Hubert T. Lacroix responds to Alain Saulnier's comments about CBC/Radio-Canada

November 2, 2014

A SPACE FOR US ALL: A CLEAR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF CBC/RADIO-CANADA

There was a great deal of coverage in Saturday’s papers about the book Ici était Radio-Canada and alarmist statements by former CBC/Radio-Canada executive director of French Services news Alain Saulnier, which misrepresent the strategy in which we’re currently engaged. I feel it’s important that I set the record straight immediately.

TheA space for us all strategic plan puts forward a clear vision for the next five years. It was developed in concert with some 150 people from all areas of the Corporation. It gives us the means to ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada focuses more than ever on proximity with its audiences and the special bond we wish to strengthen with each and every Canadian. And there’s an urgent need to take action! All major media organizations, both public and private, are facing a colossal strategic challenge – people are consuming content differently and at different paces, industry players are multiplying, roles are changing, the market is exploding, and the traditional broadcaster business model is crumbling. Past reference will do nothing to help secure CBC/Radio-Canada’s relevance in this new context. What’s needed is a vision focused on the future, and that’s precisely the trajectory of the strategic plan.

That’s why I completely reject the statements to the effect that a lack of vision on the part of the current management team will lead to nothing less than a total dismantling of CBC/Radio-Canada. I also consider it false to claim that our television service has become too commercial, which is changing the essence of what we are. A quick look at the programming available on our French- and English-language television networks demonstrates the consistency of our programming directions. They are guided only by the desire to offer a wide variety of quality Canadian programs, and we’re doing a very successful job of that. Plus, we’re determined to continue offering unique and enlightening programming that is distinct from that of private broadcasters, and is creatively bold and ambitious.

We have therefore undertaken an inescapable process to profoundly transform CBC/Radio-Canada. Gone are the days when two or three conventional channels dominated the French- and English-language markets. CBC/Radio-Canada must instead adopt structures that give it the flexibility and mobility it needs, while also ensuring financial stability so it can achieve its objectives. That’s where we want to be in 2020.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the assertions and insinuations relating to political pressures placed on CBC/Radio-Canada management. I wish to be extremely clear about this. CBC/Radio-Canada is managed completely independently from government. The strategic directions defined in the A space for us all plan were developed by our teams in total independence from the Minister and senior bureaucrats at the Department of Canadian Heritage. Neither do they intervene in the choices we make faced with budgetary challenges, or in the day-to-day management of the Corporation, or in its news service. That said, however, it’s reasonable that, like my predecessors, I remain in contact with the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is accountable for CBC/Radio-Canada before Parliament.

The examples of “decisive” interference by the Minister taken from Alain Saulnier’s book and cited in the newspapers are founded on exaggerated and/or erroneous interpretations. The matter of Gilles Duceppe on Médium large is revealing in that respect. In truth, it was a misunderstanding by the program team, who approached Mr. Duceppe without considering the journalistic policy that requires a two-year moratorium before hiring a defeated politician, and without notifying radio management. It was therefore not to please the Minister, but rather pursuant to our journalistic policy that we informed Mr. Duceppe that he could not talk about politics on Médium large. At that point, he turned down the proposal. In addition, Mr. Duceppe was invited last year to be part of Le club des ex, but he was forced to decline because the rules governing parliamentary pensions forbade him from working for a Crown corporation.

CBC/Radio-Canada is a public corporation and, as such, is part of public debate. Our strategic directions are open to legitimate criticism. I would take that even further. Substantive debate on this strategy must be encouraged. But the debate will go nowhere if it is limited to finding ways to maintain or bring the public broadcaster back to an era where TVA and CTV were our sole competitors. Today’s market hums more to the beat of Google, Netflix, or unprecedented partnerships like the one announced last week by Vice Media and Rogers Communications.

The transformation will not be carried out overnight, but CBC/Radio-Canada will be different in 2020. The coming years will be complex as we experience the transition and reinvent our business models. The reflex of a number of observers is to judge us based on what we used to do, rather than what we’re building for the future. That line of thinking would be a suicidal course if we want CBC/Radio-Canada to remain central to our children’s and grandchildren’s lives!

Hubert T. Lacroix
President and CEO

Q&A on various topics covered in Alain Saulnier's comments

About CBC/Radio-Canada

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. The Corporation is a leader in reaching Canadians on new platforms and delivers a comprehensive range of radio, television, internet, and satellite-based services. Deeply rooted in the regions, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only domestic broadcaster to offer diverse regional and cultural perspectives in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages.

A space for us all is CBC/Radio-Canada’s strategy to transform the public broadcaster, and ensure that it continues to fulfill its mandate for Canadians, now and for future generations. Through to 2020, the Corporation will increase its investment in prime-time television programming and continue to create radio programs of the highest quality, while promoting the development of digital and mobile platforms and content.

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