|RCI ACTION COMMITTEE
Seven Days a Week - Defending Radio Canada International - Canada's Voice to the World
WHAT'S GOING ON?
RCI AND CBC
The RCI Action Committee Blog was started on February 2, 2004,
the day RCI management announced its latest "repositioning". If you have a comment, or a suggestion, write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
26 February 2004
Letter from a Friend: "Who really gives a crap anymore?!"
We got a passionate e-mail from RCI friend and supporter Sheldon Harvey this week. For those of you who might not know, Sheldon is the president of the Canadian International DX Club (CIDX) and has been supporting radio listening, and RCI for years. He was one of a small group of key people who came with us to Ottawa to fight for the survival of RCI when we were faced with elimination.
As I read his letter, I could feel the ebb and flow of the tiredness we have all felt over the last 13 years, faced with one crisis after another:
"I've been reading the information on the recent developments at RCI and, to be perfectly honest, I've just about reached the point of simply saying "Who really gives a crap anymore?!" But, after sitting back and digesting things a little more, I've come to the conclusion that this might be just what RCI's new management was hoping for."
As anyone who knows Sheldon can tell you, he didn't stop there.
Sheldon has fought a lot of battles for RCI, and in the rest of his e-mail he lays it all out: How consecutive RCI administrations have tried to reduce RCI, to make it go away. But he, and we, wouldn't let that happen..
We've upset a lot of RCI and CBC/Radio-Canada administrators because we refuse to give up on the idea that international broadcasting matters. And here we're talking about international broadcasting that is done for a foreign audience, not one that just rebroadcasts domestic programming on the international airwaves, and to hell with it if the listeners understand or not.
One of the favourite approaches of these new administrators, whether they're at the BBC or RCI, is to say shortwave listening is down, don't be afraid of change, and everyone has access to the Internet.
Well, not everyone has access to the Internet. And even if they do, most people prefer to listen to the radio, on the radio. Sure, if you've missed a program, it's great to have the program available on the website.
But radio is now, is immediate, is live. When bureaucratic minds start playing with justifications to cut down on employees or investment, they get dazzled by new toys, and start to call shortwave an obsolete technology, then they seem to confirm what we fear most: that they don't know what they're talking about.
By the way, when's the last time you called the telephone, an obsolete technology?
Getting back to Sheldon, he's an equal opportunity critic.
Not only is he upset with RCI and CBC/Radio-Canada management, he also wants those of us working at RCI to get out of our self pity and fight for RCI:
"...if you all choose to sit back calmly and think that you can weather the storm and that everything will come out for the best in the end, stop and think again. Revisit the past, and look seriously at the present, because the future, from my point of view, looks very, very bleak."
You can find Sheldon's entire e-mail here.
You know, sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see the forest we can't see, because of that huge tree in front of us.
24 February 2004
Two (of 4)Ukrainian Announcer-Producer Positions Abolished
One English Newsroom Editor Position Abolished
Today RCI Management officially informed our union that two of the four announcer-producer positions in the Ukrainian service have been abolished. Both had been filled temporarily since last year, with no clear explanation why they had not been filled. Now, with this announcement following the "repositioning", it's clear.
What is still not clear, is what the last two people in the service will be doing when the new programming starts on March 29.
The sense of dread and disbelief has haunted the service for months.
Last autumn, some members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community became concerned about the future of the service and started writing both to RCI management and to the government.
Now, in the past, whenever RCI, or an entire service has been threatened, listener and community support often saved the day. But, with the abolition of the two jobs, the section will only be able to do some kind of weekly program. It's still not clear what. And, hold on to your disbelief: there will no longer be any newscasts in Ukrainian.
This new approach would appear to be a more subtle way of reducing the service.
RCI doesn't announce the service will be eliminated. We "reposition" it out of relevance, then existence.
Surely anyone can see that taking a daily news and current affairs program, and turning it into a weekly program without any newscast, will not keep listeners tuned to RCI in Ukraine.
"The show is absolutely necessary, " says Kiev radio host Vasyl Marusyk.
