07.02.2012 12:00 AM

In Tuesday’s Sun, weirdly early: killing Canada, not so softly

The shortwave service started in 1942. Prime Minister Mackenzie King said it would help to keep our soldiers connected with what was going on back home. For our armed forces members in uniform – then and now – RCI became an easy way to stay in touch with Canada and Canadians.

Similarly, the service became a means by which we could subtly promote democracy, and the Canadian way of life, in far-flung corners of the world. In places like China, Russia and North Korea – where the Internet can be censored, but shortwave can’t be – RCI was heard by many. In post-Communist Eastern Europe, shortwave radio receivers are still the way in which many receive news from the outside world.

I know this from experience. When I was an election observer in Bosnia in 1996, billeted with a Serbian family, I was glued to my tiny shortwave radio at night. I’d listen to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the news from back home, and I was always pretty grateful that RCI existed.

Our allies – the U.S., Britain, Germany, France and Australia – have all expanded their national shortwave service.

In Canada, meanwhile, we’ve killed it.


  1. WesternGrit says:

    Sad. Stupid. Petty. Pretty much a Conservative calling card.

  2. smelter rat says:

    Another explanation for the #denounceharper trend on twitter.

  3. ottawacon says:

    At some point, CBC management have to bear some responsibility for this as well. Cutting shortwave service was not a political-level decision, the level of funding was. If CBC management do not identify the service as a priority to maintain, does that mean the Government should be taking a more active and direct role in managing the CBC?

  4. mrburnsns says:

    They are already looking to sell the transmission equipment and the land – seems like it’s too late already. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2012/06/26/nb-rci-transmission-ends.html

  5. Ken Klempner says:

    You guys are funny. Did you get this upset when they cancelled steamship service across the Atlantic; or when milk was no longer delivered everyday to your house; or when they started installing heaters and air conditioners in cars; or when they discovered that the world is not flat.
    RCI will continue as an online-only service; get over it.

    • Bill MacLeod says:

      Ken, I confess to much the same thoughts. It strikes me that in many of these situations, the Liberals are sounding very much like Conservatives, pining for old times, for what they perceive was a better way. Meanwhile, it’s the Conservatives who are cutting ties with the past to redirect revenues to new programs. (The Conservatives certainly haven’t cut expenditures over the past six years, after all. Again, as Warren is fond to point out, it was the Liberals under Chretien who were most effective at balancing the budget, once the domain of old-style Conservatives.)

      Here’s an Economist article on the changing world of short wave international broadcasting: http://www.economist.com/node/16791638

    • mrburnsns says:

      As I’ve explained before the internet is not consistently available almost anywhere in the world. Shortwave is. The internet can be easily censored. Shortwave takes a much more concerted effort to jam and even when a signal is jammed the jamming can usually be easily overcome. This is not a dead technology – it is still relevant, effective and extraordinarily cheap. As others have pointed out many other countries are continuing or expanding their investment in shortwave.

      Oh and FYI, I can drive to NYC Friday and catch the Queen Mary 2 to Europe. The Farmers Dairy delivery vans still ply the roads of Halifax/Dartmouth and many parts of Nova Scotia. Those things may seem old fashioned, but demand exists contrary to your belief, just like with shortwave.

    • Tiger says:

      Mind you, if I could get a steamship across the Atlantic for as little as I pay for a trans-Atlantic flight, I’d do it at least some of the time I go to Europe… :p

      I can think of a lot of things at the CBC that I’d’ve cut before cutting RCI. But presumably it was an internal decision?

  6. Mulletaur says:

    How many people listened to it using shortwave radios when the Harper Conservatives pulled the plug ? How many voters in Canada have ever even heard of Radio Canada International ? Trying to mobilize voters against this is the very definition of quixotic. Liberals need to keep their powder dry (or, in this case, their swords sheathed) to attack on grounds that will resonate with voters. Otherwise, we just end up drowning our most important messages in noise that we create ourselves.

    • Philip says:

      I take your point, the real fight must remain focused on the Conservative’s fiscal irresponsibility, the organized subversion of our democracy and their absolute contempt for Canadian voters. Those issues are already resonating with Canadians. Now is time to hammer these big issues home and not get side tracked on the little things.

      • Mulletaur says:

        I’d like to know what facts you have to back up your statement that any of the three things you mention are resonating with Canadians. Or point me to a political party at the federal level which is exploiting these issues.

