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Radio Canada International

Radio Canada International
Type International public broadcaster
Country Canada
Availability International
Owner Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Launch date
February 25, 1945
Former names
CBC International Service (1945-1970)
Official website

Radio Canada International (RCI) is the international broadcasting service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Until 1970, it was known as the CBC International Service and was sometimes referred to as the "Voice of Canada" in its early years. In June 2012, shortwave services were terminated and RCI became accessible via the internet only and was reduced to service in five languages compared to the 14 languages it used in 1990; in addition, CBC ended production of RCI news.[1]


  • History 1
    • The early years (1942–1953) 1.1
    • Early Cold War broadcasting (1950–1967) 1.2
    • The Cold War era (1967–1991) 1.3
    • RCI under threat (1991-2006) 1.4
    • RCI Viva, the Internet Era (2006-2012) 1.5
    • Budget cuts and the end of shortwave broadcasting (2012) 1.6
  • History of RCI's foreign-language services 2
  • Station 3
    • Interval signal 3.1
    • Studios 3.2
    • Budget 3.3
    • Hours of programming produced (per week) 3.4
  • Transmission Network 4
    • Satellite signal delivery 4.1
  • Sackville Relay Station 5
    • Technology 5.1
    • Site configuration 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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 The CBC Archives website, however, has no archived news stories showing the historical documents where this early shortwave service is discussed.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.

RCI transmitter station outside Sackville, New Brunswick. Designed by CBC's chief architect D. G. McKinstry, the building opened in 1944 and was scheduled to be closed in 2012. A portion of the large RCI shortwave antenna system is visible in the background. The antennas were removed in 2014

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. Psychological warfare in German to Europe began in December 1944 as well. The German section was staffed by refugees such as Helmut Blume and Eric Koch and would go on to broadcast "denazification" programming as well as broadcasts aimed at East Germany during the Cold War.

In early 1945, it was announced that the CBC International Service was ready and would go on the air for real on February 25 using the name the "Voice of Canada".

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 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 circumvent heavy censorship of world news to their citizens.

  • The CBC International Service'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 recognized 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 of Canada 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 selection of satellite channels which included national versions of domestic radio stations from CBC Radio and Première Chaîne.

RCI Viva, the Internet Era (2006-2012)

Following an internal review in the summer of 2006 Radio Canada International announced a restructuring of its programming output. Its homepage press release read: "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."[2] 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 increased its hours to 12 hours a week, which can be heard via satellite and online,[3] although its shortwave hours are restricted and remain unchanged.

A new Internet service called RCI Viva acted 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 used a similar multilingual schedule.

Listeners in Europe were 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 two-hour English-language flagship program is called The Link and is hosted by Marc Montgomery, replacing 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. The Link was also repeated on CBC Radio One, as part of the CBC Radio Overnight lineup.

In 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 had Radio Sweden to broadcast to North America via RCI's transmitters in Sackville and RCI to Europe via Radio Sweden until Sackville's closure in 2012.

Budget cuts and the end of shortwave broadcasting (2012)

On April 4, 2012 an approximate 80% budget cut to the International service from $12.3 million a year to $2.3 million a year was announced by RCI Director Hélène Parent. In the 2012 federal budget, a 10% funding reduction was announced for the domestic broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada. The Crown corporation subsequently translated this to an 80% reduction to the International service under its financial and managerial control.[4]

These changes effectively ended broadcasting by RCI via shortwave and satellite. RCI News service (as a separate news service from the CBC/Radio-Canada derived news) ended, and the Brazilian and Russian sections closed.

All shortwave transmissions (including those from the Sackville Relay Station in Sackville, New Brunswick), satellite, and all broadcast programming ended on June 26, 2012. In addition:

  • All contractual and temporary staff, along with fully two-thirds of permanent staff, lost their jobs.
  • China Radio International and other international broadcasters which leased transmitter time from RCI had their contracts terminated
  • The Sackville Relay Station's transmitter complex in Sackville, New Brunswick was dismantled in winter/spring 2014 and CBC/Radio-Canada plans are to sell the property once decommissioning and remediation is completed.
  • As of 2014, RCI consists of a skeleton staff based in Toronto and Montreal for producing podcasts and limited webpage content in 5 languages (Spanish, Arabic, French, English, and Mandarin).

