It is one matter for a commercial, shareholder-owned corporation to choose its own trademarks and branding. It is another for a public, national broadcaster. The Parliament of Canada legislated into being the company alternatively known as la Société Radio-Canada or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio-Canada is entitled to choose its branding, but it would be wrong to obscure or eclipse the word “Canada.”
The management of the French-language side of CBC/Radio-Canada thinks it is a good idea to rebrand it as Ici (here), an abbreviated echo of the countlessly often emitted phrase meaning “This is Radio-Canada.” The symbol known in Quebec as la pizza rouge or la tarte rouge is to be retained. The effect, whatever the intention may be, will be to hide the national mandate of the national broadcaster.
This is not, as one might expect, a pandering to sovereigntist employees. In fact, the workforce is attached to the existing name; the union and the federal NDP are opposed to the change. And the employees would prefer pay raises to the $400,000 spent on rebranding.
Radio-Canada may well be in more intense, direct competition with private-sector broadcasters in Quebec than the English CBC network is in the other provinces. Nonetheless, this is a corporation that receives annual funding of about $1-billion from the federal government, which also appoints its president and board of directors. If its French-language section really believed that it should behave simply like a normal commercial business, it would seek privatization and forgo subsidies.
Louis Lalande, the corporation’s vice-president for French-language services, is missing the point when he says that his business card will still bear the corporate name Radio-Canada. The public watches television and listens to radio; comparatively few people read Mr. Lalande’s carte de commerce.
James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, is right to have insisted to the CBC/RC that the French networks must remain “clearly Canadian.” The new brand is to be launched in August. There is still time to keep the name Radio-Canada.