Open letter from Michel Bissonnette - As a public broadcaster, Radio-Canada is more relevant than ever

March 14, 2018, Montreal

In the age of Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, Facebook, Google et al., where Canadians enjoy access to exponentially more content and platforms to be informed and entertained, the question inevitably arises: Is a public broadcaster like Radio-Canada still relevant to our society?

To any francophone, the answer is obvious. The cradle of French-speaking North America needs a strong public broadcaster working actively with other industry players to continue providing content to francophone audiences that tells their stories, while conveying values and perspectives that resonate with them. That is the vision I espoused yesterday in my address to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

The upheavals our industry has been experiencing for years now are weakening our collective ability to produce and finance original content in French. And in media, original content is the name of the game.

What is Radio-Canada doing in this context? Last December, we introduced a series of measures to help increase the worldwide reach and reputation of made-in-Canada content in French, including a $2.5 million investment to support project development for the international market. We also began negotiations aimed at opening up ICI TOU.TV to other broadcasters, producers and creators, to implement an unparalleled French-language video-on-demand content offering. Our goal is for ICI TOU.TV to become the benchmark when it comes to francophone video content in Canada.

It is in our collective interest – we at Bell, Quebecor, Groupe V Média, Télé-Québec and Radio-Canada – to pool our strengths if we are to compete with the major international players and ensure that francophones continue to recognize their voices, their stories and themselves in the content they consume. Safeguarding our language and culture is our shared responsibility.

Radio-Canada must also continue to effectively play its vital role in French-speaking communities. To do so, it must have impact. That is why, in the years to come, we must maintain our commitment to innovation and renewal. In the coming months, we will continue to expand the ICI TOU.TV content offering. We will expand our digital presence with news and information that is more credible and meaningful than ever. On radio, we will keep working to enrich our original program offering and remain a leader in French-language audio content. Lastly, we will feature even more engaging, relevant and inclusive original content on all of our platforms.

With the new Maison de Radio-Canada, set to open in 2020, we will remain a key economic engine for Montreal, a city known for its creativity and innovation. This new broadcast centre will be an open, modern and welcoming space, a reflection of the Radio-Canada we are building for the future and an exceptional meeting place for the community, creators and our programmers.

The coming weeks and months will be rich in opportunities to continue the conversation about Radio-Canada’s mandate and obligations. Each of them will be a chance for us to explain how we intend to deliver on our mandate to inform, enlighten and entertain in the digital age.

Fifteen months ago, I arrived at CBC/Radio-Canada French Services with the firm belief that our public broadcaster is more relevant than ever, and that belief has only grown stronger since then. We must continue working to ensure that Canadians see themselves reflected in their public broadcaster. We must also work with our peers in the industry to ensure that French-speaking Canadian voices and stories continue to be seen and heard on the international media landscape.

Michel Bissonnette
Executive Vice-President, Radio-Canada

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