Bernard Derome's appeal has not gone unheard - A group of private citizens is formed to defend Radio-Canada from the menace posed by the Conservative Party of Canada.

    MONTREAL, May 31 /CNW Telbec/ - A group of private citizens is launching
a movement to be known as SOS Radio-Canada. Its objective is to mobilize
public support to counter moves being made by Stephen Harper's Conservative
government following its decision to abandon much of its support for
    This announcement comes only a few days after the May 21 appeal made to
the public in Québec's National Assembly by Bernard Derome, former anchor of
Radio-Canada's nightly news program, Le Téléjournal.
    "The Conservatives want to take advantage of the current crisis to
dismantle Radio-Canada, something they could not ordinarily get away with,"
commented Emmanuel Bilodeau, spokesperson for SOS Radio-Canada, which has
recently appeared on the Web at "It looks to us as though
the Conservatives are displaying the same sort of contempt as they did when
they made cuts in the culture budget. The federal government already fails to
provide adequate financing for public broadcasting. With a $33 per capita
contribution, when the average in OECD countries is $80, the organization is
hardly living high on the hog. Radio-Canada plays a vital role in the social
and cultural development of Québec, in addition to being a source of immense
creativity. Furthermore, Radio-Canada acts as a watchdog over our democracy
and sets a standard in journalism."
    The mission of SOS Radio-Canada is to mobilize the population in order to
bring the next Canadian government to acknowledge the social and cultural
importance of Radio-Canada in Québec, and to increase its public financing
permanently. To this end, the group will be coordinating an energetic
awareness campaign, particularly on the Web, as well as acting in various
public forums.
    On March 25, due to a shortfall of $171M, Radio-Canada announced that it
was obliged to sell off certain assets and cut some 10% of its personnel, or a
total of 805 jobs, 50% of which would take place in the French-language
sector, regardless of its relative popularity and success.
    In the past, the Conservatives have demonstrated their ideological
intransigence by refusing an advance to Radio-Canada on its parliamentary
credits, and making it impossible to borrow. A number of regular programs have
had to be abandoned as a result. The current lay-offs will all be carried out
between now and September, with a second wave likely to follow.
    "Radio-Canada plays a pivotal role in the spread of French culture. Our
culture is what nourishes the very soul and spirit of our society. When it is
realized to what point Radio-Canada acts as a motor for social and cultural
development, it is extremely difficult to interpret such decisions as these as
being simple administrative adjustments. They are being both experienced and
orchestrated like any classic settling of scores in the political arena,"
continued Emmanuel Bilodeau. "I grew up with Radio-Canada and its first-rate
children's programs, dramas and series. At our place, the nightly news program
was sacred. So much so that two of my brothers and I dreamt of becoming
journalists at Radio-Canada, something we all in fact achieved. I also did a
lot of work for Radio-Canada as an actor, which has marked my life just as
much as the best teachers I ever had. And it must continue to be there for
generations to come."
    SOS Radio-Canada concurs with the observations and solutions put forward
by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in March 2008, which proposed a
7-year financing plan for Radio-Canada. This would see the contribution from
each Canadian rise from $33 to $40 and make the current annual top-up funding
of $60M, permanent. "This would have led to a $225M increase in the
Radio-Canada budget instead of the current situation, a cut of $171M," pointed
out Emmanuel Bilodeau. "And the tiny $10 increase that would be required from
each Canadian would be as nothing compared to the $5.2B that the Harper
government has just provided to the automobile industry - and this is only one
example among others. This government must explain how 400 more Quebeckers
receiving unemployment benefits constitutes an economic stimulus."
    SOS Radio-Canada is appealing to the entire population to join in this
movement by visiting the site and registering for email
updates. Organizations are also invited to send letters of support to the
group. "These decisions are causing irreparable damage to our public
broadcaster and its programming, restraining access to information of quality
and bringing a hard blow to bear on the younger generation of artists and
specialized personnel at Radio-Canada. Let's see what we can do to reverse
this situation and contribute to the longevity of our public broadcasting
service in its proper form," concluded Emmanuel Bilodeau.

For further information:

For further information: Isabelle Monnette, Public Relations Officer,
SOS Radio-Canada, (514) 583-1866,

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