In an article by Roman Zakaluzny, published in the Kyiv Post on February 12, 2004, Marusyk said he, his wife and two children have listened to the broadcast for the past six years.
A program, Marusyk points out, that was already scaled back two years ago from one hour a day, to just 30 minutes. Now, with the Ukrainian presidential elections in October, RCI's Ukrainian service is being scaled back even more, he says.
"The show brings Canadian values to a developing democracy," says Ostap Skrypnyk in the Kyiv article. Skrypnyk is the executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and knows how important such a program is.
That's something the new RCI management appears not to understand, nor the government departments it advises.
In 1991, when a number of services to Eastern Europe were eliminated, part of the rational was that they didn't need us anymore since the Cold War was over. But our listeners said otherwise. They told us they needed RCI even more: they wanted to know how our Canadian democracy dealt with minority language rights, cultural differences, and living beside a superpower. And what they liked about RCI was we weren't seen as a propaganda tool of some great power, but an interesting country that was trying to deal with problems peacefully.
Ironically, on the same day that RCI management made the official announcement to the union, came a statement from Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The federal agency oversees all U.S. international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Here's what he said:
"We are committed to seeing that millions of Ukrainians continue to receive trusted news and information that is vital to helping them make decisions about their lives and their country."
English News Editor Position Cut
It was not unexpected that an unfilled editor's job has now been abolished in the newsroom, but it is frustrating to see what's happening.
The new "repositioning" continues a trend to cut down on the number of newscasts that the English and French newsrooms are responsible for.
What concerns everyone is how far RCI management is willing to go in whittling down our services.
18 February 2004
Some Media Coverage
The Definition of "Cosmopolitan"
and some Sad News
We're starting to get some media coverage since Monday when we posted the information on the repositioning.
Radio Netherland's Media Network almost immediately headlined the story: "Two weeks after Radio Canada International announced a new programme strategy, the inter-union Action Committee is busy presenting a different side of the story to the one given in the press release." http://medianetwork.blogspot.com
And Glenn Hauser http://www.worldofradio.com/dxld4029.txt has also been generous in giving us coverage, including all the new material on the repositioning on his site. (By the way, if you've seen any mention of the "repositioning" at RCI, do drop us a line at email@example.com.)
Management handed out a new document today called "Mandates and Objectives" for the daily broadcasts. It pointed out that RCI needs programs that are "worthwhile and appealing to foreign listeners defined as cosmopolitan.* "
And yes, just in case we didn't understand what "cosmopolitan" meant the little "*" leads us to: "Interested in other cultures and world affairs."
Collectively our production staff has a few hundred years of experience, but at a moment when staff is questioning the policies that are being implemented in the new "repositioning", it seems we need to get a document that normally should be given to someone just starting out at RCI.
Speaking of sad situations, I was looking through the Internet, and came across some troubling, sad news about Radio Austria International.
Some of you may remember the generous support we got from the Director of Radio Austria International in 2001.
We were getting hit by the "redeployment" that cut programming, and resources that year. We were even starting to suspect that our English and French programming was going to be replaced by programs from the domestic service.
Well, Roland Machatschke, the director sent his support for our fight with the domestic service, and, almost apologetically, added a few words about the situation at his station.
It seemed they were already a few steps ahead of us in what is termed "integration" in Canada. I don't know what term they used in Austria. Anyway, the director was supportive of our battle and worried about the future of his service:
This is a message of heartfelt sympathy from Radio Austria International.
Your fall from grace was kind of sudden, ours is more of a creeping development.
Last year the government grant was cut by 28 percent (from 160 million shillings, ca. 10 million Can$). This year it was cut by another quarter. So within one year our budget was reduced to almost half.
Consequences: reduction from 24 hours of transmission to 14 hours; replacement of ca 90 percent of the German language output by domestic program..reduction of staff by more than half (from 100 to less than 50).
Future: the government will end its grant this year. Financing Radio Austria International will be passed to ORF... ORF will have no obligation of operating Radio Austria International. Should ORF decide that there is not enough money for international broadcasting it can shut down ROI at its discretion.
