Roy Gilbert

The silencing of Radio Canada International and Canada’s shrinking voice in the world

www.thestar.com

For a country that once regarded itself as one of the world’s leading middle powers, Canada’s voice on the international scene is a strikingly quiet one these days. It reminds me of the line from that famous “dead parrot” sketch in Monty Python: “bereft of life, it rests in peace.”

The latest sign of this is the decision by CBC/Radio-Canada to implement changes that have effectively smothered Radio Canada International (RCI), its fabled global audio and online service that has helped serve as “Canada’s Voice to the World” for more than a half century.

In a December announcement replete with CBC doublespeak, the CBC unveiled a “major transformation” of RCI that, it claimed, would ensure RCI remains “a strong and relevant voice” in this century’s media landscape. Not surprisingly, the practical impact of these changes is precisely the opposite.

Flipping RCI’s historic mission on its head, the service will now focus more on ethnic minorities within Canada rather than on continuing to produce programs tailored uniquely for international audiences. More than half of RCI’s beleaguered staff have been laid off .

This latest CBC battering of RCI — a pattern that has gone on for decades — triggered considerable criticism. In February, a group of 32 prominent Canadians sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior government ministers urging that the CBC scrap its planned strategy and appoint an independent committee to plan a rebuild of the international service: “In an interconnected world in search of truth, facts and […]

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