CBC backtracks on planned Radio-Canada rebranding

MONTREAL – The French-language CBC has decided, in the face of a backlash, to re-rebrand itself.

The company apologized Monday and revised a marketing plan that would have seen its traditional name, “Radio-Canada,” essentially wiped off the public stage.

The idea had triggered complaints from a union representing some of its employees, condemnation from its political bosses in the federal cabinet, endless ribbing in social media, and coverage in the New York Times.

Under the original plan, launched last week, Radio-Canada would have been rebranded as “Ici” — the French word for “Here.”

The following solution has now been proposed: In with the old and, also, in with the new.

The 76-year-old organization announced a compromise under which both names would be used in its branding. It said “Ici” and “Radio-Canada” will appear next to each other on various platforms.

For instance its website, currently, was supposed to become, but will instead turn into The TV network will become “Ici Radio-Canada Tele.”

The organization outlined the move in a public statement under the title, “Ici Radio-Canada: We’ve heard you.”

“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,” CBC/Radio-Canada president Hubert Lacroix said in the 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.”

It’s unclear how much the marketing effort will ultimately cost. The Crown corporation has said it paid $400,000 in consultants’ fees but that 95 per cent of the cost came from existing promotional budgets.

Much of the criticism of the move centred on the notion that the word “Canada” was being obscured. However, many of the critics were simply upset that a historic institution would discard its name as part of a splashy marketing campaign.

Founded just before the Second World War, Radio-Canada has played a unique historical role.

It launched a numbers of careers in the arts and among future politicians, including several governors general, federal and provincial cabinet ministers, and the founder of the Parti Quebecois, Rene Levesque.

It has also kept distant francophone communities in touch with each other and been a rare source of news in French in some pockets of the country.

Heritage Minister James Moore had warned that taxpayers would only accept paying for a broadcaster if it was Canadian, in content and in name.

Meanwhile, a Radio-Canada employees’ union issued a statement last week saying it was “firmly” opposed to the new moniker. The union called it unwelcome and inappropriate to have spent more than $400,000 on a marketing campaign at a time of budget cuts.

The organization had responded in recent days by saying it never intended to make the words, “Radio-Canada,” disappear.

But the message didn’t appear to have been communicated that way throughout the organization.

On the day of the announcement, its RDI all-news TV network ran a screen crawl saying, “Bye Bye Radio-Canada.”

On Monday, a headline on the English-language CBC site said, “Radio-Canada retreats on rebranding company as ICI.” Later in the day, the most popular reader comment under the CBC story, liked by a margin of 123 votes to four, was: “Good! The whole idea was stupid.”

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