find the downsizing of major shortwave broadcasters around the world deeply concerning, especially since so much of the world still relies on the medium as a source of news and information, and for some the only source of potentially life-saving information.

The recent cuts to RCI, however, were particularly painful. In one stroke of a pen, many people lost their jobs, and RCI’s already-skimpy budget was reduced to virtually nil. What’s more, their only international transmitting station–in Sackville, New Brunswick–is slated to be shut down, meaning there is no intention to continue the service, ever.

The Toronto Star has kindly published my thoughts on the matter.  You can read the full article here.