Why Put Together this Serial about Radio Canada International?
Above: “The radio network set up by Sir Henry Thornton, CNR President, to entertain passenger train travellers provided the basis for the creation of CBC in the 1930s.”
Canada’s international shortwave broadcasting service operated for 67 years -until June of 2012. Now it is “a website” with an unclear future: Perhaps it will provide regular streaming audio programs, or perhaps it will provide Canadian podcasts to international listeners in the same variety of languages as in the recent past.
Like CBC Radio, Radio Canada International (RCI) has a very loyal following.
With the end of shortwave wireless broadcasting, listeners in countries which “edit” and monitor the internet will no longer have relatively free access to RCI programming in the future.
China - whom our current government is eagerly courting as a big bitumen sands producing partner - will now stand between RCI internet programs and its citizens through “The Great Firewall of China”.
In spite of what you may hear in the euphoric techie press, the reality is that great expanses of humanity still have no internet access, and still rely on shortwave broadcasts for accurate and reliable information from abroad. Canada has been proud to participate in this work in the past.
If you listen to RCI’s program “Maple Leaf Mailbag” in its few surviving podcasts, you will quickly be able to imagine how much Canada’s shortwave presence is missed, now that the transmitters are shut down.
I happen to have purchased a collection of “Canada Yearbooks” which the Government of Canada issued through the 20th Century to document and advertise its accomplishments.
For decades the Governments were very proud of the CBC and RCI as key elements of our national identity. It is interesting to see subtleties in how the two organizations are presented from year to year. It is interesting to see how they grew, year by year.
RCI has been cut little by little, year by year. Still, a few proud professional broadcasters have kept its shrinking Montreal studios operating. Sackville NB engineers and technologists did keep its historic aerials powered up until last weekend.
Some stuff hangs around forever on the internet. It is my hope that my transcriptions of the these historic accounts, and the photographs of RCI at work (sweetened with just a little CBC history for its own fans) will properly honour RCI’s broadcast professionals and listeners - whatever may happen in the future.