Seven Days a Week - Defending Radio Canada International - Canada's Voice to the World
Inter-Union Committee

On December 12, 2006, the union that represents most RCI employees put out a special issue of the union newsletter entirely devoted to what’s been happening as RCI has changed programming, and to a great extent its mandate.

We reproduce the entire texts here. The original PDF is

Published by the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (FNC-CSN) – Special issue Petit Canard Vol 6 No 10 - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Hidden Face of RCI viva

For anyone who has followed the saga of Radio Canada International, you’ll know that our members at RCI are no strangers to fighting for their jobs and the institution they work for. Three times, in 1991, 1995 and 1996 they lobbied against the closure of Canada’s voice to the world, and three times they succeeded. This despite the fact they lost half of their colleagues in
the job cuts of 1991.

Lately the service has been promoting the fact it is heard on Sirius satellite across Canada, and this autumn that a new web radio: «RCI viva» was extending the international broadcaster’s mandate to include new immigrants in Canada, or potential immigrants abroad. It sounds like good news for the service. The reality is very different.

Permanency and seniority under attack

Along with the program changes, there’s been a serious attack on the concept of permanency and seniority. Up until recently, most RCI programs were hosted and produced by full time permanent employees: announcer-producers (now presenter-producers) many of them with decades of service. In fact almost all employees were permanent employees. But since RCI started broadcasting on Sirius it has also started to hire contractual hosts and researchers. Initially this was only in three of the foreign language services.

This past September RCI management announced a major shift in the mandate at RCI. All targeted programs in English and French for specific regions in the world like Africa, Europe and India were cancelled, to be replaced by one program in English and one in French. Management announced that three of six production assistants would be fired to make it possible to hire two contractual producers (one English, one French) and
a researcher.

In addition, RCI management announced 11 permanent positions (10 presenter-producer jobs and one permanent journalist position) would be transformed into contractual positions. RCI management promised the employees affected that they would retain their salaries and benefits so long as they remained employees, but as soon as someone left, or retired, the position would be filled by a contractual employee. In fact, that’s already happened: one employee resigned and the position is now held by a contractual. And anyone filling in for the affected employees is hired
as a contractual, and the seniority list (liste de rappel) no longer has to be respected. That’s left a number of long time temporary staff without any
guarantee of filling in for employees. Some have already missed out on
employment they had counted on.

As if this wasn’t enough, management has now turned a number of journalist
positions into journalist-presenter positions. For long time temporary staff
this is a disaster as the whole question of seniority lists is put into question.

Less news and lighter program content

All this is taking place after months of reductions to the length of newscasts, and the continued insistence by RCI management that presenter-producers stop producing «news driven» programs and present lighter material. For many, particularly in the foreign language services, this «lighter» approach is seen as a betrayal of the RCI mandate to get information to societies where information is limited or censored.

In fact, many employees wonder how CBC/Radio-Canada can direct RCI
management to focus on new immigrants, when the Broadcast Act specifically instructs the Corporation to have an international broadcasting service.

You can imagine the atmosphere at RCI these days is very difficult. Even permanent employees are wondering how long they have if three production assistants all in their 50s and with decades of service could be fired with two months notice. One of the three was 15 months away from qualifying for early retirement!

Many are also concerned about the impact of the program emphasis on lighter material and on new immigrants, and the de-emphasizing of the international mandate. RCI listenership has dropped dramatically since the cuts of 1991, some fear this will only make things worse.

MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT [of the union, Robert Fontaine]:

Radio Canada International loses its bearings

As you know, there is a split at the CBC: information programs have mostly permanent employees. Other programs have mostly contract employees, since those programs may be short-lived, depending on scheduling
decisions. The employees who work on these shows are often paid extra fees, because of their precarious status.

Radio Canada International has been informing Canadians overseas and the rest of the world about Canada for more than 60 years. CBC management recently gave RCI an additional mandate: to reach new immigrants via satellite radio and the Internet.

This additional goal is now being used as a pretext to completely overhaul RCI’s programming. The length and frequency of newscasts have been reduced. English - and French - language programs for specific regions have been eliminated and replaced by untargeted programs for all regions.

Insecure employment spreading at RCI

The upheaval has given RCI management an opportunity to achieve the goal that the CBC President had sought in vain during the last round of negotiations for the Corporation’s employees outside Québec and Moncton:
to reduce the proportion of employees with regular status, over the long term, and increase the proportion of contract employees. Unionized employees in English Canada refused to go along, even though it cost them a 2-month lockout.

RCI management claims that in view of the length of the new shows, RCI hosts/producers can no longer do what they have done throughout their careers, i.e. host and produce radio programs. To make sure these host-
producers are eventually replaced by contract employees, RCI management has attacked the last obstacle to their plan, which is RCI’s basic mission of
broadcasting information programming.

Since October 30th, RCI has quietly changed its English- and French-language offerings, serving up «lite» programming and less news. That the mission of this respected a international public broadcaster should be distorted in this way simply so that more employees can be rendered precarious and subjected to the whims of power-hungry managers is
something that cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged...

More on the RCI mandate here.

The RCI Action Committee is an inter-union committee that has fought to protect the mandate and programming of RCI, and for years has received generous support from listeners around the world to keep the service on the air. For more see
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