Speaking notes for Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada, to Calgary Economic Development

April 6, 2011

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be here in Calgary. Thank you for coming.

Today, I want to talk to you about Walt Disney and Danny Gallivan, and explain how they are 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 our plan.

Video Presentation

Growing up, I watched The Wonderful World of Disney on CBC every Sunday night. Walt Disney opened my eyes to animals, and magic and movies, and quality animated cartoons. He sparked my imagination. An American on Canada's public broadcasting network fascinated me with his stories.

In doing so, he managed to create a powerful emotional bond with me, and he nurtured it week after week.

Then, I fell into hockey. Played it. Loved it. And learned it, in the other official language, listening to Danny Gallivan when he called the Saturday night games. I fought with my parents to stay up as late as I could to watch Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). And lived and died following The Montreal Canadiens. I used Danny Gallivan's expressions (still remember the "Serge Savard Spinarama") when I played on the streets. "He shoots, he ‘scores’." This man was my hockey.

Today, 50 years later, our media landscape has changed dramatically, and so have we. Whether it's by bringing families together on Sunday nights to now watch a Canadian program, Heartland, made right here in Calgary, or transforming HNIC into a multi-media experience and connecting hockey to communities with events like Kraft Hockeyville, Hyundai Hockey Nation and Hockey Day in Canada.

Yet, in our crowded media universe, what's even more important is the need for the public broadcaster to create and nurture the kind of rapport that I had with Walt Disney and Danny Gallivan. Obviously, we can't be all things to all people. But given our stature, the public broadcaster should mean something very special and relevant to each and every one of you in this room. That’s what Everyone, Every wayaims to achieve.

Before I tell you how we plan to do that, I want to put my remarks into a Calgary context. The last time I spoke here, about 18 months ago, I addressed a room of business leaders. They gave me a very clear message. They didn’t feel that CBC was relevant in Calgary. They felt we were failing to reflect this city and region. They didn’t understand why American game shows were on CBC Television’s evening schedule. And they felt that our news coverage was unbalanced and shaped by ideology. They also told me that we were not worth the $34 per Canadian to fund our services.

Well, we listened. And it’s my hope that you’ll hear in my remarks today some indications of how we have been addressing the Calgary concerns I heard 18 months ago.

Network programming and national public spaces

So what is Everyone, Every way all about?

First, it’s about the distinctiveness of our programming — more stories by, for and about Canadians. Over the next five years, our prime-time shows will become even more distinctive. And on CBC in particular, even more Canadian than they are today.

That will mean, for example, that we will remove Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune from the CBC TV schedule. This won’t happen immediately, because we have contractual obligations to honor, but it will happen. We needed those shows to build audiences for our all-Canadian shows that come later in the evening, but now those shows are very strong and can stand on their own.

Here’s another highlight. Every year CBC will produce and air at least 10 signature events—projects of national cultural relevance or public interest that feature programming on all platforms, a significant interactive digital component, meaningful public engagement activities, and the participation of all regions of the country.

A recent signature event, Champions of Change, celebrated remarkable Canadian volunteers helping those who need it most in Canada and around the world. When we asked Canadians to nominate exceptional volunteers, almost 2,000 responded—and more than 10% of those nominations came from Calgary. That says a lot about this community.

Calgarians are participating in another ongoing CBC signature event, Live Right Now, which aims to inspire Canadians to join together and change the health of this country. I’m sure that some of you have been following the Calgary Eyeopener morning show’s Wellness Team, which brings together 45 listeners and five CBC ambassadors once a week for exercise classes, discussion about nutrition, and an exchange of ideas for living healthier. The participants are also volunteering to support YMCA youth programming.

Over the next five years, Calgarians, and all Canadians, will be able to experience and participate in many more signature events. These are unique offerings, and they leave a mark.

Regional presence and community spaces

Everyone, Every way is also about strengthening our regional presence and our role in community spaces. To be honest, we haven’t always met Canadians’ expectations, not just in Calgary but in other cities and regions.

Everyone, Every way will change that. To start with, we will strengthen our Alberta presence by increasing news-gathering capacity in Calgary, Edmonton and other communities. When we have determined how many reporters we’ll be adding and where, we’ll announce that.

We will also offer more regional productions. For example, this year we’ll broadcast a documentary on the history of the Chinese community in Alberta and we’ll follow student entrepreneurs pitching their business proposals to Calgary business leaders.

