CBC/Radio-Canada held its first Annual Public Meeting on September 23, 2009 — online. Internet users from across Canada were able to find out more about the national public broadcaster, and to submit their questions live.
Tim W. Casgrain, Chair of the Board of Directors; Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO; and Suzanne Morris, Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, reviewed the highlights of 2008–2009 and provided an overview of the Corporation’s strategic direction for the current fiscal year and for the future.
“If the last year made one thing clear, it’s that serious financial challenges are the reality for CBC/Radio-Canada and that we have no choice but to adapt,” said Tim W. Casgrain, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Our success rests on reaching more Canadians in more ways than ever before, with content they want, and indeed need. It’s what we focused on preserving last year, and it’s what we’re committed to safeguarding in the future. It’s what Canadians expect, and its what they deserve.”
The Annual Public Meeting allowed the Corporation to forge closer ties with the public, to show greater transparency in its management of public funds, and to reaffirm its commitment to serving Canadians.
Hubert T. Lacroix declared, “All CBC/Radio-Canada’s services, on television, radio and the Internet, in English and French, cost only $34 per year per Canadian — which translates into less than 10 cents a day. Our Annual Public Meeting has allowed us to show our shareholders the wide range of services they receive for that amount, and to listen to their comments and ideas.”
Archives of the meeting webcast are available online: English with simultaneous interpretation or original webcast. Answers to the most frequently asked questions will be posted at this address shortly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because CBC/Radio-Canada's annual public meeting last 60 minutes, we were not able to answer all questions submitted online.
In this section, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions on September 23, 2009.
1. With the recent drop in advertising revenues, and the fact that some governments worldwide have chosen to fund their public broadcasters without advertising, will CBC/Radio-Canada eliminate advertising on its networks? Will CBC/Radio-Canada accept audience donations in future? And are you telling people about the public broadcaster’s financial situation?
The funding model for the public broadcaster is not for CBC/Radio-Canada to decide on its own. Successive governments since the advent of television have encouraged the Corporation to look to commercial revenue, primarily advertising, rather than turn to Government, in times of need.
That being the case, even if we wanted to, we could not eliminate advertising at this time, and continue to fulfill our mandate as set out in the Broadcasting Act. Advertising revenues are essential to the creation of original high-quality Canadian programming and to the maintenance of our geographic reach. Before the economic downturn, advertising brought in about $340 million to the Corporation’s budget yearly. Given the Government's expectation that CBC/Radio-Canada will itself raise a considerable portion of its programming budget, and that the public broadcaster will continue to serve Canadians at the same or at an expanded level of service, it is impossible for us to consider eliminating advertising on our airwaves.
It is interesting to note that per capita funding for CBC/Radio-Canada falls 15th out of the funding measured for public broadcasters in 18 major Western countries (Nordicity Group Ltd., January 2009). In contrast, BBC receives $124 per person, and France $65 (soon to be $77) for operating in one language and one time zone; while CBC/Radio-Canada has an allocation of only $34 per citizen for services in two official languages across six time zones.
As for donations from our audiences, unlike PBS in the United States, we are not permitted to raise funds from members of the public and therefore cannot accept offers of donations.
Concerning the need to spread the word about our financial situation, since beginning his job in January 2008, the President has been speaking to Government representatives, various stakeholders, groups and individuals, as well as Parliamentary Committees and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). We are also in regular communication with the Department of Canadian Heritage and its Minister, Mr. James Moore. The message is also contained in our annual reports and other public documents, and in speeches delivered by the President, explaining that the business model in which conventional broadcasters operate is broken and that CBC/Radio-Canada needs multi-year funding, better management tools and a line of credit in order to continue to provide high-quality programming to Canadians. We invite you to view our annual reports online , and the President’s speeches.
2. During programs on CBC/Radio-Canada, we hear announcements promoting other CBC/Radio-Canada programs. Not everyone likes these disruptions. Will you be continuing them?
We know that our audiences have an interest in the range of programming that we offer, and believe that our on-air "cross promotions" are an effective way of letting people know about upcoming programs. At the same time, we are careful not to overload our audiences with these announcements. Since we think that informing the public about upcoming programs is important, we will continue to use announcements appropriately.
3. How are audiences liking the new CBC Radio 2 programming?
CBC Radio 2’s new programming is receiving a very positive reaction. It is true that we have lost some listeners whose only interest is in hearing classical music, but this was not unexpected to us as we opened up our programming to the broader range of music being created in Canada. On the other hand, we have gained listeners who have an appetite for different kinds of music and we are greatly encouraged by the responses that we have had to the new programs.
