Here’s a story that’s getting very little attention in the anglophone media: Radio-Canada is shutting down its costume department at the Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal, which will cease activities on Dec. 7 and shut down entirely at the end of March.
It’s a cut that’s expected to result in three job losses.
What’s upsetting about this to people like C’est juste de la TV’s Dave Ouellet, seen in the video above, is that the costume department isn’t just a closet of dresses. It’s a tool used by television and theatre productions, whether associated with Radio-Canada or not (Les Appendices, a Télé-Québec show, makes use of it), and it’s a cultural archive with many pieces that are historic because they were worn by important figures in Quebec’s cultural history.
And because it rents out costumes, but few people seem to know about this, there’s an argument that it could be made to pay for itself or even make a profit for the CBC if properly managed.
The good news is that heritage costumes won’t be thrown into the garbage. Radio-Canada has identified 72 of the more than 90,000 costumes that would be saved. The rest would be auctioned off, given to the highest bidder — presumably a private costume company — who can continue to make them available to Quebecers.
That wouldn’t be the worst outcome. If the CBC can’t make a collection of 90,000 costumes profitable, then maybe it should go to a private company who can. But taking this collection out of the public control and leaving it to the whims of a private company is a big risk.
I can only hope that Radio-Canada structures its tender for bids and eventual contract so that our cultural institutions can still make use of these costumes without paying through the nose for them.