Isn't it strange that two affluent nations like Canada and Austria try to convey the impression that they can not afford the small expense of an international radio program? I wish you all the best in your efforts to save as much as you can from RCI. ...
Please count on me for all initiatives your committee is planning.
Radio Österreich [Austria] International
Which brings me to what I found today on the Internet.
This is what's left of Radio Austria International, a notice on the domestic service's website:
Since July 1st, 2003, Radio "Österreich 1", which is the most successful cultural broadcasting station in Europe, has been providing the programming for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation’s external service. With the exception of the English language news and current affairs programme “Report from Austria” from Monday to Friday and the weekend feature “Insight Central Europe”, Ö1 International is a simultaneous broadcast of the ORF's German language domestic radio station "Österreich 1".
Not much else to say, is there?
12 February 2004
Some News on the Impact of the Repositioning
Glen Hauser's DX LISTENING DIGEST 4-026, February 12, 2004, http://www.worldofradio.com has some details on what the repositioning will do to our programming, thanks to a note from Ricky Leong about the International Radio Report program done by our valiant supporters Bill Westenhaver and Sheldon Harvey in Montreal. Those guys have been battling along with us since 1990, for no pay, and for the love of listening to international broadcasting. What would we have done without them?
10 February 2004
More on the Missing $4million and Transmitter Problems People have been talking about the $11 million budget figure that was on the internal CBC/Radio-Canada Internet system yesterday. But RCI managers have been quick to explain the difference by saying it's due to rent we pay to the domestic service for our offices and studios, and other such costs. It's a strange explanation given that we were reassured last week that the budget of RCI was still $15.2 million, and that since it now was in the domestic service's budget, there would be indexing for inflation.
Mysteriously, the official document with the budget figures, has been altered on the intranet system. The budget numbers are no longer there. The document ends just before the financial overview that had the $11million figure. Hmmm?!?
Meanwhile, I was checking out Glenn Hauser's DX LISTENING DIGEST 4-025, February 10, 2004 at http://www.worldofradio.com and was sorry to see that people are complaining about RCI transmitter problems and not getting any answers.
It's becoming harder and harder to be optimistic about our future, as so many things point to more problems on the horizon..
9 February 2004
Shredded Documents - $4 million Missing?
People are clearly worried. One colleague came to me this afternoon with a hand full of shredded documents saying he had found a large bin full of shredded documents. Another colleague came to me earlier in the day to show me an official CBC/Radio Canada document that showed RCI's budget is $11 million. We all know it's 15.2 million, so what's going on?
Meanwhile the management's bulletin board highlights comments from international broadcasters about the "great" encouraging news from RCI.
Boy this is depressing.
3 February 2004
Confusion and Questions
Confusion continues as management meets with more of the employees. What's becoming increasingly clear is that management has made decisions, but they want employees to find ways of doing it. Questioning the wisdom of this latest management move just provokes retorts that we're afraid of change. Funny how a lot of the people telling us what to do to save RCI weren't around, or didn't help, when we actually did save RCI in 1991, 1995 and 1996.
2 February 2004
The briefing meeting is over. We've been told about the "repositioning", feels more like shuffling the chairs on the Titanic. A number of people are dazed, feeling betrayed. One colleague from the Ukrainian service is crying. It was a bit surreal, watching a slide show of which sections continued, which would get programming chopped. When RCI Director Jean Larin and CBC/Radio-Canada Vice President Sylvain Lafrance ask for questions there's a stunned silence. Finally a journalist steps up to the microphone, and starts questioning the wisdom of cutting one of the Chinese broadcasts. Only a few people go up to the microphone. It's not easy. Particularly, when Lafrance calls one questioner, paranoid.
Later people privately compare notes, as management meets employees sector by sector. What's becoming clear, is that a lot of things have not been worked out, and a lot of questions are being left unanswered. One colleague bitterly concludes we're being "repositioned" out of existence.