|RCI ACTION COMMITTEE
Seven Days a Week - Defending Radio Canada International - Canada's Voice to the World
| Canada’s Radio Voice
Abandons Most of Ukraine
RCI Shortwave Stopped - No Newscasts
Daily Progamming Gone, Only Weekends Remain
Montreal - 16 February 2005
(updated 22 February 2005)
As Ukrainians enter a new era of democracy, Radio Canada International (RCI) has almost completely shut down its radio programming to Ukraine. Canadian government ministries are assuring supporters of RCI’s Ukrainian Section that the service is being maintained. But it’s not clear that the government spokespeople really understand what’s happened.
At the beginning of February, RCI management followed through on its plan to drastically cut the service. The cuts were announced last year, but they were put on hold because of the Ukrainian presidential election. With the election over, the service has quietly been cut down to almost nothing. And, only two of Ukraine’s 25 regions can hear the broadcasts, the rest can’t.
The staff at the service is in shock and doesn’t know where to turn for support. Senator Raynell Andreychuk has brought the issue up a number of times, as has the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. But everyone is trapped in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare.
Officials at Canadian Heritage say the ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for which countries are broadcast to. Foreign Affairs says Canadian Heritage is responsible for RCI’s budget. And everyone is saying that the CBC/Radio-Canada, which manages Canada’s Voice to the World, has to be dealt with at “arm’s length” for journalistic reasons, since the government is not supposed to interfere with editorial and programming decisions at the public broadcaster.
In this limbo, what’s clear is that a popular evening radio program from Canada that was listened to seven days a week, has been reduced to two half-hour programs: one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. There will be no newscasts in these programs.
But there’s more: the Ukrainian service is no longer on shortwave frequencies, which means the station has effectively stopped broadcasting to Ukraine and the neighbouring countries which could hear the shortwave signal. Now with the broadcast coming from the National Radio Company of Ukraine, only two of the 25 regions of Ukraine can hear RCI’s programs, because only two have functioning transmitters, the rest don’t. This according to NRCU’s own web site. Major cities have access, but only by subscription to a cable system.
“This is a time when we should do all we can” for the Ukrainians, says the President of the Quebec Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Dr. Ihor Kutash. “What better way to present the Canadian perspective?”
Kutash has met with Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, and with the man responsible for the broadcasting division at the Ministry of Canadian Heritage. He’s received sympathetic hearings, but no promise to restore the service.
This weekend (19-20 February) Kutash and other Congress representatives will be meeting to plan further actions. They’re determined to restore the service, but the president of CBC/Radio-Canada, Robert Rabinovitch, seems as determined. In a letter dated, 7 February 2005, Rabinovitch informed Kutash that the decision is "final”.
This cut to Ukrainian programming comes just as RCI is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary on February 25th. The Ukrainian service is one of the oldest at RCI. It started in 1952, seven years after RCI came into existence.
Please note: Sylvain Lafrance, the CBC/Radio-Canada Vice President responsible for RCI testified before a House of Commons Committee and said the cuts to the Ukrainian services were not "an issue of budget cutbacks." See testimony here.
If you have comments, questions or suggestions on how we can protect the service please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 About Us.
For months the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been lobbying to stop the cuts to RCI's Ukrainian service:
Letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew
PRESS RELEASE: RCI Ukrainian Programming Under the Gun
Articles, Press Releases
Ukrainian Canadian Congress Web Site
WHAT'S GOING ON?
RCI AND CBC