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!

Remembering Radio Canada International’s final shortwave broadcast

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

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

I spent the summer of 2012 in an off-grid cabin on the eastern coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada. That summer, I listened as two of my favorite shortwave broadcasters left the air within weeks of each other: Radio Netherlands Worldwide and Radio Canada International.

I was able to not only listen to the final broadcasts of Radio Netherlands, but also record them. I wrote a post about that memorable experience.

Ironically, though I was only a geographic stone’s-throw from the RCI Sackville transmitter site, I struggled to hear any Sackville signals as my location was too close for skywave propagation and a little too far for ground wave. Though I paid a visit to the transmitter site only two days prior, I was unable to hear or record RCI’s final broadcast.

Unlike RNW’s final broadcasts, RCI’s ended without fanfare and quite abruptly. This week, I heard a recording of that final RCI broadcast for the first time. My friend, Rajdeep Das, recorded it on June 24, 2012 in Kolkata, India. Rajdeep has kindly shared his recording with the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive and here on the SWLing Post.

This is a short 10 minute recording, beginning at 1550 UTC, June 24, 2012 on 11,675 kHz. Listeners will note that the broadcast ends abruptly during the mailbag program–obviously the Sackville transmitters were turned off prematurely.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

While we’re talking about RCI, I would also like to thank @LeedsRadio, @UKDXer and Al Holt for sharing the following brilliant QSLs and pennant:

UK-DXer-RCI-QSL

Source: @UKDXer via Twitter

LeedsRadio-RCI-NorthQuebecService-QSL

Source: @LeedsRadio via Twitter

Al-Holt-RCI-QSL

Source: @grovekid2 (Al Holt) via Twitter

 

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

SWLing Post readers should note that Rajdeep Das has a DX blog you should visit. I’ve added Rajdeep’s site to our blog roll. Thanks again, Rajdeep!

Sackville Tribune-Post reports on dismantling of RCI site

Radio Canada International's Sackville, New Brunswick shortwave transmitter site. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Many thanks to Ken Reitz for sharing this:

(Source: Sackville Tribune-Post)

A piece of local history is slowly disappearing as crews dismantle the former Radio Canada International transmission towers on the marsh near Sackville, N.B.

The towers, erected prior to the Second World War, were declared obsolete in October 2012 after the CBC ended its shortwave service because of changing technology and the use of the Internet and satellite radio.

When no use was found for the facility the decision was made to have the towers dismantled.

“It’s really sad to see it coming down, there are so many great memories working there,” said former manager David Horyl, who spent more than 35 years working at the facility on the marsh. “It’s really going to change the look of thing over there. It’s quite a landmark.”

[Continue reading…]

Thoughts after the Canadian RCI/CBC Senate hearing

CBC-RCI-HearingLast night, I listened to a live stream of the Canadian senate hearings regarding last year’s Radio Canada International cuts to shortwave radio. CBC president Hubert LaCroix and RCI director Michelle Parent met remarkably little criticism or resistance in the hearing, and it appears the report to the senate will be nothing short of cheerleading for the CBC. Indeed, the hearing’s tone overall was one of self-congratulation.

The decision to cut RCI in this manner is a prime example of a few officials with all-too-limited knowledge making decisions in the absence of experts’ input.  The business decision seemed to them essentially sound, and yet the impact of the decision has far-reaching negative consequences–for Canadians and as well as the rest of the world–that these officials may never fully comprehend.

Notes from the hearing:

  • All but one senator patted CBC and RCI management on the back for becoming more innovative in the wake of devastating budget cuts; only one suggested that such innovation could have been achieved prior to them
  • No one asked if the CBC explored the possibility of scaling back shortwave services without closing the Sackville, NB transmitter site and eliminating shortwave broadcasts altogether, which would have been a much better use of funds as well as maintaining foreign relations and domestic security
  • Hubert LaCroix basically suggested that people living in oppressed regions could gain access to RCI via mobile platforms (sadly, this is not the case)
  • When asked how cuts to shortwave have effected their listenership and demographic, LaCroix basically shrugged his shoulders and pointed out how difficult it is to judge how many people listen on shortwave.  (My response: What areas of our world lack a power grid infrastructure? Fully 1/4 of our planet.  These are the underserved who rely heavily on shortwave)
  • No one inquired about the impact upon their Chinese audience, as RCI’s website is blocked in China; meanwhile, shortwave continues to be comparatively impermeable to firewalls and is untraceable in restrictive countries

Monsieur LaCroix made it clear that the primary CBC mandate is to be a creative, innovative media force within Canada. For him, and most of CBC management, Radio Canada International must have felt like a leech to their dwindling budget. Were I in his position, with limited information and a mandate to protect his main “client” set (Canadians living in Canada)–I might have made the same decision.   And yet…it was the wrong one.

