CNS photo/John Whitman, Knights of Columbus

French Mass survives CBC cuts

  • May 1, 2014

CBC budget cuts in April that will cost more than 600 employees their jobs left the weekly Mass in French relatively unscathed.

Le Jour du Seigneur, the Radio Canada broadcast of the Mass, is guaranteed through the 2014-2015 television season. However, Masses to be broadcast will now originate in Quebec City. In recent years the broadcast originated in a variety of parishes in Ottawa and Montreal. Given new budget realities, the old practice of guaranteeing broadcasts for several years will be replaced by a year-to-year arrangement.

Three Quebec City parishes have been nominated to play host to the broadcasts. Radio Canada will make the final selection.

“Radio Canada can no longer afford the high cost of moving its production from one church to another every week,” said Radio- Canada Ottawa-Gatineau director Marco Dube in an e-mail.

Mass broadcasts are one of the oldest programs on Radio Canada, the French-language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Le Jour du Seigneur has been on the air continuously from 1953 and still commands an audience of 110,000 from coast to coast, including 100,000 inside Quebec.

The original broadcasts came from Montreal’s Grand Séminaire. In the 1960s Le Jour du Seigneur began to move around, broadcasting from parish churches, monasteries and television studios. Beginning in 1971 the program sought to show the breadth of the Francophone Catholic community from Vancouver to Fredericton.

As budgets have gotten tighter the travelling has become more restricted. Word from Radio Canada that it wanted to find a single parish to host the broadcasts wasn’t a surprise, said Pierre Murray of the Communications et Societe agency of the Quebec bishops.

“Since they have less money, we have to find a less expensive way to produce the program,” Murray said. “But at the same time, it was more and more difficult to find parishes willing to welcome the program. Many parishes refuse to welcome Le Jour du Seigneur. The reasons for the change are the budget cuts and the fragility of the parishes no longer able to welcome the program.”

The French sector of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its committee for broadcasting liturgical celebrations, has been Radio Canada’s partner on the broadcasts. Radio Canada is the ideal method of getting the French-language Mass out to people who can’t get to a Francophone parish, said Murray.

“As long as Radio Canada will pay for the production costs, nothing will change,” he said. “In the actual deal, the bishops pay close to nothing and they have the largest exposure they could dream of.”

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