It’s a sad and familiar tale to DXers. A right wing government is elected and makes sweeping cuts of public services. A few pound, euro, or dollar signs on a budget sheet are spotted by a misinformed minister who knows little and appreciates still less of the worldwide reputation an external radio service has built up over decades. “Let’s cut here” he or she thinks. And the act is done. BBC World Service had a massive cut a couple of years ago with its funding taken away from the Foreign Office and being forced to share the ever shrinking pot that comes from the domestic BBC television licence fee instead.
This summer Radio Canada International and Radio Netherlands were dealt even heftier blows. The effective closure of these two stations amounts to cultural vandalism. The massive Canadian government cuts led to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sweeping aside Radio Canada International.
Radio Netherlands were dramatically cut by the Dutch government. A world famous international broadcaster, one of the most respected broadcasters for 65 years, was disgracefully axed at the end of June. I hope the September general election in the Netherlands will lead to some saner thinking.
The station say the closure was “a result of steep budget cuts imposed by the Dutch government and a concomitant change in focus. Providing the world with a realistic image of the Netherlands, as we have proudly done since 1947, will no longer be one of our statutory duties."
Its programmes such as Earth Beat and The State We're In were (are!) first class. In the former, Marnie Chesterton and her team look at the footprint we’re leaving on our planet. A typical programme would look at people who turn every bit of green space of town (ditches, roundabouts, abandoned car parks) into glorious edible gardens where the fruit and vegetables are free for all.
Marnie said to me during the station’s last week on air: “It’s really weird how everyone seems to have collectively shrugged and accepted this fate. It hasn’t even sunk in yet, but last week, I went to New York to pick up an award for the show, which proves that we’re doing something right… and yet, we’re being shut down.”
Radio Netherlands will a new format and is going to concentrate on “free speech” stories. By this it means aiming at countries that have a low press freedom ranking. But if this is via the internet and not traditional radio then the chances are the internet will be blocked or turned off in those countries. Anyway, there is a long statement about this at www.rnw.nl/english/article/faq-free-speech
But some good news!
Greg Kelly of The State We're In (which itself won six medals at the same 2012 New York Radio Festival) emailed me to say that the show is carrying on through broadcast partners and their website and podcasts. I am now a regular listener and reader at their webpage www.rnw.nl/english/dossier/thestatewerein
Greg was considerably buoyant, signing off that “Our ultimate fate is yet to be decided but we’re not quite done yet…”
Also Earth Beat and The State We're In can still be heard online at WRN The World Radio Network: www.wrn.org
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has asked what is left of Radio Canada International to plan a couple of programmes a week online, and you can of course always listen to the domestic CBC services online, but old RCI favourites are gone.
I just hope that there are ways and means of getting some of the quality programmes of both stations back on the air, or at the very least a sensible sized service online, in the future.
Radio Canada's The Link is now online, albeit for a mere 30 minutes a week instead of the previous 7 hours a week on the airwaves, but it's lovely to still be hearing the familiar voices of Marc, Lynn and Wotjtek at: http://www.rcinet.ca/english/web-radio/
Beginning September 22, 2012 PCJ Radio will present Radio Canada International's The Link in a series of special broadcasts targeting the Caribbean and East Asia. The dates are September 22, 29, October 6, 13.
To The Americas on 9955 kHz at 0300 UTC
To the Pacific on 5860kHz at 1400 UTC
Adapted from my monthly Long Medium and Shortwaves Broadcast Matters column in Radio User, September 2012 www.pwpublishing.ltd.uk