Tag Archives: Radio Canada International Cuts

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!

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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

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Final episode of the final Maple Leaf Mailbag now online

On Facebook, Wojtek Gwiazda kindly shared the following message from Terry Haig (who has been subbing for Ian Jones on the MLMB):

Dear Friends,
I am distraught that the final edition of the MLMB did not go out properly this past weekend because of technical glitches. The show can be heard on line by clicking on the search button on the RCI website and writing in “Maple Leaf Mailbag.” Then hit “programs” and click “listen.”

My apologies that we could not spend our final hour together as planned. Once again, I thank you all for your undying love, support, insight, graciousness and generosity. You are wonderful and magical.

I shall never forget you. Be well, everyone. Au Revoir and peace!
Terry H.

———————————————————
To hear the programme just click here:
http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/program/the-maple-leaf-mailbag/home/

I should note that, the Maple Leaf Mailbag was one of my favorite RCI shows to catch on shortwave. It was informal, quirky, interactive and always fun. It also had a very strong international listenership. Terry has been an excellent sub, but admittedly, I’ve really missed hearing my good friend Ian Jones on the show.

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Video of Marc Montgomery’s farewell speech to The Link listeners

(Source: YouTube)

Radio Canada International journalist Marc Montgomery broke down in tears during his farewell speech to listeners as RCI ended its 67-year history of shortwave broadcasts yesterday. June 22, 2012, was the last day of The Link, RCI’s flagship English language daily radio show, which Marc hosted from its very inception in October 2006.

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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.

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RCI Action: Last month of RCI broadcasts, unless…

(Source: RCI Action)

June 24, 2012, will be the last day of Radio Canada International’s radio programming unless we can convince Canada’s government that our national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada went too far when it cut our budget by 80% and decided we would no longer broadcast on shortwave or satellite, and be left with only a web presence on the Internet .

This decision to stop radio broadcasting fails to recognize that most people in the world do not have easy access to the Internet. It fails to recognize that there is very little access around the globe to contextualized Canadian news, news for those outside Canada. And since RCI’s mandate is to explain Canada to as much of the world as possible, CBC/Radio-Canada is making that harder for us.

That is why we are calling on Canada’s federal government to step in, stop the cut, and protect Radio Canada International’s international mandate.

Here’s where we need your help.

Please contact government (Conservative) Members of Parliament and tell them why access to Canadian news is important to you.

You’ll find the e-mail addresses for the MPs, and some more information on the impact of the cuts, announced April 4, 2012, here: http://rciaction.org/blog/what-you-can-do/

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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)

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