Radio-Canada is the French language service of the CBC. Given the bilingual nature of Canada, the existence of such a separate crown corporation is only natural and expected.

The audience served by Radio-Canada is different not only because of its language. Canada has always had a severe split in its national culture along linguistic lines. Radio-Canada has always spoken to one of the so-called two solitudes, the CBC to the other. This has been the mandate of the national broadcaster in Canada since its beginning.

Over the decades, there has been a continual complaint that Radio-Canada has been a hotbed of Quebec separatists. This has not been entirely incorrect. Rene Levesque, the first Parti Quebecois premier of Quebec, was for many years an employee of Radio-Canada.

Because of the linguistic isolation of Quebec, Radio-Canada has continued until relatively recently to do many things which the CBC has mostly abandoned, or never did in the first place. A thriving French language movie industry has always existed in Quebec, growing up, in part, because of the tele-romans (television movies) produced by Radio-Canada.

The role of the public broadcaster in Canada had always been different from PBS and NPR in the U.S. Never originally designed to compete in a private marketplace, but to allow citizens to speak to themselves, to tell themselves their own stories. This has now changed. As the American model sweeps through all cultures, all linguistic groups, we approach the time when, whether in English, French, Swahili--no matter what language--we will be telling ourselves American stories. Stories that are even distant from most Americans.

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