Opening remarks for Mr. Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada, before the Standing Committee on Official Languages

May 27, 2008

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Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee. I understand you would like to talk about the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada and the recent broadcast of the Canadian Songwriters’ Gala on our airwaves.

I have been President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada for five months now and I can tell you I am keenly aware of our responsibilities to serve French and English-speaking Canadians.

Sometimes we do this together through CBC/Radio-Canada joint projects. Sometimes we do it separately; finding ways to share parts of one language culture with the other, in a way that will resonate with the audience.

In the case of the Canadian Songwriters Gala, you’ve heard the details of how we tried to do this on our various platforms from Richard Stursberg. He also told you about other ways that we promote francophone culture with English audiences. I can talk more about that with you if you wish.

Some Canadians, including organizers of the Gala, disagreed with the decisions made by our programming teams for the Gala. Last month in fact, we agreed to allow the organizer’s to explore other broadcast options for next year’s gala.

While disagreements are part of the reality of the hundreds of programming decisions we make every day, I can tell you that we have heard the concerns expressed. We recognize that we could have done a better job of reflecting the diversity of the performances in our Television broadcast of the Gala. And while these are programming decisions that are ours to make, these events have raised our level of awareness on these issues and I can tell you that we will do a better job with these kinds of broadcasts in the future.

I do not accept the judgment that, by our programming decisions in this one instance, the public broadcaster was not fulfilling its mandate. The mandate is very broad. So broad, in fact, that no one of our services can presume to be all things to all people, even less so within the space of a single broadcast. You have to look at the range of programs and services we offer. That is how we fulfill our mandate to Canadians.

In every programming decision we make, there will be some people who will believe we should have done something different. Sometimes even we will think so. We listen to the concerns of the Canadians we serve and we take those concerns into account in the choices we make for the future.

The Broadcasting Act is very broad about our mandate to Canadians but very clear about our programming independence. We will continue to work very hard with the resources we have to fulfill the trust Canadians have placed in us.

I would be pleased to answer your questions.

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