Radio-Canada is sorry.
Hubert Lacroix, the president of Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., said the broadcaster shouldn’t have changed its name to “Ici” so abruptly last week, dropping “Canada” from its public image and raising the ire of Canadians confused by the move away from a name that has served the broadcaster for decades.
“We apologize for the confusion that was created in people's minds when we introduced the term Ici as a common denominator for all of our platforms,” Mr. Lacroix said in a statement. “Our intention was never to distance ourselves from Radio-Canada and everything it represents. However, Radio-Canada has heard the message loud and clear that the public has been sending us over the past few days. We recognize people's powerful connection to everything that Radio-Canada stands for."
Radio Canada will still proceed with a rebranding – it will call its television network as Ici Radio-Canada Télé and its radio network Ici Radio-Canada Première. It previously said it needed to make the move in order to set it apart from its competitors, and spent $400,000 on outside agencies and had “dozens of employees” working on the rebranding.
“Other applications of the Ici brand identity will be rolled out over the coming months to ensure that the public broadcaster has a consistent, forward-looking identifier to designate Radio-Canada's full range of initiatives in an ever-expanding and diversifying media environment,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
The broadcaster came under fire almost immediately after making the announcement last week, and just as quickly tried to end the controversy by underscoring that the name change wasn’t official – it would be more of a nickname used for all of its branding.
“I don’t pretend I think it’s our best communications day,” CBC vice-president Bill Chambers told the Globe and Mail on Thursday. “Did we go a little far? Maybe we did, I guess, because people have taken this. ... You know, it’s probably our fault more than theirs. Our intention was not, ever, to change the name of the company.”
Politicians were also quick to pounce, with Heritage Minister James Moore saying he met with Mr. Lacroix and “expressed the government’s reservations.”
While the broadcaster has clearly heard the message, it will press ahead with the adoption of the “Ici” tag in its promotional material.
"All across the organization, Radio-Canada is working to redefine itself in order to remain a relevant public broadcaster that thinks about, produces and delivers content effectively in a multiplatform world,” executive vice-president Louis Lalande said. “A large part of our audience no longer consumes these products in a traditional manner. That's why it's essential for us to adopt a common denominator like Ici to identify everything we're doing in a rapidly evolving media market."
Meanwhile, there is still a trademark fight to be had. It may have taken several years and the efforts of dozens of employees to arrive at a new nickname for Radio-Canada, but it appears the public rebranded itself with someone else’s name. Regulatory filings indicate that a television service received a licence last year that clearly states that it would be called “ICI – International Channel.”
The small channel intends to broadcast in 15 languages on Channel 47 in Montreal, a key market for both media companies even if the scale is completely different for each. The small television station doesn’t want to give up the rights to the name, and argues that Radio-Canada should back off its plans.
The channel is also loosely tied to Rogers Communications Inc., which will provide funding for its first five years in operation as part of its deal to acquire a separate Montreal television station that has since been rebranded as part of the cable giant’s City network.
The channel is owned by Sam Norouzi, who said he intended to go live in the fall, but is concerned the public broadcaster will attempt to gain access to his channel’s name by outspending it in court.
Radio-Canada could not be immediately reached for comment, but has filed paperwork in Quebec claiming that the new channel is infringing its trademark by adopting the name.