Radio Canada International

Radio Canada International

Infobox Network
name = Radio Canada International

country = Canada
network_type = Radio network
available = International
owner = Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
key_people =
launch_date = February 25, 1945
past_names = CBC International Service (1945-1970)
website = [] |

Radio Canada International (RCI) is the international broadcasting service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).


The early years (1942–1953)

The idea for creating an international radio voice for Canada was first proposed as far back as the 1930s. The CBC Archives website, however, has no archived news stories showing the historical documents where this early shortwave service is discussed. Several studies commissioned by the CBC Board of Governors in the late 1930s had come to the conclusion that Canada needed a radio service to broadcast a Canadian point of view to the world.

By the early 1940s, this need was also recognized by a series of Parliamentary Broadcasting Committees. Finally, in 1942, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Canada would begin a shortwave radio service that would keep members of the Canadian Armed Forces in touch with news and entertainment from home. The CBC International Service became a reality with the signing of an Order-in-Council on September 18, 1942.

By the end of 1944, both the production facilities and the transmitting plant were ready for test broadcasts. These tests, which began on December 25, 1944, were broadcast to Canadian troops in Europe in both English and French. In early 1945, it was announced that the CBC International Service was ready and would go on the air for real on February 25.

By 1946, the CBC International Service had expanded to include regular transmissions in Czech and Dutch. Beginning in July, special once-a-week programs were broadcast to Scandinavia in Swedish and Danish and later in Norwegian, as well.

In November 1946, daily broadcasts started to the Caribbean in English. There were also Sunday night programs broadcast to Cuba, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador in Spanish and to Brazil in Portuguese.

Daily Spanish and Portuguese transmissions began on July 6, 1947. At around the same time as the expansion into the Caribbean and Latin America, the CBC International Service became involved with the newly formed United Nations. United Nations broadcasts through the CBC International Service continued until November 29, 1952, when they were transferred to larger shortwave facilities run by the Voice of America.

Early Cold War broadcasting (1950–1967)

Throughout its early years, the CBC International Service had concentrated on broadcasting to Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

By the early 1950s several international shortwave stations began to beam programs into the Soviet bloc countries in an effort to let those people know what was really happening around them.
* RCI's Russian-language transmissions were jammed during the 1950s and into the mid 1960s stopping about 1967.
* On March 4, 1961, the Danish, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish services were all discontinued.
* In addition, the German service was reoriented from its previous emphasis on West Germany to focus on East Germany.

New English and French programs directed to Africa were added giving the International Service direct coverage to every continent except Asia.

The Cold War era (1967–1991)

The CBC International Service played a major role in covering Canada's Centennial celebrations in 1967. Ceremonies from coast to coast were carried over short-wave to the world on July 1, 1967 as Canada marked its 100th birthday.

In July 1970, the service was renamed Radio Canada International.

The change took place because it was felt that RCI should have its own identity, separate from the CBC domestic network, even though RCI had just been fully integrated into the CBC system.

On November 7, 1971, RCI inaugurated its new 250 kW transmitters which were five times more powerful than the existing units. This significantly improved RCI's signal quality in Europe and Africa.

Canada became the first major Western power to recognize the People's Republic of China in 1971. Before beginning its Mandarin Chinese service, RCI produced a 40-week series called Everyday English which was broadcast in 1988 and early 1989 over local stations in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. With an estimated audience of almost 20 million, the course was a huge success.

Just 10 months after beginning the Chinese broadcasts, RCI started a series of Arabic broadcasts to the Middle East. This coincided with the United Nations effort in the Persian Gulf to support the Gulf war, of which Canada was a participant.

RCI under threat (1991–2006)

In early 1991, facing further budget deficits, the Government ordered an across-the-board budget cut. Every ministry and Crown corporation, including the CBC, was required to participate.

After evaluating its own budget, the CBC decided it could no longer pay for Radio Canada International without extra funding from the federal government.

To save the service, RCI Program Director Allan Familiant announced a major restructuring that took effect on March 25, 1991.

Six of the 13 languages — Czech, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, and Portuguese — were discontinued.

And while the English and French services survived, all RCI-produced programming, except for news broadcasts, was eliminated and replaced with CBC Domestic network programs. Since then some RCI-produced programs in English and French have been restored.

RCI then began a two audio stream, later three audio stream programming delivery structure after 2000.

Initial programming delivery structure (2000–2004)
* RCI-1 English / French
* RCI-2 French / Multilingual

Later programming delivery structure (2004–2006)
* RCI-1 English
* RCI-2 French
* RCI-3 Multilingual

These audio streams were available from RCI's website as well as across Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa, utilizing the Hotbird-6 satellite. In late 2006 the online streams were eliminated in favour of a single online multilingual stream.

On December 1 2005, Radio Canada International began broadcasting its program across North America as RCIplus, utilizing the Sirius satellite radio system. This was part of a CBC/Radio-Canada bouquet of satellite channels which included national versions of domestic radio stations from CBC Radio and Première Chaîne.

