Radio Vacation

MTCoverMay13

The front cover of MT features a photo I took at Pointe-à-la-Renommée lighthouse and Marconi station in Quebec, Canada. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful lighthouses I’ve ever seen.

Some of you may remember that I took an extended vacation last year in the maritime region of Canada.

Monitoring Times Magazine just published an article I wrote about the vacation which includes a visit to Sackville, New Brunswick, four weeks in an off-grid cabin in eastern Prince Edward Island and a trip through the Gaspe region of Quebec.

Looking back, it’s amazing how much radio time I packed into that trip.

Read the full article in the June 2013 issue of Monitoring Times magazine.

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.

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.

A glimpse of Radio Canada International’s Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site

The large RCI sign that has long stood beside the Trans-Canada Highway in Sackville, New Brunswick. (Click to enlarge.)

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive an extensive tour of the Radio Canada International transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Of course, in light of the extensive cuts looming over this facility, the visit was bittersweet. It was an honor to see the transmitters and antennae I’ve listened to since I was eight years old, when I began listening to shortwave. But more impressive, still, are the people behind the scenes: despite a gloomy outlook, the site is busy and even humming due to their dedicated professionalism. The staff actively maintains the transmitters, antennae, and grounds, and it shows–the equipment, building and even floors are immaculate, demonstrating a palpable pride in a remarkable and still very useful site.  I thank them all, and wish them well…

Soon to come:  I’m writing a much more extensive post, outlining the tour and all that I learned.  I took hundreds of photos in an effort to photo-document the site.

Stay tuned!  Until then, here are a few teaser images:

The Sackville offices and transmitter building. I enjoyed a complete photo tour of this building, covering every hallway and office. (Click to enlarge.)

The new control station--completed only recently--allows for full remote operation of the site via the internet. (Click to enlarge.)

Shown above: the Harris transmitter, which almost exclusively carries the North Quebec service on 9,625 kHz. One of their oldest transmitters. (Click to enlarge.)

The right side of this double curtain antenna is used for transmissions to North Quebec on 9,625 kHz. (Click to enlarge.)

Yes, they use their RCI 4x4 truck all the time. The Sackville site is located on a marsh and experiences various challenging weather conditions. (Click to enlarge.)

The main floor, gleaming as ever. (Click to enlarge.)

When I post an article with the full tour and photos, search for the tag: Sackville

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.