Sunday, May 6, 2012
Canada's shortwave voice about to be silenced
Barring some kind of last-minute stay of execution, Radio Canada International (RCI), the international service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada since 1945, will leave the air for good on or about June 24, taking the transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick with it. Unlike in 1991, when the Mulroney-era CBC's budget cuts only killed off half of RCI's languages and programs, this cut is real and will end Canada's shortwave presence once and for all.
From the RCI Action Committee, here are a few of the key facts in point form:
• RCI’s budget has been cut by more than 80% – from $12.3 million to $2.3 million
• RCI newsroom will be eliminated, all newscasts cut. Note that newscasts intended for an international audience should not be re-broadcasts of CBC's domestic programs. For example, a news item in a broadcast intended for Canadians may simply reference "NDP leader Thomas Mulcair", but listeners outside Canada, who may not even know what "NDP" stands for, will likely need some further explanation or context: "Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the leftist New Democratic Party, the official opposition..."
• RCI will no longer be a radio broadcaster, whether on shortwave or satellite. They might as well call it ICI ("Internet Canada International") because it sure isn't radio!
• Chinese audience will be cut off from uncensored news from RCI because only shortwave reaches the Chinese, the RCI website is blocked by China, as are many websites originating in First World democracies or that dare question China's stellar record of respecting human rights and tolerating dissent.
• Important potential trading partners such as China, India, Russia, Brazil (the so-called BRIC countries) will be cut off from news from Canada, because the RCI website is blocked or the Internet not as accessible as in North America
• Russian and Portuguese services will be eliminated (there goes half the BRIC!)
• For the language services that remain, English, French, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish,there will be some kind of website presence, still undefined, and far less effective than radio transmissions.
• People in many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America still have spotty Internet access, and depend on our broadcasts for Canadian news. In fact people in many countries don't even have reliable access to electricity, let alone high-speed internet access, assuming they could afford to buy a computer. Their only connection to the world may be a battery-powered, solar-powered or wind-up portable radio.
• As Canadians we feel it’s essential Canada have a Voice to the World producing programming tailored for an audience not familiar with Canada, or for potential immigrants to Canada, or even just a familiar voice from home for Canadians traveling abroad.
• RCI’s uniqueness is not that we broadcast in a number of languages, but that we explain Canada to the world in those languages
• Because of RCI’s contextualized programs for people with little or no information on Canada, trade, tourism, and immigration has been helped
• With the layoffs, Canada will lose people with decades of expertise at representing Canada around the world
• Canada’s Voice to the World has been a respected source of journalism for the past 67 years
See also The Terrible Cost of Cutting International Radio by Thomas Witherspoon. (An American explains why Radio Canada International should have been spared in the recent round of CBC budget cuts.)
Will Stephen "give me a decent haircut or this kitten dies" Harper let RCI die? The whole world is listening, including Patria!