Radio Canada International


Beginning in 1945 the CBC International Service (now Radio Canada International) beamed radio abroad. Its programming has reflected “Canadian foreign policy commitments and interests.”[i] Initially focused on Eastern Bloc countries, the International Service was part of “the psychological war against communism”, according to external minister Lester Pearson.[ii] But, the “Voice of Canada” also produced programs for Latin American, African and Caribbean countries.

The CBC International Service ran a program titled the “Canadian Viewpoint on International Events” and responded to criticism of Canada’s international policies.[iii] Describing the International Service to a Standing Committee on External Affairs, its head Jean Désy said, “if there is an attack directed against Canada at some international gathering, we will avail ourselves the opportunity to correct the accusations made against us.”[iv]

External Affairs had close ties to CBC International Service.[v] Early on the department was given a copy of the scripts used by commentators and its funding came directly from External Affairs into the 1990s.[vi]

In 1952 Jean Désy was appointed director of the service even though the External Affairs official didn’t have any broadcasting experience.[vii] According to one account, Desy “ruthlessly ‘purged’ the service of all suspicion of leftist bias.”[viii]

The renamed Radio Canada International (RCI) has always consulted with Foreign Affairs to determine broadcast languages.[ix] To fill a mid-1990s budget hole, RCI received $6 million from Foreign Affairs, $6 million from Canadian Heritage and $4 million from CIDA and DND combined.[x] Down from its high point, between 2000 and 2012 Ottawa spent about $12 million annually on RCI.[xi]


[i] James Hall, Radio Canada International: voice of a middle power, 83

[ii] Hansard May 14 1951, 3003

[iii] James Hall, Radio Canada International, 85

[iv] Ibid, 72

[v] Hansard May 5 1953, 4829; Aloysius Balawyder, In the Clutches of the Kremlin: Canadian–East European Relations, 1945–1962, 12

[vi] Tony Manera, A dream betrayed: The battle for the CBC, 187 ; James Hall, Radio Canada International, 184

[vii] Ibid, 89

[viii] Elzbieta Olechowska, The age of international radio: radio Canada international (1945 – 2007), 79

[ix] Ibid, 77

[x] Ibid, 27

[xi] Evan H. Potter, Branding Canada: Projecting Canada’s Soft Power Through Public Diplomacy, 160