RCI host Wojtek Gwiazda, spokesman for a group inside RCI attempting to salvage the Voice of Canada international shortwave service and its original programming, said a proposed injunction on behalf of RCI employees was thwarted last week when the Conservative cabinet quietly and quickly changed two key rules under which RCI operates.
OTTAWA — In apparent collaboration with the Conservative government, CBC is slashing 80 per cent of Radio Canada’s budget and busting the venerable Voice of Canada international shortwave service down to an Internet radio station.
The $10 million cut — from $12.3 million to $2.3 million — will shut out access to Radio Canada broadcasts for swaths of the world’s population — including China, where RCI’s Internet site is blocked, and to millions of people in India and South America — all major Canadian trading partners.
In other developing nations, access to the Internet is either limited or non-existent, with vast portions of the population relying solely on radio for national and international news and information.
That, coupled with Russian and U.S. surveys that show listening to Internet radio is one of the least favourite ways to access broadcasts in all parts of the world, has critics of the CBC furious.
CBC says it is simply transferring existing content from radio to the web, which veteran RCI host Wojtek Gwiazda said gives a false impression.
“As of June 25, most of the original content will disappear,” he said, “because we won’t have the people to do it.”
Thirty of 45 permanent employees are being laid off, along with a dozen or more contract workers and other regular freelancers.
Gwiazda, spokesman for a group inside RCI attempting to salvage the short wave service and its original programming, said a proposed injunction on behalf of RCI employees was thwarted last week when the Conservative cabinet quietly and quickly changed two key rules under which RCI operates.
Under previous rules, RCI was legally obliged to provide a shortwave service and to consult regularly with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The government, in its June 7 rule change, has dropped both those requirements.
A spokesman for the Department of Canadian Heritage confirmed the change had been made, but refused to say why.
The Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions about the issue.
CBC has defended the cuts to RCI as necessary because the federal government has slashed its budget by 10 per cent over the next three years — to about $115 million.
But Gwiazda said the real issue should not be money.
“It’s about who should be deciding on how strong or how weak Canada’s voice to the world should be, he said. “We’re arguing for financial autonomy because, over the past two decades, CBC/Radio-Canada has shown it does not understand our international mandate.”
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar accused the CBC and the Conservative government of “taking Canada’s voice off the world stage.
“It is sneaky,” he said in an interview with the Citizen. “They are pretending they aren’t killing it, but they are. Our Commonwealth cousins and others in the G8 have made a commitment that the world should hear their voices. Why not Canada’s?
“How will we keep people in other countries informed about Canada and how will Canada’s voice be heard by the international community.”