History of RCI's foreign-language services

History of RCI Language Broadcasting Services

Language Start Date Stop Date Restart Date
Arabic 2000 - -
Chinese-Mandarin 1988 - -
Czech 1946 (see Slovak) 25 March 1991 -
Danish 1946 4 March 1961 -
Dutch 1946 4 March 1961 -
English 25 December 1944[5] - -
Finnish December 1950 29 January 1955 -
French 25 December 1944[5] - -
French-Creole 1989 2001 -
German December 1944 25 March 1991 -
Hungarian January 1951 25 March 1991 -
Japanese 1988 25 March 1991 -
Italian January 1949 4 March 1961 -
Norwegian 1947 4 March 1961 -
Polish January 1951 25 March 1991 -
Portuguese-Brazil 6 July 1947 25 March 1991 2004, Ended 10 May 2012
Russian[6] January 1951 10 May 2012 -
Slovak January 1951 25 March 1991 -
Spanish 6 July 1947 - -
Swedish 1946 4 March 1961 -
Ukrainian 1 July 1952 -2009[7] -

2012 Update [5] [6] [7]


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.
  • From the late 1970s to the early 2000s a jazz version of the French-Canadian folk song "Vive la Canadienne" (arranged by Lee Gagnon and published on LP in 1976) was used as an additional signature tune.


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}
  • 2011: 12.3 Million {CAD / year}
  • 2013: 2.3 Million {CAD / year}

RCI's Gross Cost per Canadian resident (per year) was: 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

Transmission Network

Satellite signal delivery

RCI's current satellite schedule can be found at

  • (EN)
  • (FR)

As of 15 May 2012 space segment delivery of RCI programming ceased.

Sackville Relay Station

RCI's parent, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was the owner and operator of the Sackville transmission site, call sign CKCX. RCI's only transmitter site was located on the Tantramar Marshes several kilometres east of the town of Sackville, New Brunswick. RCI leased or bartered its spare transmission capacity with other international broadcasters. Sackville was the only high power shortwave relay station in Canada and also transmitted CBC North broadcasts to northern Quebec.

The CBC-SRC network runs 3 × 1 kW relays of domestic radio, only one of these relays originated from RCI Sackville. These CBC-SRC domestic radio transmitters were not high power by modern definition.

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

Sackville was also used by Radio Japan, China Radio International, Voice of Vietnam, BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle and Radio Korea as part of a transmitter time exchange agreement.

Sackville had 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 supported 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, New Brunswick — 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.

With the end of Radio Canada International's shortwave service in June 2012 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sought to sell the Sackville transmission complex to either another international broadcaster or a wind farm company. According to Martin Marcotte, director of CBC Transmission: "[The Sackville complex] will be fairly costly to dismantle and as a last resort we would dismantle the facility, return it to bare land as it was when we first acquired that site."[8]

On October 30, 2012, the CRTC granted a request by the CBC to revoke CKCX's broadcast license effective November 1, 2012.[9]

After failing to receive any bids to purchase the complex, the antennas were dismantled and transmission towers demolished in 2014.[10]


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

Sackville transmitter power level breakdown

  • There were 9 transmitters in operation in 2012.
  • (3 or 4) x 100 kW
  • (3 or 4) x 250 kW
  • 3 x 300 kW
  • The site was capable of utilizing 500 kW transmitters, but the end of the Cold War and improved shortwave frequency coordination made upgrading to 500 kW unnecessary.

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

All modern Sackville SW transmitters incorporated Dynamic Carrier Control (DCC) of some kind.

  • DCC caused the carrier level to be automatically reduced when there are lower levels or no audio.
  • During periods of silence (no audio), the carrier power was reduced by 50%, so the 250 kW transmitter put out a carrier of 125 kW during audio pauses. This saved 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) this transmitter is under démolition (3 Harris) July 2012
  • 3 × (Unknown power) (Unknown models)
  • A new SW transmitter has been acquired that is DRM capable.

It known that at least one SW transmitter had 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.

See also

  • - Comparison with some other external radio broadcasters


  1. ^ "Radio Canada International goes off-air, moving online-only after 67 years of shortwave service". J-Source. June 25, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ [8]
  3. ^ History
  4. ^ Solyon, Catherine (April 15, 2012). "CBC cuts gut cherished Radio Canada International". The Gazette. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Test transmissions started in 1944, formal broadcasting started on 25 February 1945.
  6. ^ The RCI Russian Service experienced jamming until 1967.
  8. ^ "RCI ends shortwave broadcast - Sackville, N.B. transmitters will be sold", CBC News, June 26, 2012
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Sackville, N.B. residents to lose landmark radio transmission towers". CTV News. February 27, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 

External links

  • Official Website
  • 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
  • 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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