The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is acknowledging that it mishandled the rebranding of its French-language services by creating the impression that it was getting rid of the name Radio-Canada.
The CBC sought to reassure the federal government and the public on Thursday that it will not remove “Canada” from its public communications or its networks and websites.
CBC vice-president Bill Chambers said in an interview that the Crown corporation will indeed use “Ici” – which means “Here” –as the “common denominator” for its French-language television, radio and Internet platforms. However, he added, “Radio-Canada will always be our name.”
Mr. Chambers said Wednesday’s announcement, which emphasized the word “Ici” and left out any reference to “Radio-Canada,” created the wrong impression.
“I don’t pretend I think it’s our best communications day,” he said. “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.”
The legal name Société Radio-Canada will remain. Still, the public broadcaster is planning to rename its major channels: Ici Télé for its television network and Ici Première for its equivalent to CBC’s Radio One. However, the phrase “Ici Radio-Canada” will remain part of its logo.
“It isn’t our intention to downgrade the word ‘Radio-Canada,’” Mr. Chambers said. “We do want to use ‘Ici’ as a denominator, something that ties together all of the disparate brands that we have, given the evolution of the media market.”
Heritage Minister James Moore said in the House of Commons on Thursday that he had discussed the move with CBC president Hubert Lacroix and expressed the government’s reservations, especially if the rebranding reduced the use of “Canada.”
“Canadian taxpayers will support a Canadian public broadcaster if only it ensures that the Canadian public broadcaster is Canadian in content, in name, in both official languages in every part of this country,” Mr. Moore said in the House.
Speaking to reporters, the junior Conservative minister for small business and tourism, Maxime Bernier, added that he was insulted and outraged by the decision to allow “Radio-Canada” to fade from the media landscape.
“The corporation should not change its name, and I hope that the people at Radio-Canada will review their decision,” he said.
Alex Levasseur, president of the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada, said his union members are furious over the cost of the rebranding – at least $400,000 in outside payments and millions in internal spending – as jobs are being cut in the organization.
“We can’t recoup the money that was wasted, sadly,” he said. “At the very least, we need to stop the bleeding.”
He added that Radio-Canada is a well-known and respected brand and the change is ridiculous and “doesn’t move us forward one bit.”
“Nobody wonders what Radio-Canada is about, everyone across Canada knows that,” Mr. Levasseur said. “So why enter into this kind of an exercise?”
The new brand name has a clear historical resonance within the French-language broadcaster, which has used “Ici Radio-Canada” for more than 75 years.
Radio-Canada started broadcasting in 1937 from its first station, CBF in Montreal. While it trails the private-sector TVA network in overall ratings, the television station broadcasts dramas and variety shows that regularly attract more than one million viewers, and offers news coverage in French-language markets across the country.