Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 30 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Thursday, May 13, 1999

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 11:07 a.m. to hear the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in order to receive a briefing on their strategic plan.

Senator Marie-P. Poulin (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, a few weeks ago we received a request from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to appear before the Senate. As you know, the Senate as a whole decided to refer the presentation to our Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. It is interesting timing because we are reviewing Bill C-55, an act respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers.

The review of Bill C-55, which is referred to by the press as "the magazine bill," has given our committee the opportunity to hear from witnesses and stakeholders who have different interests in that magazine bill, as well as the opportunity to hold a public debate on cultural issues and employment within the sector.

As we hold this public debate on Canadian culture and on the diversity of Canadian culture, it is an honour to welcome the Chair of the Board of Directors and the CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

[Translation]

We welcome to the Transport and Communications Committee Ms Guylaine Saucier, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as Mr. Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the corporation.

Ms Guylaine Saucier, Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: We wish to thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the role of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as an instrument of cultural policy of this country and to explain the strategic directions we have taken.

As you mentioned, this is a crucial time for the survival of Canada's own distinct culture. The sheer volume and force of globalization, on an economic, technological and cultural level, is putting to test the mechanisms we have crafted to protect our cultural sovereignty.

More than ever before, we must be vigilant, and wisely use all of the tools at our disposal, or else we risk losing our identity, and our unique voice as a nation. Your understanding of this cultural ecology is essential if we are to make our Canadian voice carry into the next century.

The CBC - by any measure - is a cornerstone of our common culture, and we hope that our discussions here today will assist your understanding of the cultural landscape, and the role that the CBC will play in the years to come.

[English]

This discussion is also timely for other reasons. First, in less than a fortnight, the CRTC will begin hearings examining most of the CBC's licences. Second, the CBC has put forward a strategy plan that we believe will address, in part, the issue of cultural sovereignty and will allow the corporation to fulfil its mandate. Third, the World Trade Organization is flashing warning signs that many of the tools that Canada has used in the past to promote and protect cultural sovereignty may not survive in the future. If and when protection mechanisms are removed, the CBC, as Canada's public broadcaster, may remain the last bastion for the promotion of Canadian culture.

Let us look at the role the CBC plays.

[Translation]

In the early days the CBC was created as a bulwark against American expansionism. Like the birth of this country, the CBC was an act of public will, created not to respond to market needs but to serve as a force to knit people together.

So how, may you ask, does the CBC contribute as prime instrument in fulfilling cultural policy?

The first tenet in the range of policies which shapes our cultural landscape is to enhance pride in Canada.

Many other institutions contribute to this objective and the CBC claims no monopoly here. But is there any single institution that has done more - consistently and over 60 years - to enhance pride in Canada than the CBC? The CBC stands as a beacon in times of crisis and in times of joy. By providing Canadians with familiar reference points, spanning regions, linking communities, regions and cultures, the CBC acts as a forum which allows us to share our values, and to foster greater understanding amongst ourselves.

[English]

Whether we are capturing Paul Henderson's winning goal in the Canada Cup in 1972, celebrating important national moments such as the creation of Nunavut, or rejoicing in the exploits of our Olympic athletes; whether we are serving witness to Canadians from across the country as they help their neighbours in the Manitoba or Saguenay floods, or using our technology to break through the isolation of families struggling to survive last year's ice storm, by telling these stories, by capturing these moments and bringing them into our living rooms, the CBC enhances the understanding of and pride in Canada. As an instrument of cultural policy, it is essential that the CBC act as a steward of our heritage.

The word "heritage" means many things to many people, but it certainly includes legendary entertainers such as Lorne Greene, Bruno Gerussi, Roger Baulu, Anne Murray and Louis Quilico. It also includes athletes like Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Frank Mahovlich, all brought into national consciousness by the CBC.

[Translation]

Heritage includes the political, social and economic upheavals that have defined us as a people - the Quiet revolution, the search for self-government by our indigenous peoples, the decline of the Newfoundland cod fishery, the rise of western populism. The CBC has been there to chronicle it all, to help Canadians understand, to be an integral part of our lives and our perception of the characters and events that form our heritage.

We produce programs private broadcasters would never consider - programs whose primary goal is to enhance our appreciation of our heritage. Only the CBC would bring to life Canada: a People's History, a 30-hour history series for prime time airing. Produced in English and French, such a project would be too ambitious and too risky for private sector broadcasters. Nor would the private sector provide a French-language radio service to every region of Canada, regardless of the size of market, or produce eight different regional news bulletins to serve French Canadians across the country, or maintain a northern service broadcasting in eight different aboriginal languages.

