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!

Sackville still broadcasting CBC North Quebec Service on 9,625 kHz…for now

The remaining curtain antenna faithfully broadcasting the CBC North Quebec relay

I just received confirmation that the Sackville, NB transmission site of Radio Canada International will continue broadcasting the CBC North Quebec service on 9,625 kHz until all of the FM relays in North Quebec have been tested and placed into service.

To be clear, contrary to the implication of the recent CRTC ruling, the Sackville site may continue broadcasting for a few more days or weeks, depending on progress with the FM relays’ implementation.

The remaining staff at Sackville have converted the site to run two transmitters and two antennas (for redundancy) for the North Quebec Service on 9,625 kHz via remote operation. Nothing else is being broadcast our of the Sackville site.

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

 

CRTC revokes Sackville’s CBC North license

A few of RCI Sackville’s curtain antennas

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to report good news on the SWLing Post. Unfortunately, this news is of a very disappointing turn:  According to the CBC’s plan, Sackville’s shortwave broadcasting license for the CBC North Quebec service has been revoked by the CRTC. This was announced today on the CRTC website; it is an eventuality in the wake of the 80% cut Radio Canada International received in April of this year.

What’s most sad about this revocation is that communities in North Quebec and Northern Canada who rely on this service, many representing First Nations (American Indians), probably do not even realize that they’re about to lose that service–the only service capable of bringing news to their vast Northern region.  The “replacement” for the service will be low-powered FM, which will just not have the same reach as shortwave.

If the three provinces that make up north Canada were a country, it would be the 7th largest country in the world by land mass. Five low power FM transmitters cannot cover this region. (Map: WikiMedia Commons)

A closer look

How vast is this territory? After all, we’re talking about an area where most of us have never traveled. Well, the North Quebec administrative region, alone, is 747,161 sq km (288,480 sq miles)–that’s about the size of Afghanistan, or 200,000 sq km larger than France.

The three provinces which make up northern Canada have a combined area of 3,921,739 km2 (1,514,192 sq mi)–an area larger than India. If northern Canada were a country, it would be the 7th largest in the world.

The Sackville shortwave service covers the entire North Quebec region with ease, and probably most of Northern Canada.

FM can’t replace this service

The CRTC decision states:

The CBC also requested the revocation of its broadcasting license for the shortwave radio undertaking CKCX-SW Sackville, New Brunswick. It indicated that the new transmitters will ensure that the population of the aforementioned locations [Puvirnituq, Kuujjuarapik, Inukjuak, Salluit, and Kuujjuaq] continues to be served by the news and regional information programming of its Radio One service when CKCX-SW Sackville ceases operation.

Five low-power FM stations, one for each of these communities will, at best, cover a total land area of 500 square miles combined.  That equates to a land area about the size of New York City. Note that this is a very generous figure and assumes ideal FM transmission conditions.  Clearly, vast areas of the enormous region–where people live, travel, or hunt–will not be covered; in these areas, radios which once received programming from Sackville will receive only static.

Our petition lives on

Last week, I spearheaded a petition to Canada’s Heritage and Public Safety Ministers and the CBC management asking them to stop dismantling the RCI Sackville site –at least, we asked, please keep this site in a state that could support Canada’s domestic security and the North Quebec Service. While I’m fully aware that this petition is unlikely to alter the course of this previously-made decision (made before anyone could voice disagreement), the petition could still make a positive difference.

There is still time to save Sackville from being dismantled. This petition makes it clear that there is a large community of people who are aware of this arbitrary cut. Only last week, Senator Hugh Segal made a motion on the senate floor that the CBC be made accountable for their unfair 80% cut to RCI (while the whole of the CBC was only cut 10%).

This petition also validates the efforts of those who work at the Sackville site, with whom I’ve been in contact.  They are humbled and appreciative of the extraordinary outpouring of support, in the form of nearly 500 signatures from individuals all over the world. Among the countries represented:  the United States, Mexico, India, Taiwan, and various countries in both Europe and Africa.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign the petition and share it with your friends.

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!

Petition to save RCI Sackville from being dismantled

Dear SWLing Post readers,

I don’t often ask you for favors, but over the past few days, I’ve been working hard in the background to stop the Radio Canada International Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site from being dismantled.

Now, I need a favor.

Could you please take a few moments out of your day to sign this Change.org petition I started? Your voice will be added to the petition and it will automatically email the appropriate Canadian politicians who could, at the very least, put a halt to the destruction of the RCI Sackville site.  Canada–indeed, the world–needs this vital shortwave resource.

You don’t have to be Canadian to sign (after all, I’m not), but just someone who cares about radio and believes in its role in domestic security and international relations.

Click here to  sign the petition at Change.org, or use the embedded form below. Also, please consider sharing this with your radio enthusiast networks and email groups. The more voices, the better!

Sincerely,

Thomas

RCI Action: Stop CBC from dismantling our transmitters to the world

A few of RCI Sackville’s curtain antennas–soon to be dismantled

October 31st is quickly approaching and the CBC has requested that the remaining employees at Radio Canada Internationals Sackville transmission site begin dismantling antennas and transmitters that are not currently being used for their remaining three broadcaster clients (NHK, KBS and the Voice of Vietnam) and the CBC North Quebec Service. To be clear, once this transmission infrastructure is dismantled, there will be no going back.

RCI Action posted a plea on their website with a request to contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore james.moore@parl.gc.ca and tell him to stop CBC/Radio-Canada from dismantling the Sackville transmitters:

(Source: RCI Action)

In the next few days the transmission lines that allow Canada to broadcast to the world will be taken down one by one. For more than 67 years Radio Canada International’s shortwave transmitters have guaranteed that Canada’s voice would be heard despite the Cold War, despite natural disasters, and Internet blocking. Now this efficient, cost effective communications tool will be dismantled by Canada’s public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada.

Those of us who understand how important this lifeline to the world is to world communication are sick to our stomachs at the rapidity with which the broadcaster wants to make the transmitters disappear. Shortwave broadcasts of Radio Canada International ended on June 24, 2012. Other countries’ use of our transmitters will end on October 31.

But CBC/Radio-Canada has already started the process of dismantling unused transmitters, and will start taking down still functioning transmission lines very shortly.

[…]The transmitters are there, they don’t cost much to maintain. Why do we want to cut ourselves off from being able to communicate with the world? Who should be making these decisions?

Please contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore james.moore@parl.gc.ca and tell him to stop CBC/Radio-Canada from dismantling our transmitters.

And please send us any suggestions you may have rciaction@yahoo.ca

Thanks!

The above is a clip for RCI Action’s post, read the full message on RCI Action’s website. Please, if you feel strongly about the value of RCI’s Sackville site, contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore james.moore@parl.gc.ca and tell him to stop this process.

RNZ interviews RCI’s Wojtek Gwiazda: Shutting off the shortwave

Radio New Zealand’s Bryan Crump, host of  Nights, interviewed RCI Action Committee spokesperson, Wojtek Gwiazda today. It’s an excellent and insightful interview.

Thank you, Mike, for the tip!

You can download the audio from the show here, or simply use the embedded player below:

From RNZ:

Wojtek Gwiazda is host and producer of Masala Canada at Radio Canada International, and spokesperson of the RCI Action Committee. Wojtek is still fighting to try and retain the ability to broadcast in shortwave with the very recent shut-down of the shortwave transmitters of Radio Canada International.