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Time for Change:
The CBC/Radio-Canada in the Twenty-first Century

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Photos of the following items: an Ipad, an Iphone, a laptop computer, a satellite, a television and a video camera

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The Report

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Executive Summary

Over the past several decades, the communications landscape has experienced explosive growth in the number of channels, radio stations and other sources available, the convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications enterprises, and the introduction of Internet-based video and audio. In this highly fragmented landscape, the CBC/Radio-Canada’s role becomes less clear. In December 2013, the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications received an Order of Reference to examine the challenges facing the CBC/Radio-Canada in the changing broadcasting and communications environment.

Over the course of more than 40 hearings, site visits, and fact-finding missions, the committee met with numerous witnesses and stakeholders, who provided insight into this complex subject. This report reflects what the committee learned and provides recommendations for both the public broadcaster and the government to address some of these challenges.

Historically, the CBC/Radio-Canada provided national broadcasting services to help address gaps in the market caused by Canada’s proximity to the United States, the use of two official languages, and the vast geography of the country.

Given that the Broadcasting Act was last revised in the pre-smartphone, pre-multi-platform era of 1991, the committee believes strongly that the Act must be modernized. This would reflect the realities of providing public broadcasting services in the new world of Netflix, iTunes and YouTube and other sources of information and entertainment. Additionally, the CBC/Radio-Canada must ensure its services reflect all regions of Canada to all Canadians.

From the outset, the committee learned that if the public broadcaster is to adapt to this new world, it will need to examine and modify its governance structure, business practices, and the ways in which it manages the organization.

There was much discussion about how to fund the CBC/Radio-Canada. The committee understands the complexity of this particular issue, but is also concerned about ensuring value-for-money for Canadians. As such, this report includes several recommendations for the CBC and the government, related to funding the national broadcaster, and various approaches for consideration.

Ultimately, viewers will not tune in to any television or radio service if its programming is not appealing. CBC/Radio-Canada should focus its activities on those areas currently underserved by the private sector. The Corporation should ensure that its efforts lead to the airing of high quality programming, featuring Canadian achievements, participation and excellence in cinematography, drama, arts and sports.

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Recommendations

MANDATE

The committee recommends that:

Recommendation 1

The 1991 Broadcasting Act be modernized to reflect the current environment.

Recommendation 2

CBC/Radio-Canada’s mandate be amended to include increases in the presentation of Canadian history and Canadian film.

Recommendation 3

CBC/Radio-Canada ensure that its programming reflects all regions of Canada.

GOVERNANCE

The committee recommends that:

Recommendation 4

CBC/Radio-Canada’s Board of Directors appoint and manage the president and CEO.

Recommendation 5

CBC/Radio-Canada appear before and report annually to the appropriate committees of both Houses of Parliament.

Recommendation 6

CBC/Radio-Canada be more transparent in its operations, specifically with regard to the disclosure of financial information, procurement and contracts, and salaries; and it must make such disclosure easily accessible to the public.

Recommendation 7

The Corporation’s content be archived (CBC/Radio-Canada Library) to enable easy access by Canadians.

Recommendation 8

CBC/Radio-Canada divest itself of its current real estate holdings and lease facilities and office space required for its operations.

Recommendation 9

To the extent possible for efficiency and to minimize the CBC/Radio-Canada’s administrative burden, the Corporation’s management and administrative functions be consolidated to the current head office located in the National Capital Region, while ensuring the maintenance of an operational presence in each region of Canada for all anglophones and francophones on the English and French networks, and on other platforms. (The regions are: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia, and the North.)

Recommendation 10

As a public broadcaster, the CBC/Radio-Canada must be mindful of its use of public funds, and review all non-executive salaries and compensation to ensure they are in line with those for comparable positions with private broadcasters.

Recommendation 11

The Board of Directors of the CBC/Radio-Canada conduct a thorough review of all internal policies to reverse the trend of implementing effective policy only after serious incidents have occurred, and to ensure that such policies reflect a modern professional workplace.

Recommendation 12

The Board of Directors of the CBC/Radio Canada implement stringent restrictions on the external activities, including outside paid-employment, of all senior staff and on-air talent to prevent any possible conflicts of interest.

Recommendation 13

The Board of Directors of the CBC/Radio-Canada appoint an ombudsman for each of its official language services, provided that he or she is not a current or recent employee (within the previous 2 years) of the Corporation.

Recommendation 14

Both CBC/Radio-Canada Ombudsmen report to the Corporation’s Board of Directors to ensure accountability at all levels of the Corporation, including the Senior Executive Team.

FUNDING

The committee recommends that:

Recommendation 15

CBC/Radio-Canada, in consultation with the Government of Canada, explore alternative funding models and additional ways to generate revenue to minimize the Corporation’s dependence on government appropriations.

Recommendation 16

CBC/Radio-Canada examine the costs and the benefits of commercial advertising on both the English and French services.

Recommendation 17

A portion of the CBC/Radio-Canada’s funding be reallocated to an external “superfund” to help finance the creation of Canadian content, such as Canadian history and nature documentaries and high-quality comedy and drama, which could then be broadcast on CBC/Radio-Canada.

PROGRAMMING

The committee recommends that:

Recommendation 18

CBC/Radio-Canada focus on showing high-quality programs that are unlikely to be offered by commercial broadcasters.

Recommendation 19

CBC/Radio-Canada invest in and offer services in those areas where the Canadian public’s needs are underserved by the private sector. As a public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada needs to use its resources to complement what is offered to Canadians through other sources. 

Recommendation 20

CBC/Radio-Canada review how resources are allocated within the organization with respect to the amounts and proportion of total spending going to various programming genres.

Recommendation 21

CBC/Radio-Canada discontinue all in-house production of non-news and current affairs programming, and instead emphasize the broadcasting of performances by Canadian artists and cultural events, such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, the Edmonton Opera, and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

Recommendation 22

CBC/Radio-Canada air more amateur sporting events such as Canadian Interuniversity women’s and men’s sports, minor league sports, etc.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362

Email: trcm@sen.parl.gc.ca

Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A4
CANADA