The independence of our news and information service, as guaranteed by the Broadcasting Act, strongly reinforces our rich heritage of freedom and democracy. This is an important thing to remember - especially when the dictates of journalistic independence occasionally generate tension with the government of the day.

Finally, to maintain our culture, identity and sense of self, it is imperative that we have access to Canadian voices and Canadian spaces.

That is the CBC. It is what we do every day. The CBC is the only broadcaster to serve all regions of Canada in both English and French, with radio, television and Internet services. But we take our responsibility to enrich our linguistic heritage one step further.

The CBC, whether on television or on radio, provides programming which is pan-Canadian. And in the future, it will provide an even greater reflection of all of Canada's regions.

[English]

The CBC is the only broadcaster with distribution and production facilities right across the country. No other broadcaster has the mandate, the infrastructure or the motive to reach all Canadians. No other broadcaster has devoted so many resources to ensuring that Canadians see a reflection of themselves and the rest of the world on their airwaves.

To recap, these are our objectives: to enhance pride in Canada, to act as stewards of Canada's heritage, and to ensure access to Canadian voices and Canadian spaces.

What other institutions help to define, reflect and give form to Canadian identity day in and day out from coast to coast to coast?

[Translation]

The conclusion is clear: if CBC and Radio-Canada did not exist, we would have to invent it. The good news is that Canadians have already made the investment in building the CBC over 60 years. We are an integral part of the fabric of Canadian culture and identity even as we work to enhance it. Without doubt, the CBC is a primary instrument in maintaining our identity and a precious resource for every Canadian.

[English]

Mr. Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Honourable senators, on a personal note, this is probably the last occasion I will have in my present capacity to appear before the committee.

I want to express a very personal word of thanks to you, Madam Chair, particularly because you are a distinguished CBC alumnus who has brought great honour and distinction to the corporation. We are very proud to see your career continuing.

I also wish to give a personal word of thanks to each of the committee members for their friendship and support for me personally and also for the corporation during my tenure as president.

Senators, I am delighted to have a chance to speak to you about a strategic plan that will, in my view, properly position the CBC to serve Canadian cultural objectives well into the next millennium.

I do not need to tell you of the changed environment which communications industries domestically and around the world face as the new millennium dawns. You are in the process of examining just that. However, I should like to briefly outline the changes that face the broadcast industry and the CBC as Canada's public broadcaster and most important cultural instrument.

Canadians are changing the ways in which they consume media. We have heard about the proliferation of choices, but, interestingly, Canadians spend about the same number of hours per week listening to the radio and watching television as they did 10 or even 20 years ago - about 20 hours per week each, respectively. The number of options available to them means that there is less time available for traditional or conventional services, as Canadians choose more and more to consume the media they want, when they want it and increasingly how they want it.

[Translation]

The days when Canadians could spend their 20 or so hours a week divided between two or three Canadian networks and three American ones are long gone.

The proliferation of specialty services and new distribution mechanisms has seen the decline in audience share of all conventional networks in Canada. Today, Canadian conventional services together garner about 50 per cent of the total audience share, the U.S. conventional services capture about 20 per cent and domestic and American specialty services - around 30 in all - now enjoy 30 per cent of the total audience share in Canada.

And, in addition, home subscription to the Internet increased from 13 per cent in 1997 to 23 per cent in 1998.

Given the additional household monthly expenditure of $20 or so for an Internet subscription, the rate at which Canadians are subscribing is a remarkable achievement. Cable TV never increased its penetration by more than 5 percentage points in a year in its early growth period.

So, how is the industry changing? And why should CBC want to change with it?

[English]

International communications industries are forming into constellations of services, often anchored on a traditional network and including distribution, entertainment, and other services. Disney and Time Warner are just two such international examples. Canada is following the same trend. Companies like CTV, CHUM Group and Videotron have developed beyond their core services and now have interest in several broadcast and distribution undertakings.

CBC has not followed the same trend. Of the 60 specialty licences granted by the CRTC since 1983, only two for Newsworld and RDI have been obtained by CBC, yet these are highly successful ventures.

