Speaking Notes for Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada, at the 2010 Annual Public Meeting

October 20, 2010

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Good morning.

Thanks for joining us.

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, we were dealing with major staff cuts and service reductions, struggling with a $171 million shortfall, and had just implemented our Recovery Plan.

The picture I get to paint today – as Tim mentioned in his presentation – is brighter.

Despite the challenges, we managed to balance our 2009-2010 budget – even if getting to that equilibrium was complicated and came with a heavy price.

Rising to the challenges of 2009-2010

To deal with our shortfall, we implemented a comprehensive two-year financial Recovery Plan. We had to make some tough decisions and difficult choices. Suzanne will walk you through the numbers and details in a few minutes.

But, we made a promise to Government, to our Minister, to our Board, and to Canadians that we would see our way through the tough times and get back on our feet. And thanks to the commitment, ingenuity and hard work of our CBCers and Radio-Canadiens, we did just that. I’m very, very proud of what we accomplished together. And now, we get to look forward.

Continued audience success

What I’m most proud of is the way our media teams managed to continue delivering high-quality programs and services throughout these challenging times, and that momentum has carried through to now.

Our fall launches on both CBC Television and Télévision de Radio-Canada have seen no fewer than 12 programs draw more than one million viewers each.

Our radio services are doing better than ever. For the fourth time in the last five years, CBC Radio won the Broadcaster of the Year award at the New York International Radio Broadcasting Awards competition.

And the success of our conventional services carries over to our Web presence. Our Internet sites are drawing seven million unique visitors a month. Canadians are downloading 1.2 million of our podcasts every week. These significant numbers represent the fundamental shift that’s happening in the way people consume their media, and in the way that we have to approach the way we serve Canadians.

TOU.TV is another one of our answers to that shift. Launched last January by Radio-Canada, the Web television service offers over 2,000 hours of high-quality French-language video from a wide host of Canadian and international public broadcasters and independent producers. It is a first in Canada. Over 18 million program views in its first 10 months.

Our shifting industry

Shifts in technology and consumer habits have also prompted a major transformation of the Canadian media industry.

Last May, Shaw announced its intention to acquire Global. Then in August, BCE – Canada’s biggest telecom company – announced its intention to buy CTV – the country’s largest broadcaster.

Combined with Rogers’ progressive expansion into broadcasting and the dominance of the Quebecor group in Québec, Canada’s media landscape looks nothing like it did when I took the reigns here less than three years ago. If the Shaw and BCE deals are approved, most of the media content in Canada will be controlled by only a few powerful distribution companies. For that matter, a similar story is playing out in the United States.

Up here, it will leave CBC/Radio-Canada as the country’s only national television broadcaster not owned by a cable or satellite company.

What’s clear to me is that the continued concentration of ownership in Canada’s media industry reinforces the need for strong, independent, public broadcasting in Canada. It also underlines the need for a regulatory environment that guarantees an open system where Canadians have access to a wide range of programming, including ours, regardless of who owns the distribution channels.

New realities require new approaches: Driving Towards 2015

The changes in our environment have prompted CBC/Radio-Canada to embark upon a new strategic planning process that we are calling Driving Towards 2015.

The process is about a set of measurable guiding principles on which sit our vision and our mission. We are a Corporation with responsibilities. We receive nearly $1.1 billion of taxpayers' money, for which we are grateful, to deliver on a mandate ― a mandate that comes from the Broadcasting Act and that says we are to provide services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains Canadians. This public service mandate influences everything we do.

But we are much more than a machine that delivers great Canadian content and services. We are a creator and protector of a public space where Canadians come to share their ideas, their culture and their experiences, where Canadians come to debate, in a safe environment, the issues they care about. A public space that brings an increasingly diverse nation together and reflects a diversity of voices. Our programs and services enrich this space.

But there are, as always, questions about the role of public broadcasting in Canada. And on that issue, we’re not alone. Around the world the public broadcaster is being challenged about its direction, the supposed populism or elitism of its schedules, its funding, and its relevance. And, of course, the most severe critics are the private media groups who seek to limit its role or activities in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Everywhere the public broadcaster’s response is remarkably similar, whether in Britain, France, Australia, or in Canada: there’s a focus on telling identity-defining stories through drama, on building mutual understanding by reflecting regional realities and diversity, on spearheading the adoption of new platforms, and on carefully responding to the particular cultural challenges of the places each serves.

This is why CBC/Radio-Canada needs a clear direction. Canadians need to understand our role and how we enrich Canada’s democracy and culture. Driving Towards 2015 will also establish clear and public metrics to measure our progress.

Through this strategy-setting process, we will be guided by three principles that are essential to meeting our mandate.

First, we are the home of Canadian content. Nothing less. That won’t change. And we will look to do even more.

Second, we will reinforce our commitment to Canada’s regions.

Lastly, we will aggressively innovate and develop our online platforms.

Raising the bar; leading the way

The evolution of technology – driven by the emergence of the Internet, on-demand service, and ever-evolving mobile devices like BlackBerries, iPhones, and iPads – has now opened up extraordinary new ways for broadcasters to engage their audiences.

But it has also forced a rethinking of the way we do business. It is not enough to simply put up a signal and trust that people will tune in. We exist now in a world that is driven by audience choice.

Just look at a few of the things we've done recently to adapt to this environment:

  • We were the first broadcaster in Canada to stream audio online.
  • The first to stream video on mobile devices.
  • Our iPhone applications are amongst the most advanced in the world, and the most popular in Canada.
  • Our content is amongst the most downloaded on iTunes Canada.
  • And we’re a leader in leveraging social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to share our content with a wider audience and allow it to participate in and influence what we do.

The moral of the story is that CBC/Radio-Canada has evolved and will continue to evolve with whatever technology Canadians are ready to embrace.

Our success on new platforms has been led by our own creative workforce and, increasingly, by multiple partnerships with myriad leaders of the new media world.

Our role is more important than ever before

The Corporation will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next year. To have remained a central feature of the Canadian fabric for three-quarters of a century is a remarkable achievement. Over that time, we’ve built an incredible brand and connection with Canadians.

We want what Canadians want: a strong, vibrant CBC/Radio-Canada public broadcaster, a public-owned and public-minded, forward-looking hub at the centre of a revolution in broadcasting that is giving audiences more choice and more opportunity to contribute and participate than ever before.

And now, I’m pleased to present our Chief Financial Officer, Suzanne Morris.

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