Radio-Canada shutting down its costume department

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.

There’s a Facebook page and a petition to save the costume department, but it looks like the decision is made and unlikely to be reversed.

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.

More from La Presse and Radio-Canada.

5 thoughts on “Radio-Canada shutting down its costume department

  1. Dilbert

    ” there’s an argument that it could be made to pay for itself or even make a profit for the CBC if properly managed.”

    You said CBC and properly managed in the same sentence. That’s like the two poles of a magnet, always as far apart from each other as possible. CBC doesn’t appear to know how to spot a potential profit center.. it’s against their rules!

  2. Michel

    This decision is ridiculous !! Even though there is a strong cultural attachment to this collection (despite the fact that not all costumes have historical value), the bottom line is that it is something that could be profitable if administered and publicized correctly making this whole thing even more incomprehensible. And what makes it even more illogical is that Radio-Canada will now have to pay to rent the costumes it’s selling off. Now how stupid is that !!

  3. Mario D

    Another page in a very sad story that never seems to end .
    There are a few historic pieces of clothing that date back to the early days of TV and are worth keeping mostly with the old kids back from school shows Bobino,Fanfreluche,la Ribouldingue and i suppose for the adults Seraphin `s clothings and others but then again who is going to see them really in the future ? We all want to keep them but let`s be honest.
    There will be less and less productions from Radio-Canada so one would think the needs will be far less and 90,000 pieces of clothing may be a tad too much ?
    One must be carefull though because the rental costs of needed clothing may also be more expensive than managing the collection already in place.

    Still though, that whole file could be so easy to solve if only the 1000 employees passed retirement age in the CBC and Radio-Canada would bow and let a new generation the possibility to form the new cbc whatever it will be like. I do not think that you are building towards the future when the younger generation pays the bill for a generation that just will not understand that they are now part of the problem. But hey the money is good so…

  4. Don

    There was outrage over CBC Toronto’s decision to axe Costumes; Small and Large Props; Special Effects and the entire Set Design Services less than 10 years ago. A great loss for the reasons stated here.

  5. Kelly Lee Dupon

    So sad to see so much history once again sold off to the highest bidder, what a shame. We are losing all our cultural identity. I for one love the CBC and our canadian based shows.


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