At the same time, we will feature more regional programming on our national networks. For example, last July we renewed our broadcast agreement with the Calgary Stampede through to 2015. This ensures that coverage of the world-renowned Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth will continue to be available across Canada on CBC Television, CBCSports.ca and CBC’s digital channel bold.

We will extend our services to communities in which we don’t have a presence today. We are presently assessing different markets and ranking them in an order of priority, according to the following criteria:

  • The size of the community
  • Its growth rate
  • What other services, if any, are already available in the community
  • And the relevance of the closest CBC content.

Our goal will be to increase our presence in those communities in innovative ways with new multimedia stations that might be smaller than our older, conventional stations but will have a big impact in communities, and with new local or hyper-local websites to support our TV and radio stations.

New platforms and digital spaces

The final thrust of Everyone, Every way is new platforms and digital spaces. For example, recently on CBC, we piloted a mobile news service that sends you news based on where you’re located in Canada using a geo-located app.

To help us maintain our digital leadership and push forward, we will double our current level of digital investment to at least five per cent of our programming budget by 2015, which should represent about $70 million.

Innovative disruption

Three priorities. It’s an ambitious plan, and it’s critical to our future. We intend to meet the needs of Canadians in the midst of demographic shifts, fewer and more powerful media empires, new technologies, platforms and social networks, more content choices, and changes in how people interact with each other.

We will make the plan happen, but not without disruption — innovative disruption. As part of this, over the next three years, we will shift between 450 and 550 positions from existing jobs to our new priorities. And we will reallocate in the range of 5 per cent of our budget, representing approximately $90 million of $1.66 billion, to the new priorities.

To implement our 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. We’ll pursue revenue growth initiatives, continue to cut costs and modernize our production methods.

We will also strongly believe in accountability. So, we will report on our performance twice a year across a wide range of metrics so that every Canadian can hold us to account.

More deeply rooted in your community

As I said at the outset, our ultimate goal is to deepen our relationships with Canadians. This requires becoming more rooted in communities. Here in Calgary, we will be building on a history of working with community organisations and business to make a real difference. Let me cite just two examples.

The CBC Calgary Suncor Energy Food Bank Drive is one of CBC’s most successful annual holiday season fundraisers. This year, our listeners contributed more than a million dollars to those in need — this at a time when most charities had a drop in donations due to the economy.

The CBC Calgary Do Crew is raising the profile of not-for-profits throughout southern Alberta, introducing a new volunteer base to those groups and getting CBC staff and listeners out into the community. The program is wildly popular and we’ve had expressions of interest from other cities.

Renewing News

Let me go back to the Calgary comments I heard 18 months ago. That Calgary audience felt that our news coverage was unbalanced, shaped by ideology rather than facts. Well, we asked for feedback from Canadians on our news services.

Last May, we concluded the most comprehensive analysis of news undertaken by any news organization in Canadian history. Guided by a panel of independent Canadian and international media experts, the study evaluated 16,000 radio, television and Internet stories from CBC over a 25-week period. And it surveyed about 3,000 Canadians on their perceptions about balance and bias in journalism.

The study concluded that overall CBC offers balanced news coverage, but that we can do a better job of presenting a full range of perspectives and voices. It also found that Canadians want more fact and less opinion from all news organisations, including CBC.

We will use the results of the study to improve our news coverage by giving Canadians more of what they want and value. That’s our job. Our role as public broadcaster is to forge a bond of trust with you, one that defines our relationship with you.

We then want to create spaces where Canadians can voice their opinions and talk to each other. Whether they live in different provinces, communities or even next door, we want to facilitate conversations among them to help them share what unites them and debate what divides them. Spaces that are inviting, and that are recognized, both for their quality and their ability to create strong connections.

Personal connections

Calgary’s own R.B. Bennett created the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission in 1932, which evolved into the CBC four years later. Since 1936 — that’s right, we turn 75 this year — CBC/Radio-Canada has worked hard to connect with Canadians and to connect them to one another. OurEveryone, Every way strategy is about finding new ways to deepen that relationship with Canadians. I’ve outlined some of the ways we will do that – here in Calgary and in communities across the country.

My hope is that if I return to Calgary 18 months from today, you will tell me that you have seen and felt the impact of our strategy both in your community and in your personal lives.

Thank you.

[Call for questions]

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