The local station has gone all out with the anniversary, producing special programs looking back at the station’s history. Radio-Canada even sent Céline Galipeau to St. Boniface on Thursday to host the national Téléjournal there in honour of the occasion, the most attention Radio-Canada has paid to something outside Quebec in quite some time.
CBWFT is also launching a weekend local newscast starting this evening. Aside from a regional lifestyle show covering the prairies, there’s not much local programming produced out of there outside of the newscasts. Still, despite the dwindling francophone population (and hence the difficulty in getting good French-speaking journalists to work there), they produce quite a bit of local news – and as of this weekend there will be more local news for franco-Manitobans than English-speaking Quebecers.
As you’d see looking at some of the retrospectives, the history of Radio-Canada in Manitoba is fundamentally tied to the history of the francophone community there. Debates over official bilingualism, the Société franco-manitobaine, and the rift between anglo and franco Manitobans all have direct impact over CBWFT.
Not that you’d hear about any of that stuff from watching Radio-Canada and RDI outside of those local newscasts. Even as a Montrealer, it’s patently obvious how the importance of news on that network is directly proportional to its proximity to 1400 René-Lévesque East. Montreal mayoral debates air nationally, the national Téléjournal leads with what Jean Charest had for breakfast, La Petite séduction – a show about small francophone communities – has visited Manitoba only once in more than 65 episodes (it’s been outside Quebec only nine times, by my count), and Infoman treats going to Vancouver like he needs a visa to get there. The occasional new story or interview with Régis Labeaume is about as regional as it gets most of the time.
Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe Radio-Canada should concentrate on where its viewers are, and the vast majority are in Quebec, going to work in Montreal or Quebec City.
But as CBWFT has shown for the past 50 years, the French language doesn’t stop at the Outaouais, and there are francophones in Canada who have kept their culture going in areas where their language is truly in danger of extinction.
Here’s hoping it will keep the struggle going for another 50.