Audience trends show growth throughout the day, and audiences for our redeveloped classical shows are higher than they have ever been.
4. How is CBC/Radio-Canada representing diversity on its airwaves? How are you ensuring that diverse points of view are heard?
For CBC/Radio-Canada, diversity in hiring and programming is a priority. For many years, the Corporation has had a diversity strategy focused on the increased representation of visible minorities, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, and women, in both our workforce and our programming. Recently, we have expanded our approach towards diversity to include more areas of our operations, and we are in the process of developing a strategic diversity action plan for the coming years.
On the television side, we expect independent television producers to submit a diversity plan for programs in development and production with us. Our radio services have been tracking the diversity of their staff and programming for several years, and have been leaders in "strategically hiring" diversity. New methodologies are being developed to monitor the on-air diversity of our news programming as well.
Also, as part of our CRTC compliance each year, we provide the CRTC with a report that demonstrates our regional reflection and the reflection of the four equity-seeking groups: visible minorities, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, and women. This year, new guidelines will be piloted for collecting this information to improve the measurement of our reflection of diversity from year-to-year.
Concerning the presentation of diverse points of view on our airwaves, this is something that CBC/Radio-Canada works hard to achieve on all of its media lines everyday. We ensure that we continually update and enlarge our bank of experts and analysts in order to represent varying opinions, including those that may be underrepresented, from different groups and regions.
To ensure that we will continue to present different points of view, in January 2009, we launched a study to evaluate the breadth and depth of our news coverage. Undertaken externally, this study will also gauge Canadians’ expectations of the public broadcaster’s news services. In order to reflect the reality of its specific markets, CBC/Radio-Canada will conduct two distinct examinations, with the same objectives, focusing on its English- and French-language news coverage. The study will build on CBC/Radio-Canada’s existing journalistic accountability measures, which include a published set of Journalistic Standards and Practices and the services of two ombudsmen to deal with issues of accuracy, integrity and fairness.
We will use the information gained from this study to continue our efforts to remain the most credible news source in the country and a standard for broadcast journalism everywhere. We will also make the results available.
CBC/Radio-Canada has also undertaken independent evaluations of its coverage of the 2008 Federal Election. Results of these evaluations are available to the public. The report on CBC News coverage, prepared by ERIN Research, is available online. The report on Radio-Canada coverage, produced by the Centre d’étude sur les medias, is also available online.
5. How will CBC/Radio-Canada continue to service smaller communities when it is cutting staff and programs during the current financial situation?
It is true that we have cut 800 jobs this year, but we have worked very hard and have preserved our geographic footprint across the country. Being deeply rooted in the regions is one of our key priorities. While private broadcasters are leaving the regions, we are remaining there and looking for ways to enhance our services whenever possible, even in this difficult fiscal climate.
The Government’s recently announced Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) will help us to maintain and enhance our services in smaller communities.
As for local television in Canada, which is a very topical issue, its future will be addressed this fall before the CRTC. CBC/Radio-Canada is arguing to negotiate fair value for our signals from cable and satellite providers, companies that have carried our signals for years without remuneration but while charging customers for those signals. Granting value-for-signal would bring in revenue to help us maintain local television services in those communities.
6. How will you make sure that your Internet services are the best in the country?
During 2008-2009, CBC.ca was again Canada’s most popular English-language news and media site, with 4.8 million unique visitors per month (comScore). CBC.ca averaged approximately 750,000 weekly streams ― 575,000 video and 175,000 audio. Over 280,000 registered members posted a total of over 1.9 million comments ― a monthly average of 260,000 with a single-day record of 16,000 posts. On an average workday, 4,800 individual users participated. There were also over 2.1 million “recommends” related to posted comments.
Radio-Canada.ca is the second most-visited French-language media site, drawing a monthly average of 968,000 francophone visitors (comScore). Demand for the site’s audio/video content grew substantially in 2008-2009, with total visits rising by approximately 35 per cent in one year.
We intend to not only maintain but also enhance our leadership role in the Internet sphere by continuing to integrate our media operations as we move become, more and more, a content company that produces content for all platforms and the leader in reaching Canadians on all platforms.
Even though we have had to cut jobs this year, we have maintained our strategic investments in new technologies in order to be able to continue to adapt to the changing technological context and the demands of our audiences.