Speaking notes for Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada, at CBC/Radio-Canada’s Annual Public Meeting

November 2, 2011


Our 75th anniversary is a day to celebrate.

On this day in 1936, Canada's national public broadcaster was born. Back then, we broadcast just 10 hours of French and English programming on the radio. Amazing when you compare that to what we do today, how we’ve evolved both in terms of content and technology. In the 50's, when television took off, CBC's TV content was just 60 per cent Canadian, with the French service at about 75 per cent. Even in the early 80’s, when you turned on the TV, you’d see American shows like Mork and Mindy, Mash orWKRP in Cincinnati airing on CBC during prime time. This season, CBC Television brought you Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, InSecurity and The Debaters, and its content was 82 per cent Canadian during prime time. As you can see by the red on this chart, we are clearly the home of Canadian programming. And Télévision de Radio-Canada now broadcasts 88 per cent of Canadian programs in prime time.

Only 20 years ago, in 1991, CBC/Radio-Canada offered eight services on two platforms – television and radio. Now, you tune in, you get no less than 30 services, with content available online, on mobile devices, on cable TV. Radio shows like The Debaters and Q can be seen on television or the web. Television shows like Tout le monde en parle or Heartland can be viewed online. You name it, we're there. All of this in a difficult environment.

The last two years were about our recovery plan, overcoming a budget shortfall of nearly $171 million. We hit our target and, on March 31, 2011, balanced our budget. Our CFO, Suzanne Morris, will give you the details shortly.

We then moved to the next step in the Corporation’s evolution – launching our five-year strategic plan Everyone, Every way, in February 2011. This plan is our roadmap to the future. It defines our way forward.

The plan gives us the means to deepen our relationship with Canadians on national, community and personal levels. It recognizes that the public broadcaster can't be all things to all people. We can and we should, however, provide something for, and mean something to, every Canadian. Whether it's connecting them to this country, to their communities or to each other as individuals, CBC/Radio-Canada will be there — for everyone, every way.

Our vision is ambitious: To be the recognized leader in expressing Canadian culture and to enrich the democratic life of all Canadians. We will achieve this with more Canadian content, expansion in the regions and by being leaders on the web.

We’re well on our way.

  • In May, we announced that, over the next five years, we plan to introduce or improve our local services to more than six million underserved or unserved Canadians, starting in Victoria, Kelowna, Toronto, Calgary and Kamloops.
  • Then in September, we announced that new radio and Internet services will be introduced for the London and Kitchener-Waterloo areas of Ontario. In the spring and fall 2012, new weekend news programming will be introduced in Edmonton, Ottawa, St. John’s and the Maritimes, with a new and improved station in Halifax.
  • We’ve also accelerated local services for Rimouski by six months with a start date of fall 2012. We have a new station in Chicoutimi and will provide hyper-local services for the Montreal north and south shore regions soon.
  • Radio-Canada's TOU.TV provides 2,200 hours of web-based, on-demand programming, and recently launched a mobile website and an app for android devices. TOU.TV is about us and other public broadcasters, about working in partnership, which is a big part of our strategic plan. TOU.TV brings together programming from around the world, and also has a partnership with LG to make TOU.TV available directly on next generation television sets.
  • In June, we launched the Espace.mu online music website, generating over a million audio streams since the launch. The website offers 80,000 songs – the largest repertoire of French music on the Internet. We’re doing with music what we’ve done with programming, providing content on multiple platforms.
  • Yesterday, November 1st, we announced that Hamilton, Ontario, will be the home of a next-generation digital service that will put all that the city, and the CBC, has to offer at Hamiltonians’ finger tips, commencing in spring of 2012.
  • Here’s another great example of partnership. We’re partnering with Bell Media to bid for the exclusive Canadian rights for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics.
  • Our new CBC News mobile app is the most visited news site by smart phone users, providing Canadians real-time access to the news and information that matters to them.
  • Then there are our signature events – community and multi-platform events that bring Canadians together, often produced in partnership. Like our Live From Montreal collaboration with the Maison symphonique de Montréal, a concert broadcast on all six platforms – TV, web and radio, in English and French – for the first time ever. Or culture days, celebrated last month in hundreds of cities and towns across the country. Our project 1 Day/1 Jour was a true partnership between CBC and Canadians – capturing the lives of Canadians and broadcasting them on television and online, in English and French.

So we’re moving ahead. To evaluate progress of our strategic plan, we will report on our performance twice a year across a range of metrics – so that every Canadian can hold us to account.

CBC/Radio-Canada takes accountability and transparency very seriously. Those two attributes are central to our philosophy, and critical to our credibility. And credibility is essential for a public broadcaster.

This Annual Public Meeting is just one way you can judge for yourselves how we're doing. CBC/Radio-Canada is also accountable to Canadians through Parliament, the CRTC, the Auditor General and our Board of Directors, which is appointed by government to ensure that the Corporation manages its resources effectively.

In addition to these and other obligations, this year CBC/Radio-Canada went even further in its commitment by creating a special accountability and transparency web site. On it, you will find, among other things, executive expenses, information about audits and Board meetings, a new monthly bulletin reporting on our progress on Access to Information, as well as guidelines on the application of Section 68.1 of the Access to Information Act.

We are committed to meeting our obligations under the Act and continue to improve our performance. Even the Information Commissioner has acknowledged, in her latest report card, that we’ve shown steady improvements since being overwhelmed by ATI requests in 2007.

I’m sure you’ve seen coverage about us and Access to Information, as well as the current Federal Court of Appeal case between CBC/Radio-Canada and the Information Commissioner.

The subject of this legal case is about a very specific issue: Section 68.1 of the Act, which excludes “journalistic, programming, and creative activities” from the Act. To be credible, a news organization has to be able to pursue its legitimate journalistic activities without arbitrary interference from outside parties, whether competitors, government, or others. I should emphasize that this law was created by Parliament and variations in one form or another are common in other Canadian provinces and in other countries for their public broadcasters. We are trying to clarify the rules around section 68.1. This is the proper thing to do. In fact, Government departments and Ministers have gone to court more than 180 times with the Information Commissioner to clarify ATI issues.

There are other challenges:

Along with 66 other organizations, we’ve been asked to prepare two proposals as part of the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan: one to meet at least 5 per cent in savings and the other at least 10 per cent in savings.

Our strategic plan towards 2015 is dependent on stable and predictable funding. While making their budgetary decisions, we hope the government will take into account the added value we bring to Canadians – not just in terms of Canadian culture and democracy, but also our added economic value. A recent study by Deloitte shows that CBC/Radio-Canada boosts Canada’s economy by supporting thousands of jobs and businesses, many in the private sector. It estimates that for every dollar invested, CBC/Radio-Canada puts back almost four dollars into the Canadian economy.

And, let me end by telling you that we are doing well.

Today, we have more people watching, listening to and logging on to CBC/Radio-Canada than ever before.

In a 2010 survey, 81 per cent of Canadians said the public broadcaster delivers value for money. Most – 89 per cent – use our services every month.

CBC/Radio-Canada does what no other broadcaster can. We create and deliver content in the regions, including up north and in minority language communities. We broadcast in English, French and eight aboriginal languages. And we have foreign bureaus around the world, reporting from places like Jerusalem, Washington and Beijing. You will meet four of our talented foreign correspondents shortly.

On behalf of CBC/Radio-Canada, thank you for watching, listening and logging on. Thank you to the Board of Directors for its ongoing involvement and input into our five-year plan. And of course, thank you to the people that make CBC/Radio-Canada happen, the employees. Bonne fête, CBC/Radio-Canada.

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