RCI Viva, the Internet Era (2006 – present)

Following an internal review in the summer of 2006 Radio Canada International announced a restructuring of its programming output. Its homepage press release reads:

"Radio Canada International is proud to announce that it will launch its new English programming on Monday, October 30th. In the interim, our current shows will be replaced by two programs, from October the 2nd to the 29th." []

On 30 October 2006 Radio Canada International relaunched its English and French programming with a new focus on information for new immigrants to Canada as well as continuing to broadcast to the world, moving away from news and current affairs. It also increase its hours to 12 hours a week, which can be heard via satellite and online [ 1] , although its shortwave hours are restricted and remain unchanged.

A brand-new Internet service called RCI Viva now acts as an online portal for new Canadian immigrants [] . RCI Viva is an on-demand listening portal as well as an online stream [] as RCI Viva, whereas listeners in North America can listen via satellite subscription radio from Sirius Canada entitled RCI plus. Both RCI Viva and RCI plus use a similar multilingual schedule.

Listeners in Europe are still able to listen to RCI's three channels in English, French and Multilingual.

An interim program, on the English-language service during October called "Canada Today in Transition" was broadcast as a single program across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, replacing the two regular editions for Europe and Africa. It was hosted by ex-"Canada Today for Africa" presenter Carmel Kilkenny. The new 2-hour English-language flagship program is called The Link and its hosted by Marc Montgomery and it replaced RCI's previous weekday programs "Canada Today", "Media Zone", "Sci-Tech File", and "Business Sense". Its French-language counterpart is called Tam-Tam Canada and is presented by Raymond Desmarteau, which replaced "Le Canada en direct", "Le sens des affaires" and its previous current-affairs based shows. Programs in Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Ukrainian were relatively unchanged.

Since November 2006 Radio Sweden's medium-wave broadcast from Solsberg ceased regular transmissions as a result of a modification in its shortwave time-share agreement which allows Radio Sweden to broadcast to North America via RCI's transmitters in Sackville and RCI to Europe via Radio Sweden.

History of RCI's foreign-language services

History of RCI Language Broadcasting Services

" [ source] "


Interval signal

RCI's interval signal is the first four notes of "O Canada" played on a piano, followed by "Radio Canada International" pronounced in English, and then French.
* Prior to the late 1980s, there were two interval signals used. One was the aforementioned piano signal and the other was the same four notes of "O Canada" played on an auto harp.
* This second (now decommissioned) tuning signal was also known as a "slewing signal". This slewing signal was used whenever RCI's transmitter beams had to be reversed (say from broadcasting to Europe to the western United States) quickly.
* The slewing signal was dropped when computer control was added to RCI's transmitter plant in the mid-to-late 80's.

How RCI's programming reaches listeners

RCI began its broadcasts on shortwave, later expanding to satellite delivery to the European region in the 1990s. RCI is also a partner in the World Radio Network, and is available on Sirius Satellite Radio U.S. and Sirius Satellite Radio Canada.

As with most international broadcasters in the developed world RCI's programs can also be heard, or downloaded over the Internet, via its RCI Viva online portal. Podcasts of RCI-produced programming will be added later in 2006.

RCI produces much of its own programming, especially for languages other than English and French (which are often from the CBC domestic service).

Budget cuts by the Canadian Parliament have forced it to downsize, but it still remains the pre-eminent perceived neutral international broadcaster of North America, not facing the perceived U.S. bias of the Voice of America.


The main studios for RCI have been in Montreal since RCI was created in 1943–44.

RCI as a corporate entity (separate from its broadcasting operations) has also been based in Montreal since its inception in the 1940s.


Figures are in units of millions, Canadian Dollars (CAD).
*2003: 14.2 Million {CAD / year}
*2004: 14.4 Million {CAD / year}

RCI's Gross Cost per Canadian resident (per year) is: 0.38 CAD (2003, 2004).

Hours of programming produced (per week)

Note: there are 168 hours in a week (24 hours × 7 days).

RCI's Programming Production (historical)
* 1950s: 85 (WWII recovery phase for broadcaster)
* 1960s: 80 (Language services to Western Europe cut, Russian & Ukrainian launched)
* 1970s: 98 (Cold War détentes)
* 1980s: 134 (late Cold War)

In the 1990s RCI's programming output peaked
* 1990: 195
* 1996: 175

A New Face for Beijing

A New Face for Beijing - The series is a documentary introducing Torontonian Jennifer Hsiung, who decided to explore potential opportunities in the Chinese capital and ended up as the star sports host for CCN, the country's cable broadcaster.The series presents the changes the city's been through in the last years in preparation for the games from the perspective of new immigrants and migrants.