What would have solved the problem in the first place?  Radio Canada International should have been its own entity, with its own budget to manage, however modest–and if anything, funded through the foreign office rather than the domestic public news/entertainment body. After all, what RCI accomplished on shortwave was far more humanitarian and diplomatic in nature.

I’ve written at length about the RCI cuts and will not go into them further on this post. But I do believe RCI Sackville could have been a more efficient and productive operation if it employed some sensible changes. Sackville had just finished installing a (paid-for) technology infrastructure to remotely operate the entire transmitter site. Moreover, Sackville management told me they had planned to cut their staff to a skeleton crew (of three people, if memory serves), only to be there if something mechanical on site needed service. These new adjustments were not even tried.

Additionally, using a market model, RCI/Sackville could have offered their relay services to more broadcasters at competitive (even market) rates. Their hourly rate to broadcast on shortwave was simply too high, thus potential customers sought more efficient cost-effective transmission sites. Sackville was never given the tools to become a self-funding operation like so many private broadcasters have become.

Sackville’s infrastructure was an incomparably valuable resource in which many millions in taxpayer money was already invested and paid in full; sadly, these cuts have destroyed this investment.  The Sackville site, moreover, had the potential of a sleeping army, both in foreign affairs…and in Canadian security.  But it’s gone.  Simply because a few politicians doing their near-best didn’t have all the relevant information.

RCIFor what it’s worth

RCI still has some great talent on board. Canadian expats living abroad, and those  who are connected to the web, can still enjoy RCI via the website or on mobile platforms. That is an audience that may actually expand through a social media presence–something they could have done more effectively prior to the budget cuts last year.

I was also encouraged to hear that there is a serious effort to distribute RCI’s online audio content–free of charge–to broadcasters in local radio stations around the world. This is very positive: FM, though not as accessible as shortwave in Africa, has a strong community following and stations are appearing everywhere. I hope RCI has a dedicated employee whose sole focus is to identify and build connections with these local outlets for their content.

Barring a takeover or drastic re-organization, it sounds like Radio Canada International over shortwave is now destined for the history books. To honor this history, I sincerely hope the new RCI innovates and penetrates new markets. And I hope RCI employees, many of whom have long memories, find challenge and renewed confidence going forward. We certainly appreciate all of the years during which they graced the shortwaves, and wish them all the best.

Spectres of Shortwave: RCI Sackville documentary seeks support

1-IMG_2274Last year, we mentioned that a documentary film featuring the RCI Sackville transmitter site was in the works. Fortunately, artist/film maker Amanda Dawn Christie, is on track for production of Spectres of Shortwave. Though the film has already received $70,000 in cash funding and $17,500 in services, they need an additional $10,000 to cover incidentals, so they’ve launched an indiegogo campaign.

Consider helping them along the way with even a modest contribution by visiting their indiegogo campaign page.

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.

 

CRTC extends broadcast license for Sackville’s North Quebec Service until Dec 1

View of the western cluster of curtain antennas from the roof of RCI Sackville’s transmissions building. (Photo: The SWLing Post) –Click to enlarge

According to this article (see clipping below) the CRTC “mistakenly” listed the end date of RCI Sackville’s (call sign CKCX-SW) shortwave service to North Quebec as November 1, 2012. The CRTC has now amended the decision with an end date of December 1st, 2012.

Thanks to Kim Elliott for bringing this to my attention.

(Source: All Access Music Group)

[T]he official revocation of the license of the CBC’s shortwave CKCX-SW/SACKVILLE, NB has been amended to DECEMBER 1st.  In an initial ruling on the requested revocation, the CRTC mistakenly listed the end date as NOVEMBER 1st.  The station is being shut down because of the grant of low-power repeaters for CBC RADIO ONE station CFFB/IQUALUIT, NUNAVUT at PURVIRNITUQ, KUUJJUARAPIK, INUKJUAK, SALLUIT, and KUUJJUAQ, NUNAVIT, all on 103.5 FM with 50 watts each.

Have you singed our petition to save Sackville from being dismantled? Now would be the perfect time: