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Russia/Ukraine: Canadian Shortwave Service Saved - Again

Ottawa, 20 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The Canadian government has stepped in for the second time in as many years to save the country�s international shortwave service.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy told Parliament last week that Radio Canada International -- RCI -- will receive the funding it needs to continue broadcasting in seven languages, including Russian and Ukrainian, for one more year.

The $16 million needed to operate RCI will come from the Foreign Affairs Department, the Heritage Department, the Defence Department and the Canadian International Development Agency.

After that, says Axworthy, funding for the shortwave service will come from a new program to be known as the Canadian International Information Strategy. This new foreign communications plan will, says Axworthy, include partnerships with the private sector and other countries.

Just over a year ago, it was announced that RCI was being closed. Strong protests from Canadian diplomats, military personnel and exporters led the government to step in with enough money to keep the service alive. The funding was shared by the CBC -- the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- which is Canada�s public broadcaster, and the Foreign Affairs Department.

However, faced with a need to trim its budget by millions of dollars, the CBC announced last week that RCI would close and its 125 employees would be laid off. Again, strong protests resulted and the government then stepped in to save the service.

Wojtek Gwiazda, spokesman for a group of RCI employees who have been working to save the shortwave broadcaster, says it will be important that RCI keep its journalistic independence. The government has not detailed its new foreign information strategy and Gwiazda says RCI does not want to find itself Ias the public relations department of the government.