When we combine this with the ratings our Canadian programs receive when stacked up against other Canadian programs, we know that Canadians turn to the CBC for high-quality Canadian programming. We simply want to be there whenever and however they want us, in the way they wish to consume media today. That is the basis of how we intend to be part of the new media environment of the year 2000 and beyond.

The plan that we have put forward to the CRTC is bold and ambitious in scope. It is through the fulfilment of 12 commitments that we will achieve our covenant with Canadians.

First, we will provide Canadian programming of interest to all, including sports programming, which is a significant part of Canada's heritage and also very much within the domain of our expertise. We will not become the broadcaster of choice only for Canada's elite, offering programming that interests only a small slice of Canadian society.

[Translation]

Second, we will ensure a pan-Canadian reflection in more of our programming. Mount Royal and the top of the CN tower are just not high enough to fully capture the essence of this vast country. For our cultural identity to survive, Canadians must see themselves reflected on their airwaves. Accordingly, we must also increase the number of new voices that represent our cultural diversity in order to provide a complete and vibrant picture of the country.

Third, we will strengthen our distinctive presence in the regions. For much of our audience across the country who do not have cable the CBC is their only source of Canadian information, Canadian reference points and entertainment.

[English]

Even today, when close to 80 per cent of Canadian households are cabled, 44 per cent of CBC television audiences are from households without cable, demonstrating how important the CBC is to Canadians who do not live in the larger, easy-to-serve markets.

Fourth, we will revitalize English television by continuing our very successful Canadianization campaign. It is starting to work. This year, nine out of the top ten Canadian series were shown on CBC's English television. An important weapon in the battle for a healthy and independent Canadian culture is our ability to ensure that all Canadians, but especially our children, understand their own history, values and institutions.

Fifth, we will provide Canada's premier news and information service. Indeed, our journalistic leadership and expertise are among the CBC's greatest strengths. We have over 800 journalists working from coast to coast and around the world, providing news services in English and in French.

[Translation]

Sixth, we will support French language and culture right across Canada. In a global communications environment increasingly dominated by the English language, this role for the CBC becomes even more imperative. For French Canadians living in minority situations, the CBC acts as a lifeline for the promotion of the French language and culture.

Seven, we will build bridges between French and English cultures and communities by intensifying our efforts to produce cross-cultural programming such as CBC Newsworld's and RDI's jointly produced Culture Shock/Culture-choc, English Radio's C'est la vie and Le Monde à l'envers on French radio.

[English]

Eighth, we will champion Canadian arts and culture. The CBC is Canada's electronic stage. Some of our brightest and most enduring Canadian stars emerged from CBC television and radio. With a renewed and revitalized mission, the CBC will continue to showcase our artists, writers, musicians and creative talent.

Ninth, we will develop a constellation of new services to better respond to Canadians. The CBC of tomorrow must be available to all Canadians wherever and whenever they choose to consume media. In this regard, our applications for new specialty television channels filed last year address very real gaps in our country's programming that need to be filled by a public broadcaster. For radio, we are proposing two new services.

[Translation]

Ten, we will play a leadership role in new media and new technology. There is not a shred of doubt that the CBC belongs - indeed, will thrive - in this swiftly growing arena. Without our presence, there is a real risk of Canadian voices being submerged.

Eleven, we will modernize our corporate culture so that it is more open to new opportunities, and resolutely turned to the future.

[English]

Twelfth and finally, we will provide a view of Canada abroad. The closer that the world draws upon us, the more important it becomes to provide a view of Canada beyond its borders. With the continued funding commitment that RCI received from the government, it is now secure in its ability to provide short-wave services around the world in seven languages. Our Internet services allow Canadians around the world to keep in touch with their country and region.

Honourable senators, these commitments will set the course for the CBC of tomorrow. They represent targets that are ambitious but within our grasp. I encourage you to consider the powerful instrument Canada has in the CBC to ensure the vitality of its culture here in Canada and around the world. The CBC is here to serve the cultural aspirations of all Canadians. Let us use it well.

The Chairman: You have both very correctly reminded us of the uniqueness of our public broadcaster in a country that is difficult to broadcast to because of our geography and distances.

[Translation]

Senator Roberge: Allow me to express my sympathy over the death of Marcel Pépin. In your presentation, you mentioned openness several times. Could you explain to us why, in 1999, there is still no transparency in the CBC with regards to making public employees' salaries as is done by most public corporations?