A comparison of RCI to other broadcasters

Transmission Network

Satellite signal delivery

RCI's current satellite schedule can be found at
* (EN)
* (FR)

RCI listeners in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East can pick up RCI-1, RCI-2 and RCI-3 via Eutelsat's Hot Bird 6 satellite as follows:

Hotbird-6 — 13 degrees E Frequency: 12.597 GHz Vertical polarization SR: 27500 Msym/s FEC: 3/4 Network ID: RCI1 - RCI2 - RCI3

RCI listeners can also tune in to RCI-3 on Atlantic Bird 3 in Africa:

Atlantic Bird 3 — 5.0 degrees E Frequency: 3.727 MHz Polarization: RHCP SR: 2995 Msym/s FEC: 7/8 PID: 1319

Sackville Relay Station

RCI is the owner and operator of the Sackville transmission site, call sign CKCX. RCI's only transmitter site is located on the Tantramar Marshes several kilometres east of the town of Sackville, New Brunswick. RCI leases or barters its spare transmission capacity with other international broadcasters. Sackville is the only high power shortwave relay station in Canada and also transmits CBC North broadcasts to northern Quebec. The CBC-SRC network runs 3 × 1 kW relays of domestic radio, only one of these relays originates from RCI Sackville. These CBC-SRC domestic radio transmitters are not high power by modern definition.

Sackville's northern hemisphere transmission targeting capabilities are very similar to the transmission capabilities of Wertachtal Relay Station, in Bavaria.

Sackville is also used by Radio Japan, China Radio International, Voice of Vietnam, Radio Sweden, and Radio Korea as part of a transmitter time exchange agreement.

Sackville has a site layout similar to the Wertachtal Shortwave Relay Station, with a few substantial differences.
* Wertachtal has 3 arms of HRS type antennas that are spaced at ~120 degrees. Sackville Relay Station only approximates this configuration.
* The Wertachtal configuration allows for near 360 degree coverage of the world.
* Wertachtal exclusively contains HRS type transmission antennas, whereas Sackville does not.
* Sackville site configuration information supports this comparison, with respect to HRS type antenna azimuths.

The site at Sackville was originally built in 1938 for CBC local broadcasting over radio station CBA. In 1943, two RCA shortwave transmitters were installed.In 1970, all CBC operations moved to Moncton, NB — this move was necessary so as to allow new Collins transmitters to be installed.In the mid 1980s, the RCA transmitters were replaced by the three, more modern, Harris transmitters.


The RCI Sackville facility is an impressive mixture of diverse technologies. The whole facility is controlled by computer automation which is centralized in the main control room. Frequencies, antennas, and input feeds are switched all according to internationally agreed upon schedules which are renegotiated twice per year with other countries.

Sackville transmitter power level breakdown
* There are currently 9 transmitters in operation.
* (3 or 4) x 100 kW
* (3 or 4) x 250 kW
* 3 x 300 kW
* The site is capable of utilizing 500 kW transmitters, but the end of the Cold War and improved shortwave frequency coordination has made upgrading to 500 kW geopolitically pointless.

The newest ASEA BROWN BOVERI (ABB) transmitters use a "pulse-step" type modulation (PSM). All Sackville ABB transmitters have 250 kW output, although there are some newer Thales transmitters that are 300 kW. Thales transmitters may use APDM (Adaptive PDM) the design successor to PSM (partly based on PSM modulation).

All modern Sackville SW transmitters incorporate Dynamic Carrier Control (DCC) of some kind.
* DCC causes the carrier level to be automatically reduced when there are lower levels or no audio.
* During periods of silence (no audio), the carrier power is reduced by 50%, so the 250 kW transmitter is putting out a carrier of 125 kW during audio pauses. This saves otherwise wasted empty carrier power.

Site configuration

This site configuration data is known to be accurate for 2004-2005.

Transmitters (configuration not fully verified)
* 3 × 250 kW SW (1993–1995, ABB: SK 53 C3-2)
* 3 × 100 kW SW (1983, Harris: SW-100A)
* 3 × (Unknown power) (Unknown models)
* A new SW transmitter has been acquired that is DRM capable.

It known that at least one SW transmitter has been outfitted to transmit DRM at this time.

Antennas (Type, Bearing) (configuration not fully verified)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (60 degrees)
* HR 4/2/1.0 (105 degrees)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (163 degrees)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (176 degrees)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (189 degrees)
* HR 2/4/1.0 (227 degrees)
* HR 2/4/1.0 (240 degrees)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (240 degrees)
* HR 4/4/1.0 (272 degrees)
* HR 2/1/0.5 (277 degrees)

To better understand the ITU HR antenna notation, see the HRS type antennas guide.

External links

Official sites
* [ Official site]
* [ A New Face for Beijing]

CBC-SRC's archived stories on RCI
* [ (CBC Archives: RCI History)]
* [ (SRC Archives: RCI History)]

* [ History of CBA Sackville]
* [ Canadian Shortwave Timeline]
* [ SWDXER] ¨The SWDXER¨ — with general SWL information.
* [ RCI Languages: Historical Start / Stop / Restart dates]

Lobby Groups
* [ RCI Action Committee] The committee is an inter-union group created to protect RCI's international broadcasting mandate and funding.

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