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Mr. Chair, Members of the Committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today to talk about my appointment as President and CEO to CBC/Radio-Canada.
In less than a month, I will begin what I think is one of the most fascinating jobs in Canada – leading one of our country’s largest cultural institutions. It will be a great honour for me to take on this job. Please understand that I am very aware of its responsibilities.
Radio and television – and increasingly the Internet – are today the principle vehicles of culture in our society, and some of the best tools that we have to reach out to all Canadians. I believe that CBC/Radio-Canada is the most effective disseminator and promoter of Canadian culture that we have. Given all the cultural influences coming from other countries, Canadians must be able to count on a strong and independent national public broadcaster which reflects their reality and their identity.
You have my résumé. As you can see, I have been a business lawyer for many years. I was fortunate to be exposed to, and to advise, some of the best business persons in Canada — people who ran multinational companies whose activities extended across North America and Europe.
I have had the privilege of acting as a director of public companies, as well. Since participating on my first board with CircoCraft Co. Inc., in 1984, I have sat on the boards of 10 public companies, in various roles. I have also led and managed a large multi-investment private corporation. At Telemedia, I oversaw the operations of 14 different companies in radio, publishing, indoor advertising, real estate, semi-conductor chips, and wireless services.
I have thus helped companies – both private and public – navigate through, and compete successfully, in rapidly changing business environments. I have seen patterns, threats, and challenges; moved management teams to face those threats and, often, have seen them as opportunities. I have built and led teams of individuals with great abilities.
These are the skills and strengths that I now bring to our national public broadcaster.
But, Mr. Chair, my job is not to create programs. As I am sure you are aware, Richard Stursberg and Sylvain Lafrance are responsible at CBC/Radio-Canada for leading very talented teams of programmers working throughout the Corporation.
My role will be to manage the Corporation and to provide it with strategic direction. For me, this means developing an environment where our employees can exercise their creativity to the greatest extent possible. My job is to understand the media industry; to identify new trends; to be familiar with how programming is being consumed by Canadians as well as the means of financing that programming; to build strategic alliances; and to find new sources of revenue. If I do that successfully, the Corporation will have the required tools and motivation to continue creating programming that is relevant and compelling.
Like most Canadians, I grew up with CBC/Radio-Canada. Everyday, I sprinted home from school to watch Bobino and Bobinette and a few minutes of La boîte à surprises before my mother sent me to my bedroom to do my homework. I also followed hockey religiously and, through the eyes and voices of Danny Gallivan, Dick Irvin and René Lecavalier, discovered and came to love the sport. When I was older, The National, Le téléjournal and Le point became my key sources of information. And then, later on, Ross Porter introduced me to jazz.
Years after, when I worked for Radio-Canada – as a basketball commentator on Télévision de Radio-Canada for three Olympics and as a reporter for the weekly program, Hebdo-sports, on Radio de Radio-Canada – I came to admire the passion which motivated everyone at the national public broadcaster. Each person on the team, from the employees who put up the sets, to the technicians in the studio, to the producers, to the broadcasters — all of them were always committed to excellence – to creating the best show possible, every time, all the time. I liked that attitude.
When I was deciding whether or not to accept this job, I met with a couple of CBC/Radio-Canada senior executives and with the Chair. I saw again that same incredible passion for excellence that I had seen in the studio.
I have heard more of that over the past few weeks, as I have traveled and talked with employees of the Corporation. I have been listening to their views and their ideas about the challenges ahead.
My intention is to pursue this dialogue with employees, stakeholders and key business leaders across the country to better understand how they view CBC/Radio-Canada, so that I can accomplish my mandate with maximum effectiveness and momentum.
I am aware of your commitment to Canadian culture and your continuing interest in CBC/Radio-Canada, including your current review of its mandate. That is why I am looking forward very much to your report which will give added substance and direction to my mandate. I am also eager to meet with you often during my term – to hear what you think of the job we are doing.
I understand that CBC/Radio Canada is, above all, a creative organisation. It must take risks and evolve continuously. And it has a special role to play in the life of the country. But, like any large corporation, it also has to take care of its employees, balance its budget, finance its programming, and deliver value to Canadians. In this job, I will always ask the tough questions: (i) does this fit in our mandate? (ii) what are our strengths? (iii) what can we do better? (iv) are people watching, listening or using our services? If so, why? If not, why not? (v) is what we are doing adding value to CBC/Radio-Canada?
I believe that in order for CBC/Radio-Canada to fulfil its mandate, there must be great creativity AND good management — one cannot survive without the other.
Like me, you know that there are tremendous changes transforming the broadcasting environment right now. To succeed in this context, CBC/Radio-Canada must continue to be creative and must employ audacious strategies. My skills, together with the tremendous talents of the management team that Robert Rabinovitch brought together, and thanks to the devotion of all of the Corporation’s employees, will help ensure that the national public broadcaster thrives in this new environment.
Now, I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.