Ms Saucier: We are indeed a corporation funded by the Canadian government. We have to be accountable for the monies we spend to the Canadian public. It is our duty to be transparent.

At the same time, we also must protect the CBC's independence vis-à-vis the government. We need to be at arm's length from the government. It is a slightly different concept.

As a general rule, the CBC's salaries are not made public and I don't think that private sector broadcasters make public their compensation data, except for their top positions.

[English]

Mr. Beatty: I might add a few comments. First, the regime of accountability to which the CBC is subjected is the most stringent for any broadcaster in Canada. The fact that we are here today, that our estimates are considered by Parliament, that we are created by an act of Parliament, that we must comply with Treasury Board regulations and with a whole range of other federal statutes which may or may not apply to private broadcasters, creates a degree of transparency that no other broadcaster in Canada needs to meet. In addition to that, the Auditor General is our auditor as well and reports to Parliament and the public on matters related to our activities.

You have asked about the pay of employees. I can tell you that in the case of those of us who are Governor-in-Council appointees, such as myself, our pay ranges are made public. We understand that when we come to the corporation.

The issue for me is, first of all, with a commercial corporation operating in the marketplace, whether it is desirable to publish employees' salaries beyond that or whether it puts us at a commercial disadvantage vis-à-vis other broadcasters.

Second, senator, I can say that as a Member of Parliament for over 21 years, two issues that preoccupied me perhaps more than any other were the issues of access to information and personal privacy. During my years in Parliament, I took seriously the rights of individuals to ensure that their personal information would be protected and kept confidential except where there was a compelling public interest to make it public. I would need to be convinced that there was compelling public interest to violate the privacy of individuals, and that the public interest might be well served in doing that to ask the individuals to give up their right to privacy. In principle, across the board in our activities, we are required to demonstrate a degree of transparency that goes well beyond any other broadcaster in Canada.

Senator Roberge: I know that in the United States, of course, most of the salaries are public. However, I will go on to another point.

[Translation]

You seem opposed to any notion of increasing advertising revenues. I have some difficulty with that. It seems to me that if your programming is good, and your ratings show that it is good, you should be very competitive in the field of advertising. I would like to hear your comments on this.

[English]

Mr. Beatty: You are talking about taking which step, senator?

Senator Roberge: I am speaking about increasing the publicity receipts.

Mr. Beatty: You may be referring to increasing the number of minutes that are available for advertising from CBC.

As you are probably aware, over the course of the last few years, we have dealt with a $400 million financial challenge, most of it as a result of reductions to the appropriations that we received from Parliament. In the meantime, we have attempted to ensure that our advertising receipts remain relatively flat. We are less dependent than ever before on funding from Parliament, from the taxpayers. However, in order to maintain a high quality of service, it is important for us to be able to generate revenues elsewhere through advertising.

We have not dramatically increased the amount of money that we are generating from advertising but we have attempted to hold it even in the face of enormously multiplying competition, as there is an explosion in new alternatives and specialty services. We have attempted to design our schedules based on mandate, based on what we believe is appropriate for the public broadcaster to do. Within those schedules, we attempt to generate whatever revenues we can to support them and to ensure that we can provide Canadians with a very high quality of service.

If we were to remove advertising, which today generates some $300 million for the corporation, the impact of that on the quality of programming we could provide would be very severe.

Senator Roberge: I was not referring to reducing publicity receipts but rather to increasing them. Is it in your future business plan to increase them?

Mr. Beatty: We are hoping to maintain them even where they have been so that we do not need to make further reductions. One of the issues that has come up, particularly in the Quebec market as a result of comments made by Mr. Péladeau, was a suggestion that CBC is discounting advertising and is undercutting the French language markets in Canada. We certainly are prepared, in the appearance that we make before the commission, to demonstrate that that is simply not so. In fact, our rates are at least as high as the rates of our commercial competitors, possibly higher than that in the cost per thousand because of the quality of the audience to which we deliver. We are not driving down advertising rates for commercial competitors.

[Translation]

Ms Saucier: My comment may surprise you, but I believe that the public mandate of the CBC should be carried out, as much as possible, within a budgetary envelope that includes as little advertising revenue as possible. People from outside the CBC do not realize - and it has been a learning experience for me - how important it is for our teams to be able to work in an environment where the primary goal always remains the mandate of the CBC, which is to link all Canadians. If we were to push the commercial reasoning to the limit, why would we serve francophones outside of Quebec? There are no advertising revenues to be had doing this, but it is an essential part of our mandate.

