During the Annual Public Meeting, senior executives of CBC/Radio-Canada reviewed highlights of 2010–2011 and provided an overview of the Corporation's direction for the current fiscal year and for the future. The meeting also provided an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about the mandate and operations of CBC/Radio-Canada.
To mark the national public broadcaster's 75th anniversary, this year's event included a presentation by Foreign Correspondents, on the role they play as the eyes and ears of Canadians abroad.
Streamed live from the Canadian War Museum, Canadians were invited to join the meeting by webcast and ask their questions to the President and CEO, Chair of the Board, Chief Financial Officer and Foreign Correspondents.
Chair, Board of Directors
Hubert T. Lacroix
President & CEO
Vice-President, Chief Financial Officer
Frequently Asked Questions
1. You have recently opened a few stations. Do you have any other plans to open stations outside major urban centres?
More than 6 million Canadians live in a large centre (50,000+ pop.) that is either not served or underserved by local CBC service. Our five-year strategy 2015: Everyone, Every way aims to close this gap, by reaching six million more Canadians through new or expanded local services across the country. We have already announced expansions in a number of communities across the country. You can see our progress report here.
2. In your new strategy, 2015: Everyone, Every way, you talk about investing more in digital platforms. Can you tell me what role radio and television will play in your future program offering?
While new media is taking the world by storm and Canadians are its most active users, television remains the most pervasive medium of mass culture, and radio still has the broadest reach.
Be assured that radio and television remain key platforms for CBC/Radio-Canada. Of course, Canadians are increasingly asking for content how and when they want it on a variety of other platforms and it's our goal to meet this demand by providing content on these digital platforms.
We're committed to doubling our current level of digital investment to at least five per cent of programming budget by 2015. This increased investment in digital is not meant to replace radio and television, but rather to complement these platforms and extend the reach of the kinds of high-quality, engaging, Canadian content that only the national public broadcaster can deliver. For example, our radio shows like The Debaters and Q can be seen on television or the web, and our television shows like Tout le monde en parle or Heartland can be viewed online.
3. Does Radio-Canada have plans to launch new specialty channels devoted to sports or science?
Radio-Canada has announced the launch of EXPLORA, a new French-language specialty service dedicated to science, health, nature and the environment. However, Radio-Canada has no immediate plans to launch a specialty channel devoted to sports.
4. More and more Canadians speak other languages than English and French. How will you reflect the increasing diversity of our country?
Diversity is a priority at CBC/Radio-Canada. This means we have a responsibility to reflect not only the diversity of the country and its regions in our programming, but also the country's multicultural and multiracial nature. It's important that all Canadians be able to recognize themselves on-air, and that our programs reflect the changing face of Canada on all platforms.
To reflect the Canadian population, CBC/Radio-Canada broadcasts in English, French and eight aboriginal languages. We will soon broadcast Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi again and in Inuktitut, too.
As the national public broadcaster, we have established partnerships with organizations like Comité d'adaptation de la main-d'œuvre (CAMO), Toronto Immigrant Resource Council (TRIEC), the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, Talent Oyster, etc. CBC/Radio-Canada also celebrates diversity events, like Black History Month, Canadian Multiculturalism Day, Women's History Month, International Day for Persons with Disabilities.
And, as we're continually striving to better reflect the diversity of the country, we've put in place a diversity governance model, supported by committees from the senior executive level and both networks (CBC and Radio-Canada) as well as from Corporate Services and our unions.
5. What stories does CBC tell that private broadcasters in Canada can't or won't? Is it in the national public broadcaster's mandate to broadcast reality shows?
CBC is the home of Canadian story-telling across all of our platforms. Shows like Republic Of Doyle, Heartland, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, InSecurity and the upcoming Arctic Air are examples of CBC reflecting modern life in Canada back to Canadians. CBC Television is the only Canadian conventional broadcaster that offers an overwhelmingly Canadian schedule during prime time, when most Canadians are watching. Our original programming has been achieving excellent results. For example, in 2010-2011, Dragons’ Den, Battle of the Blades, Rick Mercer Report and Republic of Doyle, each reached more than one million viewers per episode.
Factual entertainment or “reality shows” are a popular and effective way to meet one of the cornerstones of CBC/Radio-Canada’s mandate – to expand our awareness of the Canadian experience. These shows are meant to entertain, but, at times can also help Canadians better understand important issues facing our nation. For example, Village on a Diet not only introduced Canada to the town of Taylor, British Columbia, but also encouraged Canadians to eat and live better. Ils dansent provides young dancers in Quebec with the opportunity to learn a variety of styles of dance, while showcasing the best of Quebec music and the city of Montreal.
6. When are you going to air 100 percent Canadian programming as promised in your new strategy, Everyone, Every way?
In our five-year strategy, we've promised that on television, we would strive for overwhelmingly Canadian content. We have not, however, promised to eliminate foreign programming from CBC Television and Télévision de Radio-Canada. CBC Television will continue its commitment to high production-value Canadian drama and original Canadian series, and put more drama, comedy and factual programming on CBC.ca. Télévision de Radio-Canada will continue its tradition of high-impact, high production value drama series.
We're already making great strides towards offering overwhelmingly Canadian content. CBC is currently at 82% Canadian content on our prime-time television schedule (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.), and will be over 90% Canadian content starting in Fall 2012.
Télévision de Radio-Canada is strongly committed to Canadian content as well. Radio-Canada is currently at 88% Canadian content on our prime-time television schedule (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.).
