Shortwave under attack

Too many cutbacks by too many stations

CIDX Special Feature #8

May 2001

Bad news is coming fast and furious for those of us who enjoy listening to international broadcasters on shortwave. Canadian, British, and Swiss broadcasters are all planning cutbacks to their shortwave and/or satellite services.

Canada, RCI, and the CBC

Canada's own CBC is once again trying to eviscerate Radio Canada International, Canada's shortwave voice to the world. To find out more, check out the RCI Action Committee's website (www.geocities.com/rciaction/).

In early May 2001, CIDX issued this press release:

Radio Canada International
Dancing the Same Dance Again

by Sheldon Harvey, President
Canadian International DX Club

We've been to this dance, already, too many times in the past: the Canadian public having to stand up and voice support for Canada's international radio voice, Radio Canada International (RCI), once again being threatened by illogical and ill-advised cuts being masterminded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

The Canadian government recently provided the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation an additional $60 million to a 2001-2002 existing budget of almost $923 million.

Separate dedicated funding for Radio Canada International is in place to the tune of $15.52 million per year. The CBC is responsible for the operations of RCI, but draws payment from the RCI funds for services which it performs for RCI.

Ironically, this additional outlay of funds to CBC has coincided with an announcement that the CBC, the very same CBC mandated under the Broadcasting Act of Canada to provide an international radio service, has decided to implement a number of cost cutting measures at Radio Canada International, to be implemented as early as this coming June.

These cutbacks will basically eliminate Radio Canada International's weekend in-house produced news broadcasts in Canada's two official languages, English and French. Canadians abroad, and others tuning into RCI broadcasts on weekends, will receive repackaged, condensed CBC domestic newscasts in place of the specialized RCI product, produced for an international audience.

Some foreign language services of RCI, such as the Russian and Ukrainian services, will be forced to make reductions in their international output on shortwave as well.

In an interview with RCI News on 3 May 2001, after the announcement of additional funding to the CBC, the government's Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps said, "I think the government has had a chance to understand and rethink the importance of RCI as an international voice for Canada to the world. And the investment that we're making in RCI, is part of that permanent package ... there are many, many millions of people who still depend on shortwave radio for that reliable service..."

It is unimaginable that the CBC, in the wake of this $60 million cash-cow, and public statements such as those by Heritage Minister Copps, would attempt to implement cuts to RCI that would, in effect, put the CBC in breach of contract with respect to what has been mandated by the Broadcasting Act as it relates to Radio Canada International.

The Coalition to Restore Full RCI Funding was crucial to saving RCI in the numerous budget crises in the past, and instrumental in the creation of a Senate inquiry that investigated the 1991 budget cuts and concluded that RCI should receive increased and stable funding. This all resulted in the Canadian Government securing RCI's existence well into the new millennium, with guaranteed funding. The Coalition has been resurrected as the RCI Action Committee, www.geocities.com/rciaction/, an ad hoc coalition of employees and RCI supporters.

Supporting groups like the Canadian International DX Club, Canada's national radio monitoring club, together with international radio monitors around the world, are calling out for action, and reaction from concerned individuals and groups.

Correspondence in support of a moratorium on the proposed changes at RCI being implemented by the CBC, and for a stabilization and securing of RCI services, are being solicited from supporters of RCI. Comments, reactions and suggestions should be forwarded to:

The Honourable Sheila Copps
Canadian Heritage Minister
Ottawa, Ontario
CANADA
E-mail: min_copps@pch.gc.ca

Editor's note: regular postal mail sent in Canada to a Canadian member of Parliament does not require postage.

and

Mr. Robert O'Reilly
Executive Director, Radio Canada International
Box 6000
Montreal, Quebec
CANADA H3C 3A8
E-mail: rci@montreal.radio-canada.ca

with copies of correspondence to The RCI Action Committee at: rciaction@yahoo.ca.

(signed)
Sheldon Harvey
President, Canadian International DX Club
www.anarc.org/cidx/
E-mail: cidxclub@yahoo.com
Telephone and facsimile: +1 450 671-3773


The United Kingdom and the BBC

The other big story making lots of news is the BBC World Service's decision to eliminate shortwave service to Canada, the U.S., Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific effective 1 July. Check out the Coalition to Save BBC World Service website (www.savebbc.org) for instructions on what we can do.

Canadian shortwave listeners should also write to the British High Commission in Ottawa. Contacting the BBC directly doesn't look like it is going to accomplish anything, but diplomatic reaction in Canada, the U.S. and Australia has been quite surprising. Apparently these decisions were made internally at BBC, without the diplomats knowing what was going on.

People should write, fax, or e-mail the British High Commission to express their concern. Send your protests to:

Mr. David Belgrove, Media Division
British High Commission
80 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5K7
Facsimile: +1 613 237-7980
E-mail: dbelgrove@britain-in-canada.org


Switzerland and SRI

Last, but certainly not least, Swiss Radio International (SRI) plans to suspend all shortwave broadcasting, and all non-English satellite broadcasts by the end of 2004, with North and Central America, Asia, and Europe transmissions ceasing by the end of 2001. "SRI will continue to provide news of what is happening in Switzerland via its on-line service www.swissinfo.org."



Copyright © 2001 Canadian International DX Club and Glenn Hauser, all rights reserved.
Last modified, 2200 UTC, 02 December 1999.



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