If you are interested to read a study that was recently published by McKenzie, entitled: "Public Service Broadcasters Around the World," you will find that the public broadcasters who best fulfil their mandate are entirely funded by their government and have no access to advertising revenues. This does not mean that we should not produce programs that will appeal to citizens. I believe there is a balance to be maintained. In my view, ideally, in the best of possible worlds, I would prefer not to have any advertising revenues.

The Chairman: Would you be kind enough, Ms Saucier, to provide a dozen copies of this study to our clerk? We all would like to see the results of this study.

Ms Saucier: It has the great advantage of being short.

Senator Roberge: We have seen, over the last few years, rather large cuts in the government contribution to the CBC. You have made difficult but unavoidable cuts. I still have difficulty agreeing with you because I do not see why, while still fulfilling the CBC's mandate, it would not be possible for you to increase in some areas your advertising revenues to help reducing the deficit. Who knows, maybe someday the government will cut its funding further.

Ms Saucier: Senator Roberge, I believe we have already made a reasonable contribution to the fight against the deficit. Indeed, we have reduced our costs by 30 per cent over two years. Even in the private sector, this would be a huge achievement.

Senator Roberge: I agree. But if you want to maintain excellent programming and improve on it, you must also look at the possibility to maybe increase your advertising revenues.

Ms Saucier: We could also ask the government to look at the CBC's budgetary envelope to ensure that we properly fulfil our mandate. I will use again the example of Francophones outside of Quebec and our broadcast in the north in eight aboriginal languages. This type of mandate is specific to the public broadcaster and there is no way these programs can be made to turn a profit.

Senator Roberge: Turn a profit, no, I agree. Reducing the deficit, that is another matter. I will get back to it in the second round.

[English]

Senator Rompkey: I wish to welcome our guests. Mr. Beatty, I am pleased to see you. I have known you for some years as an outstanding Canadian who has given outstanding service to this country, not simply as a parliamentarian but in an extra-parliamentary capacity. You were once known as "the boy wonder of Canadian politics."

Mr. Beatty: I have aged, as you can see, senator.

Senator Rompkey: I hope that you will continue the excellent contribution that you have made so far.

I wish to ask about the northern service. To put it in context, it is interesting to note that Nunavut has just been created. Not only has Nunavut just been created, but we have just seen the last Inuit group in Canada sign an agreement in principle on land claims. I refer to the Labrador Inuit. That gives them self-government and control over their own lives. What they do not have, and what that agreement will not give them, is a means of expressing themselves and their own identity. That is extremely important. You cannot solve everything with money.

They have had access to northern broadcasting. I want to ask about the commitment to northern broadcasting and whether it will be jeopardized in any way in the future. It is important because the north, in particular, has been very vulnerable. All of us have been inundated with messages from the south, but particularly the north. It has no way of speaking back. Essentially, if you let that voice from the south be so loud that it blocks out everything else, then you almost cease to exist as an area, a region and a people.

For the north - and I can talk from my own experience - the CBC was all we had. To a degree, it is still all we have. CBC Radio, for example, is one of the only private broadcasters which operates in the north in the Labrador region. It knits the two areas of our province, the island and Labrador, together. It fulfils that regional role.

Joe Clark talked about Canada as being a community of communities. I would like to talk about people such as Mary Walsh, for example. I doubt that Mary Walsh or Rick Mercer would be where they are today without CBC Newfoundland. The tragedy is that that sort of regional capacity has been cut back to the point where it does not exist any more. It may be oversimplifying it to say that there will not be another Mary Walsh, but it would be very difficult for a new one to emerge. I say that because I do not think the capacity that was in the region is there any longer. I am concerned about that regional capacity, for it was important to us.

Ms Saucier: You have expressed so eloquently what we should be doing that it is difficult for me to express it better.

The CBC board and management is strongly committed to include regions in what we are doing. Our mandate is to build bridges between Canadians, between communities, to reflect Canada to itself. It is difficult to do that if we do not reflect regions. It is an interesting part of our mandate.

We need to find ways for new voices to be heard, including new journalists, musicians, actors and writers, if we want our culture to survive as a whole. We do not have any choice but to find a place for new voices. If we do not, the Canadian voice will be lost.

For us at the CBC Radio-Canada, the commitment to the regions is there and real. We hope to find more innovative ways to finance it so that we will be able to go on forever to fulfil that mandate.