7. Why doesn't CBC benchmark itself against other public broadcasters to prove its value?
CBC/Radio-Canada has an obligation to be accountable to Canadians, which we take very seriously. To evaluate progress in implementing 2015: Everyone, Every way, we have developed metrics to track and assess our performance by service and genre. We publish these performance measures in our Annual Report and Quarterly Financial Reports on our corporate website for the public to access. However, there is no obligation for the Corporation to use some form of benchmarking to compare itself with other public broadcasters worldwide, such as the BBC in the United Kingdom and PBS in the United States.
In fact, this kind of benchmarking would be difficult to implement since funding, number of broadcasting languages, geography, demographics, licences, mandates and charts vary enormously among public broadcasters. For example, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only national public broadcaster to offer its services in two official languages and eight aboriginal languages, and across six time zones.
In spite of these discrepancies, we were interested in knowing how we are positioned in terms of funding in comparison with other national public broadcasters, so we commissioned a study by the Nordicity Group. The study showed that Canada was ranked 15th among 18 major Western countries for amount of public funding for its national public broadcaster. At $34 per Canadian per year ($1.1 billion in total), public funding was, in fact, less than one half of the $78 per capita average among those 18 countries. Nordicity also concluded that Canada's socio-cultural environment is likely to benefit from public broadcasting.
You can learn more about the Nordicity study here.
8. Does the CBC have a political agenda? Why are you veering away from quality news programming?
CBC/Radio-Canada is fully committed to maintaining accuracy, integrity and fairness in its journalism. Please note that we abide by CBC/Radio-Canada's Journalistic Standards and Practices, which are among the most comprehensive guidelines for journalistic ethics, created to ensure that citizens can rely on credible, high-quality information from CBC/Radio-Canada. We also engage Ombudsmen – one for English Services and one for French Services – which act as an appeal authority for complaints about any perceived violation of these Journalistic Standards and Practices.
In 2009, we implemented the biggest change in history for CBC News. We did extensive research to see what Canadians wanted from a news provider and from CBC News. We looked at what other broadcasters were doing and considered new and evolving technologies. And we surveyed both those who use our services and those who don't. Among other things, you told us that you wanted the news to be more relevant to your life. You also told us to be less formal and less detached in how we present the news. You can find out more here.
9. Why are you taking the government to task by refusing to release documents under the Access to Information Act? How can you say that you are committed to transparency and accountability?
Despite what our critics may claim, we did not in any way fight or dispute our obligations under the Access to Information Act. We take our responsibilities very seriously and have released more than 84,000 pages of information since becoming subject to the legislation in 2007.
The subject of the legal case with the information commissioner was about a very specific issue: Section 68.1 of the Act, which excludes “journalistic, programming, and creative activities” from the Act. Section 68.1 was established by Parliament to protect the Corporation’s independence. That independence is fundamental to our role and responsibilities as the public broadcaster.
On November 23, the Federal Court of Appeal ruling clearly upheld the absolute nature of the exclusion covering journalistic sources, with this type of information falling outside the Commissioner’s power of examination. We are satisfied with this ruling and will not appeal it.
You can learn more about CBC/Radio-Canada’s commitment to transparency and accountability here.
10. How can you justify spending taxpayers money to take the Information Commissioner to court?
We, and the Information Commissioner, were in the process of clarifying the rules around section 68.1. This was the proper thing to do. In fact, Government departments and Ministers have gone to court more than 180 times with the Information Commissioner to clarify ATI issues.
11. Are CBC/Radio-Canada and Quebecor at war?
For well over a year, Quebecor has generated hundreds of articles, columns, and programs, in French and in English, on television and in print. When it comes to Access to Information, Quebecor – by its own public admission – is responsible for about 1000 of the 1490 requests we've received so far.
That flood created a backlog which had a long-term impact on the Corporation's ability to respond effectively to requests. Quebecor news organizations then systematically attacked CBC/Radio-Canada on the issue of backlogs.
Canadians are entitled to a debate about their public broadcaster – we invite it and encourage it – but it is imperative that the debate be founded in fact. All broadcasters receive public funds and benefits to provide services. Quebecor has acknowledged as much. This is useful context which seldom appears during their coverage of CBC/Radio-Canada.
You can learn more about our response to media reports pertaining to the Corporation, which we believe to be out-of-context, inaccurate and/or incomplete, here.
12. What are you planning to do to improve services to French-speaking communities outside of Quebec?
We are aware of the importance of reflecting and offering services to francophone communities outside Quebec. In 2009−2010, we tried to limit the impact of budget cuts on francophone communities: over 85% of the cuts to French Services were absorbed by the national network programming, with regional stations absorbing only 15% of the reductions.
Francophone communities in minority settings are a priority for the Corporation and we remain committed to offering the best services possible.
For more information on our five-year strategy, click here.
13. What are your plans for markets such as London, which are not covered by your DTV plan?
CBC/Radio-Canada has installed a digital transmitter for every one of its television stations, for a total of 27 transmitters (14 for CBC and 13 for Radio-Canada). In addition to its new digital transmitters, the Corporation will continue to offer analogue service everywhere it is permitted to.
The CRTC had designated London, Ontario, as a mandatory market, where as of September 1, 2011, all over-the-air television broadcasts must be in digital. However, CBC/Radio-Canada does not have French- or English-language television stations in London so it did not have a digital transmitter installed.
Earlier this year, we successfully applied to the CRTC to allow us to continue operating our analogue re-broadcast transmitters in the London area for a limited period past the September 1, 2011, digital deadline. This means that, for the immediate, London audiences will be able to receive over-the-air television analogue signals.
For more information on our DTV plan, click here.