        • Philip says:

          I’m not your research service, If you feel that Canadians have an limitless capacity to absorb Conservative fiscal mismanagement, systemic election funding schemes which exploit taxpayers and the constant insulting of voters, the next couple of years are going to be an interesting time for you. Keep on keep’n on and let’s just see where that gets you. As for federal parties keeping these issues front and center? How about every federal political party not led by that worthless sack of shit, Stephen Harper.

  7. Iris Mclean says:

    Slightly off topic, but I’m pretty sure that the CBC upper management is doing its best to drive away the listeners of Radio One. Every hour before the hourly news, the obnoxious “promo guy” (Canada Lives Here) comes on and insults the listeners with asinine BS about what crap is on CBC TV that night. Then the news is padded with godamn sports stories. I hit the off button pretty often if I’m near the radio. While I’m at it, Has anyone here listened to Ontario Morning with Wei Chen for three hours without wanting to smash something? The most irritating host ever on CBC, and endless sports babble. I’m sure she is a very intelligent and nice person, but my God, she should be on a jock-talk station. Even though I’m usually up at 5am, I don’t turn the radio on ’till 8:30am. I’ve been a huge fan of CBC radio for almost all of my 64 years, but not so much lately.
    End of rant.

  8. Barry Veysey says:

    While I seldom agree with Mr Kinsella on much of anything, I’m in complete accord with him regarding the axing of RCI. While stationed in the middle east, one of the few things I had to look forward to at the end of the day was to go onto the 20 meter band and listen to the news from home via RCI. As a conservative it pains me to say that It strikes me as penny wise and pound foolish for the Harper government to be taking the axe to such a valuable yet relatively inexpensive service.

    • JamesHalifax says:

      Barry, please note; Harper did not order the CBC to cut this service…that was a CBC management decision.

      You will note…the CBC brass did decide to keep their huge bonuses…..as apparently, that is an essential service, whereas RCI..was not.

  9. Robert Jago says:

    It’s worth noting that you need to go back to 1942, Soviet Russia, 1996 when talking about the value of Radio Canada International. Looking at the reasons you give for RCI to continue to broadcast, are any of them relevant today?

    I know as a frequent expat, I’ve never had to use shortwave radio to get news from home. Even in the dingiest little village in the Sahara I’ve been able to get access to the internet. As for spreading democracy and the Canadian way of life abroad – it seems our immigrants are already doing a good job of the latter. In Africa if you tell someone you’re a Canadian, they’ll ask you about immigration, or they’ll tell you about their cousin in Etobicoke or Surrey. They know about us, they have a good impression of us – RCI seems superfluous.

    • smelter rat says:

      It’s worth the $.34 per year that it cost me.

      • Robert Jago says:

        I’m not saying it’s not cheap, I’m saying there don’t seem to be any compelling arguments out there for RCI’s continued existence. Even if it cost us all just an 8th of a penny, there still needs to be a justification for the CBC to spend that money. Saying how cheap it is doesn’t answer the question.

        And it’s not just RCI by the way – everything the government spends should go through the same test. There needs to be a real, current justification for all spending – something concrete that doesn’t rely on hollow nationalism, ideology or tradition. The only arguments I see out there in support of RCI are ‘keeping up with Jones’ style nationalism, and unsourced, unsupported arguments about its supposed theoretical effect on our reputation abroad.

  10. Anne Peterson says:

    In the middle of the night not that long ago (3years) I answered a question put by Radio Prague and won a T-shirt. CBC aired broadcasts from all over the world on Radio 1. It was wonderful and I am sure all around the world people listened to Radio Canada International with as much pleasure. Now we get a steady diet of Public Radio from the US instead.

    Conservative shrink the world. They don’t expand it. They have their fingers into most of the main stream media in an unseemly way. Don’t tell me they don’t influence what CBC airs.

    • JamesHalifax says:

      Anne, maybe you should write the CBC and ask them to give up their annual bonuses (which are paid out regardless of competence or accomplishments)

      CBC management bonuses…are far larger than the RCI budget. I guess the CBC managment was just setting out their priorities..and apparently, RCI failed to make the cut.

  11. dave says:

    Some commentators here mention that the broadcasting can be done over internet anyway.
    If so,why, as the column says, are USA, Germany, France, Britain and Australia expandin gtheir short wave services?
    Are we that far ahead of them?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *