Spectres of Shortwave: near completion

SackvilleCurtainAntennas

I took this photo of the RCI Sackville curtain antennas in June, 2012. (Photo: Thomas)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares this CBC New Brunswick article about Amanda Dawn Christie’s film, Spectres of Shortwave:

(Source: CBC)

Amanda Dawn Christie launching documentary about demise of RCI towers

Documentary ‘Spectres of Shortwave’ to be finished in time for possible premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs

Moncton artist Amanda Dawn Christie says after six years, her documentary Spectres of Shortwave, about the demise of the Radio-Canada International towers in Sackville, is nearly complete.

“A project like this is very hard,” Christie said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton. “When I went into this project they weren’t supposed to be tearing the towers down.”

After budget cuts in 2012, CBC announced the shortwave service would end after 67 years of broadcasting around the world.

Christie calls that decision a loss for the international community.

“Shortwave communication is something that will always get through. Even though technology advances and people rely on the internet — not everyone can afford a computer or digital receiver … Canada was known for more objective, non-biased broadcasting.”

Continue reading on the CBC New Brunswick website…

Wojtek Gwiazda retires from RCI

Wojtek’s final appearance on the Link in RCI’s remaining studio, with Lynn and Marc on Friday May 1, 2015 © Leo G- RCI (Source: RCI)

Wojtek’s final appearance on the Link in RCI’s remaining studio, with Lynn and Marc on Friday May 1, 2015 © Leo G- RCI (Source: RCI)

My friend, Wojtek Gwiazda, who has been a host and journalist for Radio Canada International–and an integral part of the RCI Action Committee–has retired.

Click here to listen to an exit interview with Wojtek on RCI’s The Link.

Also, check out this page and audio from the RCI website.

Wojtek: here’s wishing you the best in your retirement!

Radio Canada International 70th Anniversary was bittersweet for some

The transmitter building of Radio Canada International, Sackville, NB.

The transmitter building of Radio Canada International, Sackville, NB (June, 2012).

RCI Action

We recently noted that Radio Canada International (RCI) celebrated its 70th year anniversary.  While it was certainly an amazing milestone–dating back to WWII–it was a bittersweet celebration for some. Check out this article on the RCI Action blog:

“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.”

[Continue reading on RCI Action…]

Sheldon Harvey

My good friend, and host of the International Radio Report, Sheldon Harvey was interviewed  by Lynn Desjardins of Radio Canada International regarding Radio Canada International’s 70th anniversary. Here is a link to the story and the audio of the interview now accessible through RCI’s webpage

Amanda Dawn Christie

Amanda Dawn Christie

Amanda Dawn Christie

On a similar note, you might check out this interview between Wojtek Gwiazda and film marker, Amanda Dawn Christie. Amanda is making a documentary film about the destruction of the RCI Sackville transmitter site.

Click here to listen to the full interview via Radio Canada International online.

Check out Amanda’s short video of several towers as they were taken down:

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.

 

Media Network Plus interviews RCI shortwave supporter, Senator Hugh Segal

Senator Hugh Segal

PCJ’s Media Network Plus interviewed Senator Hugh Segal last week.  As we mentioned previously, Senator Segal made a motion that the CBC be made accountable for the unfair proportion of cuts imposed on Radio Canada International earlier this year.

I found Segal’s thoughts regarding the future of Radio Canada International articulate and accurate. If you’ve been following the RCI Sackville story, you will appreciate this interview as well.

You can listen to the interview on PCJ Media’s website, or by downloading the mp3 by clicking here.

Again, if you haven’t signed our petition to save Radio Canada International’s Sackville transmission site, please consider adding your voice and sharing this with your friends! Click here to sign the petition!

Senator Hugh Segal demands that CBC senior management explain rationale for sharp cuts to RCI

Senator Hugh Segal

Yesterday, Senator Hugh Segal made a motion in the 1st Session of the 41st Parliment that the senior management of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) explain the decision to cut funding of Radio Canada International by 80%, in light of RCI being Canada’s voice to the world and that shortwave serves those, ” in oppressed regions worldwide that are denied access to the Internet.”

His motion is beautifully articulated. It echoes many of the points we make here on the SWLing Post about why shortwave radio is still a vital national and international resource in the Internet age.

Regarding the unfair portion of cuts that RCI received, Senator Segal stated:

My concern is not that CBC senior management decided to reduce RCI’s budget. I would have preferred that CBC had not received a 10 per cent cut. Facing a 10 per cent cut, however, it is understandable that CBC management sought economies in the corporation. My concern is that, when a 10 per cent cut in the core grant produces an 80 per cent cut in one service, a vital and important international service, someone has made a focused and direct choice to target one aspect of the network for effective shutdown. While the management and the board of the CBC are and should be at arm’s length and while they make their own choices, that does not mean that they are not accountable for the choices they make. One area of accountability should be facing questions from this chamber, as well as the other chamber of Parliament, when necessary.

Again, his full motion (below) makes a well-rounded argument that RCI should not have been cut and the decision lacked accountability.

The timing of Senator Segal’s motion coincides with a very successful petition that asks the Misters of Heritage and Public Safety to stop the dismantling of the RCI Sackville transmission site. Please, if you haven’t already, sign this petition and share it with your friends and radio networks

Below, please find the text of Senator Segal’s motion in its entirety:

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of June 29, 2012, moved:

That, at the end of Question Period and Delayed Answers on the sitting following the adoption of this motion, the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole in order to receive senior management and officials of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to explain their decision to cut funding to Radio Canada International services by 80%, particularly in view of the importance of

(a) Radio Canada International as the voice of Canada around the world; and

(b) short wave radio in oppressed regions worldwide that are denied access to the Internet.

He said: Honourable senators, I move this motion as a friend and supporter of Radio-Canada International but also as a friend and supporter of public broadcasting in Canada. It was in 1985, after the election of the Mulroney Progressive Conservative administration, that a group of Canadians from different walks of life, including Adrienne Clarkson; Peter C. Newman; Lois Wilson, the former moderator of the United Church of Canada; Keith Morrison; the Rev. David MacDonald; David Suzuki and others gathered to form the FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting to organize, advance and protect the role of public broadcasting in Canada, including Radio-Canada, CBC, TVO and others. It was a privilege to be a part of that group.

The fact that the Mulroney Progressive Conservative administration increased the amount of CBC TV networks, built a new state of the art broadcast headquarters in Toronto, made other investments in the CBC and Radio-Canada and began the important commitment to TV5 speaks to the broad and non-partisan place of public broadcasting in the mixed market economy and pluralist society that Canada has become.

[Translation]

I would like to congratulate Senator Andrée Champagne, who is part of this government, and Senator Marjorie LeBreton, who was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister at the time. Both have made a great contribution to this important area.

[English]

My concern is not that CBC senior management decided to reduce RCI’s budget. I would have preferred that CBC had not received a 10 per cent cut. Facing a 10 per cent cut, however, it is understandable that CBC management sought economies in the corporation. My concern is that, when a 10 per cent cut in the core grant produces an 80 per cent cut in one service, a vital and important international service, someone has made a focused and direct choice to target one aspect of the network for effective shutdown. While the management and the board of the CBC are and should be at arm’s length and while they make their own choices, that does not mean that they are not accountable for the choices they make. One area of accountability should be facing questions from this chamber, as well as the other chamber of Parliament, when necessary.

When a shortwave service, which has been serving the Canadian ideal, Canada and the world, is closed after 67 years, this is not a trivial administrative decision. When a service that could reach around the world is cut to an Internet-based service that will be accessed by only a fraction of the world and only the wealthier fraction at that, this is not a trivial decision. When the separate programming base that produced a global Canadian program mix for RCI, which was shaped for an international audience, becomes a derivative, Internet-based, repeater station, that is also not a trivial decision.

Did anyone afford listeners or Canadians generally a policy paper or plan of action before the announcement was made? No. Were different options for RCI discussed internally? No. Was there a plan to see if different Canadian broadcasters might wish to collaborate on a reconfigured international service? No.

Acting as ruthlessly and capriciously as a private broadcaster that only matches mission with income and avoids more challenging missions might be the CBC’s idea of the rational way ahead. However, if they are going to cut and slash as a private broadcaster might, why do we need a public broadcaster? If it is all about news, hockey and the bottom line, there are private broadcasters who can fill this role at an even greater savings to the Canadian taxpayer. That would not be what I would ever hope for. However, every time the CBC pretends to have no greater duty to its audience than a private broadcaster might, it is the CBC that validates the private option. I believe that a committee of this chamber or a Committee of the Whole, as is in the motion, might well call the CBC management before it to address a few questions that fly in the face of this CBC management decision. I will conclude with these brief questions.

Why has RCI been on the CBC’s own cut agenda since 1991?

What are the foreign and trade policy impacts of denying China Radio International use of our transmitters, which will happen when Sackville is closed? What are the implications of that? When was the decision made to let them use our facilities and at what cost?

Will CBC management consult with the broader community, including the residents of Sackville, New Brunswick, with respect to the disposition of those transmitters?

Why did we have fewer program hours on our international shortwave service, long before the cuts, than the BBC, Voice of Russia, Deutsche Welle, Radio Cairo, All India Radio, NHK World Radio Japan, Radio France Internationale, Voice of Turkey, Radio Pyongyang, Radio Bulgaria, Radio Australia, Radio Tirana, Radio Romania International, Radio Exterior de España, RDP Internacional, Radio Havana and Radio Italia.

Shortwave service and listeners are increasing massively, according to the BBC. In China, production of shortwave radios cannot keep up with demand worldwide, Grundig’s production cannot keep up either. Yet we are exiting this medium of transmission. Why?

There is no limit to who can listen to shortwave, yet world Internet usage, while growing, has no such potential or present reach. In Africa, less than 20 per cent have access to the Internet. In Asia, it is less than 30 per cent. In the Middle East, it is less than half. In developing countries, the percentage is even higher. When dictatorships do not like a message on the Internet, they simply block it, as RCI’s message is now blocked in the People’s Republic of China and was blocked by the former Egyptian regime before a form of democracy ensued in that country. Does the end of creative programming for the international community represent a CBC decision that the international world no longer matters to the CBC or to Canada?

Was there no middle ground, no more modest cutting scenario possible, aligned with the actual 10 per cent cut as opposed to the shutdown? Was an 80 per cent cut the only rational option?

Honourable senators, I commend the motion before you for your consideration and assessment and hopefully your engagement and debate.

I know that there are cultural and artistic aspects that I have not discussed but that others are planning to, with more expertise than I could bring to bear on that issue. I look forward to others participating either in the debate on this motion or before hearings that may occur based on its provision. It may well be that CBC management has decided to move on, to make RCI and its message of freedom, dissent, diversity, democratic debate and robust cultural creativity a thing of the past.

(1600)

I would hope that when arrogance reflects no will to consult, no will to array options, no openness to look for less draconian solutions when it crests on an issue like this, even within a proud, compelling and high-quality public broadcaster, which the CBC is, at least in this chamber there will be some will to ask some very tough questions.

Some Hon. Senators: Bravo!

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