Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PCJ Radio's Keith Perron comments on RCI

Keith Perron
Editorial on RCI and international broadcasting 
by Keith Perron, Director of PCJ Radio International

Over the last few months a few people have criticized me for my view on Radio Canada International. I never at any point said I was against RCI. In fact I always felt and still do feel it is vital that Canada maintain an international shortwave service. I stress again vitally important.

One thing I have been preaching for the past 10 plus years is that if international broadcasters like RCI are to survive. Radical, bold and groundbreaking changes need to take place. There was a time international broadcasting stations like RCI or Radio Netherlands had programming and on air personalities that stood out. In the 1990s we saw this change to get away from that and just have presenters that sound like everyone else on every other station.  Or as I like to saw the McDonald’s syndrome where every hamburger looks and tastes the same. It made most radio sound like assembly line programming.  Sure there is an element of kitsch to have Radio Netherlands talk about barrel organs, windmills, dykes or Radio Canada International talking about things that are stereotypical Canadian. But is it not this that would make you stand out from the rest?

Something that I have learned with starting up PCJ in 2009. You need to be different, unique  and maybe a little offbeat. If you offer programming that is different and fun to listen to the audience will come.  Back in 2009 many many people thought the idea of bringing back Happy Station Show as an independent production was crazy, stupid, dumb and mad. I knew for a long time and had a gut feeling the show would be successful. If the program was not I would have stopped doing it in the first 6 month. But what happened? The show went from once every 2 weeks, to weekly, to 3 different versions a week, including specials like the one we are doing June 29th.

The same goes with Media Network Plus, which started off as a monthly 55 minute program and the we added a weekly 30 minute program. Jazz For The Asking, Nash Holos, Focus Asia Pacific, Switzerland In Sound, Classic Media Network, The Stuph File, The Kelly Alexander Show and the special programs we do.

At the moment there are over 32 local stations in 21 countries that relay our programming.  I knew that if we had a program schedule with content that maybe some would consider a little off hinged it would take off. Was it a lot of work? That is an understatement. But I am such a strong believer in international programming that if it meant sleeping a few hours a day and not taking a day off so be it.

We are now in the process of building our own 20kw relay to reach listeners in South East Asia and the Pacific. We are doing this because there is a huge potential for an audience. What will our programming be? What will our style be? Very simple. Go back to the basics of international broadcasting and offer something that people will enjoy listening to, have a good time and be a little kitsch. There is nothing wrong with kitsch.

Changes that took place in the 1990s have had nothing but a negative impact. Recently Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was asked about what she thought of the BBC World Service. She said she was a strong supporter BBC, but felt the changes left the station with less variety and music programs. And said the only thing she heard were news and commentaries.

To conclude. Yes and I say it again Canada needs an international broadcasting service and I would do anything I can to support RCI being restored. At the same time we live in a democracy and I have the right to also speak my mind and give my own personal view. This is not RCI bashing. This is only having an open debate on the situation.

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