CBC Digital Archives

RCI gets last-minute reprieve

In February 1945, the "Voice of Canada" spoke to the world for the first time. The CBC International Service was founded to broadcast to Canadian Forces overseas in the Second World War. At war's end the radio service focused on telling the world about Canada in over a dozen languages. Despite budget cuts and critics who accused it of employing communists or operating as a government mouthpiece, the service now called Radio Canada International has persevered. CBC Archives looks back on RCI's six decades on shortwave.

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Staff at Radio Canada International can breathe a sigh of relief -- for now. Just 10 days before RCI was to shut down, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps has found the money to keep it going for another year. But RCI head Allan Familiant says the battle has just begun, telling CBC's As It Happens the shortwave service needs a long-term funding strategy. "We certainly don't want to find ourselves in the same situation come December next." 
• Three government departments — Heritage, Foreign Affairs and Defence — as well as the Canadian International Development Agency collectively kicked in $8 million for RCI. The CBC covered the remaining $8 million.
• "The enormous outpouring of support for RCI, both within Canada and around the world, has persuaded us that this is a vital voice for Canada, which we must maintain," said Sheila Copps when announcing the new funding plan.

• December 1996 saw a repeat of the previous year's announcement as RCI said it would shut down the following March. See an additional clip in which shortwave enthusiast Sheldon Harvey reacts to the news.
• One week later, the departments of Foreign Affairs and Heritage announced they would bail out RCI for another year.
• In summer 1997 the federal government announced RCI would form part of a new foreign communications strategy, assuring its future.

• The government made a three-year funding pledge to RCI in February 1998. It also granted the service $15 million to upgrade its transmission towers and studio facilities.
• This funding, however, didn't rise with the rate of inflation. In 2001, RCI was forced to make cuts to its weekend broadcasts in languages other than English or French. Russian and Ukrainian programs were cut in half and some broadcasts to the Middle East, Africa and Europe were cut altogether.

• As it celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2005, Radio Canada International broadcasts in nine languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Ukrainian.
• The service also creates programming for rebroadcast on local stations. Among these programs are language lessons teaching English and French. The programs Canada à la Carte, Canadá a la Carta and Panorama are sent to local stations around the world.

• As of 2005, Canadian radio is also heard abroad due to CBC's membership in the World Radio Network (WRN). Members of the WRN contribute material for rebroadcast in other countries.
• In Canada, listeners without shortwave radios can hear broadcasts from other countries on CBC Radio Overnight. The program features material from broadcasters in Sweden, Poland, Britain, the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and South Africa.

• As of 2005, RCI broadcasts for approximately 300 hours weekly (including programming from RCI, CBC and Radio-Canada). About one-fifth of that, 70 hours, is original RCI programming in nine languages.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: March 21, 1996
Guest(s): Allan Familiant
Host: Barbara Budd, Michael Enright
Duration: 5:43

Last updated: March 21, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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