Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today to talk about my appointment as President and CEO to CBC/Radio-Canada.
In less than a month, I will begin what I think is one of the most fascinating jobs in Canada—leading one our country's largest cultural institutions. It will be a great honour for me to take on this job, and please understand that I am very aware of its responsibilities and that I am ready to take them on.
Radio and television—and increasingly the Internet—are today the principal vehicles of culture in our society, and some of the best tools that we have to reach out to all Canadians. I believe that CBC/Radio-Canada is the most effective disseminator and promoter of Canadian culture that we have.
Given all the cultural influences coming from other countries, Canadians must be able to count on a strong and independent national public broadcaster which reflects their reality and their identity.
You have my résumé in front of you, I am sure. As you can see, I've been a business lawyer for many years. I was fortunate to be exposed to and to advise some of the best business persons in Canada, people who ran multinational corporations, whose activities extended way beyond the borders of our country.
I've also had the privilege of acting as a director of public companies. Since my first board with CircoCraft in 1984, I have sat on the boards of 10 public companies, in various roles. I have also led and managed a large multi-investment private holding company. At Télémédia, I oversaw the operations of 14 different companies in radio, publishing, indoor advertising, real estate, semiconductor chips, and wireless services.
I have thus helped companies, both private and public, navigate through and compete successfully in rapidly changing business environments. I have seen patterns, threats, and challenges. I have moved management teams to face those threats, and often see them as opportunities. I have built teams. I have led teams of individuals with great abilities.
These are the skills today that I bring to our public broadcaster.
But, Mr. Chairman, my job is not to create programs. As I am sure you are aware, Richard Stursberg and Sylvain Lafrance are responsible at CBC/Radio-Canada for leading very talented teams of programmers working throughout the Corporation.
I believe that my job is to direct and manage; to develop an environment where our employees can be as creative as possible. My job is to understand the media industry; to identify new trends; to be familiar with how programming is being consumed and financed; to pursue strategic alliances; and to find new sources of income. If I do that successfully, the Corporation will have the tools and motivation to continue making programming that is relevant and compelling.
Like most Canadians, I have lived my whole life with CBC/Radio-Canada. I grew up with Bobino et Bobinette; then a few minutes of La Boîte à Surprise before my mother kicked me upstairs to do my homework.
I also followed hockey religiously and got to understand and appreciate the game through the eyes and voices of Danny Gallivan, Dick Irvin and René Lecavalier. When I was older, The National, Le téléjournal and Le Point became my key sources of information.
And then later on, Ross Porter introduced me to jazz and turned me into a fan.
Later, when I actually worked for Radio-Canada—as a basketball commentator on Télévision de Radio-Canada for three Olympics and as a reporter for the weekly program, Hebdo-sports, on Radio de Radio-Canada—I came to admire the dedication of the people at this Corporation.
Each person on the team, from those who put up the sets to the technicians in the studio, to the producers, to the people on air, every one and all of them were always committed to excellence, to creating the best show possible every time, all the time. I really liked that attitude.
When I was deciding whether to accept this job, I met with a couple of CBC/Radio-Canada senior executives and with the chairman of the board. I saw again that same incredible passion for excellence that I had seen in the studio. I've heard more of it over the past weeks as I've travelled a bit and talked with employees of the corporation. I've been listening to their views and their ideas about the challenges that lie ahead. My intention is pursue this dialogue with employees, stakeholders, and key business leaders across the country to better understand how they view CBC/Radio-Canada so that I can accomplish my mandate with maximum effectiveness and momentum.
I am very aware of your commitment to Canadian culture and your ongoing interest in CBC/Radio-Canada, including your current review of its mandate. That's why I am very much looking forward to your report, which will give added substance and direction to my mandate. I'm also eager to meet with you often during my term to hear what you think of the job we are doing.
I understand also that CBC/Radio-Canada is above all a creative organization. It must take risks and evolve continuously, and it has obviously a special role to play in the life of this country. But like any large corporation, it also has to take care of its employees, balance its budget, finance its programming, and deliver value to Canadians.
