Speaking notes for Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada, to the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (Quebec Chapter)

February 15, 2011

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for coming today.

Today, I want to talk to you about Bobino, and how he’s central to our new strategic plan, Everyone, Every way — the plan that will guide and inform all of our decisions over the next five years. But before I go any further, let me show you a five-minute video to introduce the strategy.

Video Presentation

When I was a kid, in the early 60s, Bobino invited me into his world every day at 4 p.m. When he said “Hi, little kids!” he was talking to me. I felt directly involved. Along with Bobinette, Gustave, Tapageur and Télécino, he told me stories, made me laugh and taught me all kinds of things. He helped me understand MY world. I trusted him and listened to him. Going to Bobino’s was like going home. It was a safe, comfortable place where I was always welcome. Bobino had managed to create a powerful emotional bond with me, and he kept it up day after day.

Today, 50 years later, our media landscape has changed dramatically, especially in the way we watch television. In this crowded universe, full of specialty channels and all manner of voices, the need for the public broadcaster to create and nurture this rapport that I, and many other children, had with Bobino becomes more essential than ever.

And therein lies the main challenge for CBC/Radio-Canada. It’s in light of this challenge that Everyone, Every way takes on its full meaning. It’s impossible for us to be all things to all people. But given its stature, the public broadcaster should mean something very special and relevant to each and every one of you in this room:

1. That could mean recreating Bobino today for your children. Bobino would have to be accessible 24 hours a day, on cell phones, computers and iPads. He’d also have to reply instantly if your children sent him a question on his website. And he’d have to tell them what he’s up to by tweeting or regularly updating his Facebook page.

2. That could mean being relevant and opening the world to today’s young adults — who appear glued to their cell phones — through our news coverage. Bernard Derome and Joël Le Bigot opened my eyes (and ears!) for so many years. In today’s environment, the difference is that young people are no longer content to be mere spectators or listeners, and are often just as interested in content being mobile as they are in the content itself.

3. That could mean recreating signature drama series, daily soaps or cultural events like those my parents enjoyed. I’m thinking of Séraphin, Rue des pignons or Les beaux dimanches. In recreating these classics, we have to take into account that even older people no longer want to be constrained by a rigid schedule. They prefer to interact with their public broadcaster when it comes to these shows.

Our role as public broadcaster is to create the bond of trust that must underpin the relationship we have with you. We want to create spaces where Canadians of all ages can voice their opinions and engage with each other — no matter the distance between them — to share what unites them and debate what divides them. We want to create spaces that are recognized for the quality of the bonds between, and with, Canadians, their communities, and their country.

That’s why I was telling you that Bobino is central to our strategic plan. And every time I think about what we have to focus on, I think of him and this special relationship I had with him. By the way, that’s the reason I keep Guy Sanche’s costume in my office.

Network programming and national public spaces

So what’s Everyone, Every way all about?

First, it’s about our distinctive programming — more stories by, for and about Canadians.

Over the next five years, our prime-time shows will continue to be even more distinctive. And on CBC in particular, even more Canadian.

Our regional news offering will be more comprehensive, in both English and French, and we want to be there seven days a week. It’s hard to build a rapport with you if we disappear on weekends!

And we will produce and air at least 10 signature events per year on both our English and French networks: events delivered on all of our platforms, like the Christmas Concert (broadcast from Notre Dame Basilica) with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) this past December, like Darwin Day on Radio-Canada, like Live Right Now, Champions of Change and Hockey Day in Canada on CBC.

These signature events bring Canadians together in large numbers, have a major cultural impact, leave their mark and clearly set CBC/Radio-Canada apart from other broadcasters.

Regional presence and community spaces

Everyone, Every way is also about strengthening our regional presence and our role in community spaces. To be honest, CBC/Radio-Canada hasn’t always met Canadians’ expectations in this area.

This is a corporate priority for both networks, but its execution will reflect CBC’s and Radio-Canada’s respective concerns in the regions. Therefore, the initiatives will vary.

Over at CBC, we’ll extend our services to areas where we are absent, to address issues of coverage and respond to changing demographics. In these places, our goal will be to increase our presence while implementing new delivery models. For example, we’ll launch new multimedia stations, create new local and hyper-local websites to support our TV and radio stations, or combine the two. We’re now in the process of determining what cities and when. Keep in mind that this is a five-year plan.

