Speaking notes for Louis Lalande, Executive Vice-President, French Services, at the Senate Committee on Official Languages

December 9, 2013, Ottawa

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Honourable senators,

Good evening,

Thank you for inviting us to appear again before this committee in order to answer your questions. I am accompanied this evening by Patricia Pleszczynska, executive director of regional services and ICI Radio-Canada Première, and Michel Cormier, executive director of news and current affairs at Radio-Canada.

In today’s media world, one of the challenges for Canadians, especially francophones, is to find spaces that provide rich and relevant original content that reflects their interests and tells their stories in their own language.

As a public broadcaster, we therefore have an enormous responsibility toward francophones. In minority communities, Radio-Canada is often the only media outlet offering francophones programming in French.

This is a mandate we take very seriously. I am convinced we have the best possible strategy to meet our obligations in keeping with resources available.

Before answering your questions, I thought it would be helpful to give a quick overview of everything that has changed in the environment in which CBC/Radio-Canada operates since our last appearance before this committee 21 months ago.

When we spoke here in March 2012, CBC/Radio-Canada was set to unveil its plan to absorb a $115-million reduction in its parliamentary appropriations as part of DRAP, the federal government’s deficit reduction action plan.

Also, we were preparing to go before the CRTC to defend the LPIF, the local programming improvement fund, a fund that helped us considerably enhance our television services, particularly for francophone minority communities. Finally, we were preparing for CRTC hearings on the renewal of our licences.

We are now completing the second year of DRAP, the LPIF is in its final year of operations, and the CRTC issued our new conditions of licence last May. Against this backdrop, we continue to implement Strategy 2015: Everyone, Every way, CBC/Radio-Canada’s five-year plan. One of its three main priorities is to strengthen the public broadcaster’s regional presence.

In facing all these challenges, we have found Strategy 2015 to be very useful because it guides us in our strategic choices. It assures us we are always able to fulfill our duty to the Canadian public.

With the phase-out of the LPIF, for example, the easy decision would have been to cancel all regional programs supported by the fund. In light of Strategy 2015, we decided instead to stay the course and continue offering regional news seven days a week at all our stations. We have absorbed some of the loss of funding in other areas of Radio-Canada.

Our commitment to regional programming, notably in official language minority communities, is also reflected in our new CRTC conditions of licence.

For television, for example, our seven regional stations serving francophone minority communities will offer at least five hours of local programming a week on average over a year. All our regional stations will also air local news seven days a week all year long, except holidays.

Our new conditions also reflect concerns voiced by various representatives of francophone communities before the Commission at the November 2012 hearings. I should point out that the CRTC, during these hearings, received over 8,000 interventions and heard over a hundred witnesses, including some of you.

One of the conditions issued by the CRTC pertains to CBEF in Windsor, where we are requested to produce at least 15 hours a week of local radio programming. In addition, Radio-Canada will hold official consultations with francophone minority communities in each of these regions: Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Western Canada and Northern Canada.

In our licence renewals, the CRTC also laid down conditions that will allow CBC to continue serving Quebec’s anglophone community effectively.

Besides the official consultations that it will hold with this community, CBC will offer Quebec anglophones 14 hours of local television programming a week, including one hour of non-news programming.

Several conditions of licence set out by the CRTC were based very closely on proposals put forward by CBC/Radio-Canada. We made these proposals because we felt they represent a balance between our desire to improve our services to these communities, and our need to manage our resources and other services. They form an integral part of our planning, and they result in concrete programming efforts.

For example, our daytime radio newscasts on ICI Radio-Canada Première are produced in every station in the country so we can properly reflect local, regional and national news in line with the specific priorities of each region.

On the radio front, we also launched a brand new national program this fall. It is called L’heure du monde, and one of its key tasks is to cover news across Canada using the journalism resources of our regional stations.

On television, the 10 p.m. Téléjournal newscast continues to evolve to better showcase international news and the Canadian reality. This change is driven by a major undertaking that concerns our overall approach to news and that is part of our strategy to transform and reposition Radio-Canada.

In closing, I want to mention the incredible potential of digital technology. We continue to tap into it to enhance the services offered to francophone minority communities. Our multiplatform regional approach allows us to be present on the web and mobile devices with local and regional content that resonates with francophones in every region of the country.

This approach has met with ever-growing success. Indeed, 30 to 40% of our website traffic is now the result of regional content.[1]

Despite the technological and financial challenges that put constant pressure on our organization, we remain firmly committed at Radio-Canada to fulfilling our mandate relating to official language minority communities.

With our new licences, five-year plan and programming strategy, I am convinced we have the tools needed to meet our obligations with the success that Canadians expect from their public broadcaster.

We are now ready to answer your questions.


[1] Source: Comscore – 2013

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