In this job, I will always ask the tough questions: Does this fit into our mandate? What are our strengths? What can we do better? Are people watching? Are people listening? Are people using our services? If so, why? If not, why not? And is what we are doing adding value to CBC/Radio-Canada?
I believe that in order for CBC/Radio-Canada to fulfil its mandate, there must be great creativity and good management—never one at the expense of the other.
Like me, you know that there are tremendous changes transforming the broadcasting environment right now. To succeed in this context, CBC/Radio-Canada must continue to be creative and must employ audacious strategies.
My skills, together with the tremendous talents of the management team that Robert Rabinovitch brought together, and thanks to the devotion of the Corporation's employees, will help ensure that the national public broadcaster thrives in this new environment.
Mr. Chairman, I would be pleased now to answer any questions you might have.
Let's go with the question with respect to the challenges before the CBC, and then I'll tell you how I think management techniques, or what I've done before, can help.
A few minutes ago, I think the first question somebody asked me was what risks I saw right now in the environment that Radio-Canada is playing in. I think I'll come back to those, because they are very, very key.
Radio-Canada is facing a consolidation in the industry. Right now five or six consolidated companies, or five or six families, are ruining.... No, not ruining, but ruling.... Sorry. Wow!
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Hubert T. Lacroix: This could come back and haunt me!
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Hubert T. Lacroix: They are ruling the media and the broadcast industry. That is a fact. They are powerful now and have brands and services that extend way beyond only one aspect of what they do.
We're talking about the principle of convergence here.
I mean, everybody now has picked it up and is doing that, and Radio-Canada is also. But it doesn't have the financial means to fight against these companies on a daily basis, so it has to be very strategic. It has an important mandate in the law. It has to provide wide services to a whole bunch of people across the country on different platforms. That's a challenge. The environment in which it plays also plays to a different public. We talked about that a few minutes ago. That's changing also.
I think those are the key challenges. I'll come back to them, and I'll say those again, because I think they're top of mind to me right now.
With respect to management techniques, I really believe in teams. I'm adding my skills to a very strong team. Robert Rabinovitch did this well. People right now--and pardon my clichés, because I'm a sports person, and yes, I have been affected by sports--are very deep at all positions. It's a very good management team, so I'm not doing this by myself. I'm going to work with this team, and because I've been in teams all my life, and I've been a coach all my life, I think this fits well.
Thank you very much. Welcome.
It's not easy to sit here with a whole bunch of people throwing questions at you all the time.
I wanted to focus on a couple of things you actually did say in your presentation. You said that you do not see it as your job to interfere in programming, but to manage and to direct. Obviously you see it as more than simply managing; you see it as directing. In order to direct, therefore, you must have a vision, so I wanted to ask you about that vision.
We heard that the CBC faces some huge challenges. One is infrastructure, and that includes transmitters for CBC radio to have a broader reach into the regions. That ties into the second challenge, which is regionalism. How does the CBC represent the regions effectively? To do that ties into your second point, which was about revenue. These all depend on each other--the ability to be regional, the ability to have that reach, the ability to face the infrastructure problems with regard to digitalization and transmitters, etc. Those all require funds.
You talked about alliances, and alliances always come with a string. No alliance comes along and says, “Here we are, we're just going to do good.” Do you believe that alliances would threaten CBC's autonomy, mandate, etc.? Do you see further commercialization of CBC in order to give it the revenue it needs devaluing or enhancing CBC's mandate? That's a question you have to ask as you seek alliances and as you seek money.
Finally, with regard to regionalization, how do you see regionalization occurring with the current fiscal structure at the moment? You talked about multiculturalism, but you talked about not interfering in programming. How do you see CBC being relevant to the multicultural nature of this country without dealing with the programming aspects of it?
I know there are about three questions I asked you in that.
