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

May 5, 2015, Ottawa

Good evening, Senators,

I’d like to begin by thanking you for the opportunity to meet with you today. We have carefully read the report and recommendations issued by this Committee on the services that CBC/Radio-Canada provides to the country’s official-language minority communities.

“Official language minority communities want to see, hear and read about themselves on the public broadcaster’s airwaves.” That’s one of the conclusions taken from your study. It’s also something that we firmly believe in, and we strive hard to meet our audiences’ expectations.

Of course, as an arms-length Crown corporation, we must pursue those goals in accordance with our mandate under the Broadcasting Act and in consultation with the broadcaster regulator, the CRTC.

This independence is central to our DNA as a public broadcaster.

In your report, you also devote considerable attention to the consultations that we conduct with communities. Before answering your questions, we thought it would be relevant and worthwhile to share our experience to date.

Since September 1, 2013, we’ve held consultations with the English-speaking community in Quebec, and with French-speaking communities in Western Canada, the North, Ontario, and just last Wednesday, in Atlantic Canada. The public hearings alone were attended by nearly 440 people in Western Canada and the North; about 200 people in Ontario; and around 500 people in Atlantic Canada, the vast majority of whom participated online.

Among French-speaking communities, the concerns raised during these consultations are similar to these heard in other forums. People are aware of Radio-Canada’s financial situation and the limitations that it imposes, and continue to express concerns about it. They also recognize the need for Radio-Canada to adapt to Francophones’ emerging media consumption habits.

What’s more, many people are encouraging us to further expand our digital offering, especially in regional centres. Digital is seen as one of the vehicles for reaching young Francophones – an audience, we were told, that needs to be among our priorities as public broadcaster.

Finally, they reiterated their desire to see and hear themselves more often on our network programming.

Based on what we heard during these consultations, and also during the many formal and informal discussions held over the years with community representatives, we’ve adjusted our offering in a variety of ways.

Let’s start with our Raconter le pays approach, which Michel Cormier, our Executive Director of News and Current Affairs, spoke to you about during our appearance in December 2013. You’ll recall that this is about giving greater national resonance to local stories and showing how national issues play out in communities across the country.

Over two years, we produced many reports and special features that fulfilled these objectives, identified on numerous occasions by community representatives. Our in-depth multiplatform feature on retirement in Canada, comparing the situations in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, is one example.

La semaine verte also reported on the free market for farmland in Saskatchewan, by comparing their situation with other provinces. These are just two examples, but they illustrate the tangible benefits of this approach.

In addition, our De bonjour à bonne nuit regional news strategy strives to be with Canadians from morning to night by providing local news rooted in the community, in the moment, and across all platforms.

With this in mind, we began overhauling our regional websites last Fall. These sites now deliver a continuous feed of local and regional news, in a format that adjusts to all screen sizes – desktop, smartphone and tablet alike.

The Ottawa-Gatineau site was one of the first to switch to the new format, and really proved its worth during the shooting last October.

The amount of positive feedback that we have received from residents speaks to this.

This overhaul of our regional sites aligns with the regional strategy that we presented in December with our CBC colleagues. Part of the strategy involves redeploying our resources to maintain a news presence throughout the day, with emphasis on digital and mobile, as well as social networks. Patricia can fill you in further during the question period.

Last February, we also held a public consultation with members of the English-speaking community in Quebec. It was a public live-streamed event where over one thousand participants, on site and online, tuned in on the discussions around, “How can CBC best use mobile, web, TV and radio to tell stories, exchange and engage with the one million English speakers who live in Quebec?”

What we heard in that consultation was strong support for CBC and a desire to ensure CBC Quebec continues to be there for the English-speaking audience.

On October 22, 2014, Shelagh Kinch, Managing Director, CBC Quebec, and Hubert Lacroix, President, CBC/Radio-Canada, met with 10 members of the English-speaking community in Quebec to discuss Strategy 2020.

Representatives from the Black Community Resource Centre, CEDEC, Concordia University, Notman House, Quebec Community Groups Network, English-language Arts Network and independent producers attended.

As a result of this meeting CBC Montreal then went on to host CBC/Radio-Canada’s first ever hackathon called #HackingCBCMtl.

A hackathon is an open and collaborative event where people with both technical and non-technical expertise get together and find creative solutions to various problems, using technology. Over the course of a weekend, we hosted nearly 50 developers, designers and engaged media consumers who came and worked on their ideas with our journalists at CBC Montreal.

Bringing that thinking into CBC is incredibly important especially when engaging with a younger, more digital audience. In Fall 2015, as part of CBC/Radio Canada’s 2020 strategy, CBC Quebec will strengthen existing desktop and mobile services, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day.

Whether it’s through informal discussions or more formal meetings such as these consultations, we maintain an ongoing dialogue with the members of linguistic minority communities, as well as with the associations and institutions that represent them. These discussions allow us stay attuned to communities’ needs and adjust our offering where we can and when it makes sense to do so.

In 2014 alone, we held over 100 meetings with representatives from English- and French-speaking minority communities across the country.

More broadly, our commitment to linguistic communities as public broadcaster is clear. A space for us all, the strategic plan that CBC/Radio-Canada launched last June, makes regional services a priority for us once again.

The plan is modernizing our services for the future, while allowing us to continue fulfilling our conditions of licence and our obligations as public broadcaster.

The recently announced regional strategy was developed jointly by CBC and Radio-Canada, and aligns with the objectives of this plan.

Once fully implemented, the strategy will allow us to maintain a strong regional offering at lower cost – one that’s tailored to the media consumption patterns of our audiences, including Anglophones and Francophones living in minority-language communities.

I can assure you that we will continue to meet with communities throughout the rollout of our strategy.

We are now pleased to take your questions.

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