As for Radio-Canada, let me give you two examples. In Rimouski, we’re opening a multimedia centre that will allow us to bring local TV news production back to Eastern Quebec. And in the Montreal area, we’re examining ways to better serve North and South Shore residents, whose day-to-day cultural life doesn’t necessarily include the island of Montreal.

We don’t envisage leaving any existing locations, but we may change the way we deliver our services in some, especially to expand our new-media presence and scale back our more traditional services.

New platforms and digital spaces

The final thrust of Everyone, Every way is new platforms and digital spaces. These include social networks.

Over the next five years, we will create and nurture Canadian digital spaces and leverage the web to speed up production of shows like En audition avec Simon or Chroniques d’une mère indigne. Next week on CBC, we’ll be trying out a mobile news service, which will send you news based on where you’re located in Canada using geo-located Apps.

We will strategically expand our specialty channel offering. For example, Radio-Canada’s health, environment, nature and science channel has generated a great deal of enthusiasm over the past two weeks.

To help us maintain our leadership in the digital world and continue to evolve, we will double our current level of digital investment to at least five per cent of our programming budget by 2015.

Our invitation

Three priorities. It’s an ambitious plan. And one that’s clearly impossible to deliver to Canadians if we go it alone. But we’ve never really gone it alone. We owe a large part of the success we enjoy today to your outstanding work. And I thank you for that.

For the 2010–2011 season on Télévision de Radio-Canada, 36 independent producers helped us bring a total of 48 programs to air, from among the over 1,000 proposals we received. And in our winter 2011 prime-time schedule alone, nearly 75% of the shows you watch were produced by someone in this room.

With respect to independent production in the regions, we have business relationships with 45 independent production houses and with three regional offices of the National Film Board (NFB). These relationships have allowed us to produce about one hundred hours of regional programming, a number of which were aired on our national networks.

Naturally, we don’t buy these programs ready-to-air. The proposals are adjusted and re-worked through the ongoing conversations we have with you, so that the ones we eventually select reflect the public broadcaster’s brand and values. In fact, over half of that 75% you produced for our prime-time schedule was made at Maison de Radio-Canada, with our equipment, and in our studios, with a combination of our and your employees. It’s important that we continue working this way, since it allows us to control our costs and increase our revenue, while ensuring that our resources are used to their fullest.

This collaboration will become more pronounced in CBC/Radio-Canada’s regional programming, sports broadcasts, digital services and specialty channels.

Now you understand why Everyone, Every way concerns you directly. For as we clearly state, in order to deliver the services that Canadians expect from their public broadcaster, we need to pursue a wide range of partnerships with television, new media and other private-sector companies, both regionally and nationally. In this way, we can extend the reach of our content, seek out new audiences and showcase our talent.

It’s the only way for us to continue to grow. Here are two concrete examples that illustrate where we’re heading:

1. Virginie was transformed into 30 Vies thanks to the incredible talent of Fabienne Larouche and our respective teams. After three weeks on air, this show has drawn nearly 250,000 additional viewers to this time slot, for a 27% audience share.

2. As a result of our commitment to signature dramas and high-volume series, over the past two seasons you’ve seen the creation of Aveux, Musée Eden, Les rescapés, Trauma, Mirador and 19-2, to name but a few.

Doing our share

But to implement and deliver this strategic plan, we’ll need to become more financially flexible and agile, since we’ll be funding its key components by ourselves. Let me be clear — our strategy does not depend on us getting more money from government. However, the plan does assume that we’ll continue to receive the same level of funding we do today, and have access to funds such as the Canada Media Fund.

We’ll make the necessary choices to fulfill our promises, but not without causing some “innovative disruption” within CBC/Radio-Canada.

We’ll pursue revenue growth initiatives, continue to cut costs, redirect resources and modernize our production methods. We’ll be asking you to take part in this exercise to introduce new ideas in places where the old ones simply don’t or won’t work anymore, while looking to reduce the cost of our programming operations.

Everything we do will be aimed at maximizing our investment in content production.

Conclusion

Since 1936 — that’s right, we turn 75 this year — CBC/Radio-Canada has made a deep, lasting and meaningful difference in this country, and in the lives of Canadians. Our Everyone, Every way strategy builds on that rich legacy, and we will be going places — we, you and our audiences — we have yet to imagine.

But in getting there, we’ll allow people to get closer to THEIR Bobino — to touch, see and speak to him, to let him into their community or welcome him into their homes, when and how THEY choose. We can’t be all things to all people. But we can mean something as special and relevant to each of you as Bobino meant to me.

That’s our commitment.

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