You mentioned a lot of terms, like sound financial management, the importance of competition, the importance of creativity, and so on. To some extent, these are all buzzwords. I'm sure you've said that the people at CBC/Radio-Canada are extremely creative and competent, but I would imagine you would have thought the same of people at Télémédia and the people at Transcontinental, and so on.
Could you elaborate a bit on the difference, in terms of vision, in terms of corporate culture, between companies like private sector companies that focus on market share almost exclusively and CBC?
Going back to a point someone else raised, you say you're going to apply the private sector business practices and models and criteria and so on to the CBC, but then, and I'm glad you went in this direction afterwards.... When you spoke of your vision, you talked about how the CBC is different; it has a mandate to present alternative points of view, I think you said.
How are you going to grapple with that contradiction? The CBC, yes, has to be run like a good business, but it's not a business; it's a public broadcaster, it's a vehicle of democracy. So how are you going to manage that tension?
I understand this is a different environment in terms of culture, and I want to come back to culture, if I can. This was an issue that was raised a few seconds ago.
Yes, I have a sports background, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the opera. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy arts, that I don't read, or that I don't do more. Culture, for me, is all of these experiences together. It can't be narrowly defined, and that's what Radio-Canada, if we understand CBC/Radio-Canada, does not do. It's not narrowly defining culture.
We have a political culture, a business culture, an immigrant culture. Culture is more than simply one stratum of society. That's why CBC/Radio-Canada plays a very important role in bringing all of these cultures into the same spot and making sure that we, as Canadians, can look at this and weave this into a single Canadian identity. This is what culture is all about.
In some ways, when I look at the challenges I have, this is why I want to come in and listen and it's what I want to understand. I want to understand the culture in which I'm working, and I want to understand what culture means to CBC/Radio-Canada on a daily basis, so that my skills can actually be well used. I am not going to come in with a revolution in mind. I need to understand the environment I'm in before I can start managing it.
In fact, I have two converging questions—the pun is intended. There is an overall budget for the Corporation. The CBC has its share and Radio-Canada as well. I saw that Radio-Canada got less money than the CBC and that, paradoxically, the CBC had lower ratings than Radio-Canada because, whether we like it or not, it's an English-language broadcaster, and people outside Quebec tend more to watch American programs than those of the CBC, necessarily.
Do you think that we should base budgets on ratings instead? Since Radio-Canada has higher ratings, it should have more money to do more things, on the one hand.
On the other hand, as you know, the Government of Canada has recognized that Quebec forms a nation. As you surely also know, we don't talk about multiculturalism in Quebec, but rather about interculturalism. We don't talk about bilingualism, but rather about French and the French fact.
Are you considering, for example, taking this specific characteristic of Quebec into account, even though Radio-Canada isn't just watched in Quebec, but also by Francophones outside Quebec?
Do you think it's important that the French side of the Corporation be able to reflect what Canada has just recognized, that is to say that Quebec forms a nation and that its people is different from that of Canada?
Thank you very much. I appreciate everyone's concerns; they were good questions.
And thank you very much, sir, for your good answers. I think you were very candid and open with us here today.
Here is one thing before we recess for a short time, because we will want to bring a motion forward.
I have to relay that when our committee was in Yellowknife and we had a town hall meeting in the legislature and went through the various delegations and people who were on the order paper—I think we were two and a half or almost three hours—what I did was open it up to the rest of the people who had been in the hall that evening. There was a gentleman at the back who had not participated in the events that evening, but he made one statement. He stood up and....
The reason I'm bringing this up is that in your presentation you say, “When I was older, The National, Le téléjournal, and Le point became my key sources of information. And then, later on, Ross Porter introduced me to jazz.”
This particular gentleman at the back said he didn't like jazz—the two hours.
I have to say that I fully love the broad perspective CBC has, and I think that for those who like jazz, it's great. But I had to get that gentleman's word forward in order to say that I'm quite sure that was the only thing in CBC he didn't like: the two hours that was jazz time.