Mr. Beatty: Senator, just to underscore the point you made, the CRTC recently undertook a series of regional hearings across the country. Between 600 and 700 Canadians came out, most of them wanting to talk about regional services and what the CBC meant to them in their homes and in their day-to-day lives. The message was clear. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of them were saying, "We want more CBC and we want it to be more engaged in our lives. We believe that it is a vital service."

As we have dealt with this $400 million financial monster, which had an enormous impact upon our budget, there has undoubtedly been an impact in various parts of Canada in terms of the resources that we can consecrate to provide local programming. When looking at how to deal with that, we took a conscious decision that we could not do the job nationally unless we were rooted in the regions themselves. You cannot develop the national talent about which you have been talking without having roots in the regions and being able to identify it in the community where people are living and where they operate on a day-to-day basis. You cannot serve people in times of crisis, like the ice storm that we had in Eastern Canada, the flooding in Quebec or Manitoba, or the air crash that took place in Nova Scotia some time ago, unless you are there on the ground and engaged.

Certainly, when you mentioned the north in particular, I believe we have a special responsibility there. We have a public broadcaster in part because the economics of the private sector do not allow private broadcasters to provide the level of services that Canadians are expecting in every part of the country. It is why, when we are taking decisions with regard to the northern service, we are continuing to finance our northern services well out of proportion with the percentage of the population that exists in those regions. We will continue to do that. It is a vital part of our mandate. There are always improvements to be made, and we are always looking for ways to improve. I give you the assurance that this will remain a key part of our mandate and that we will do our level best to provide service in those areas.

Senator Forrestall: My concern is somewhat along the lines, parochial by nature, of Senator Rompkey's. Like you, we have been around for a long time. Perhaps it is time for us to leave the scene.

We were all delighted when we rescued international links. We were proud in recent years and very grateful to the corporation in recent years to have had a centre in Halifax for CBC Newsworld. That two- or three-hour clip, which came from various sections of the country, made the program more interesting. It was very interesting to hear the interpretation of news; for example, the slight twists about what affects us. The Swissair plane disaster was viewed and presented more emotionally to its immediate eastern audience than, perhaps, to central, western and northern audiences, reinforcing the point that there is a good argument for the continuing diversity of that newscast centre.

We now see that it is being rooted out and we see a constant, slow movement back to Toronto.

Senator Grafstein: What is wrong with Toronto?

Senator Forrestall: I do not think you have the time to listen. We feel that we are losing something that the corporation has given us - something in which we took great pride. Halifax's name was bandied around Nova Scotia and the airwaves from one end of this country to the other. We liked that, and we became comfortable with it. This is a touchy subject, because you will now be taking it away from us.

How do you rationalize these two things? You keep talking about the promotion of Canadian culture, yet you seem to be basing it in Toronto. There is a Toronto culture and a Newfoundland culture. I do not think you serve those regional cultures well by taking away from the regions the one conduit that is constantly at your beck and call - that is, the dissemination of news - and placing it centrally.

Could you dwell on that for a moment in your five-year plan? You say you want to rebuild some of these things. I do not want to put words in your mouth. However, I feel bad about the loss of it and it is our hope that we will get it back.

Mr. Beatty: I appreciate your raising this point. I do not consider it an inappropriate question, not do I consider Senator Rompkey's question inappropriate. It is entirely appropriate to raise questions about the CBC`s engagement in the regions and what sort of job we are doing in terms of meeting regional needs.

Last week, we announced a refocusing of Newsworld, putting the "news" back into it by having more newscasts. In relation to Toronto, we are doing more of the work from behind the camera out of Toronto, where our main news resources are located.

I can assure you that we are not pulling Newsworld out of Halifax. If you look at the CBC morning news, for example, which has been revamped this past year - and it is a product of which we can be very proud - it will continue to be co-anchored out of Halifax and Toronto. The fact that you have it being co-anchored out of Halifax in addition to Toronto adds a dimension to our activity that we could not otherwise have.

In our strategic plan, we talk about two things. First, we want to place more emphasis on news. We want to ensure that we remain the premier news organization in Canada. That is one of the reasons for refocusing Newsworld, namely, to put a higher number of newscasts in place and to raise the profile of news.

Second, we talk about disbursing resources even more fully than we have. The net effect of what we are doing will also allow us to move resources, particularly video journalists, out further into the regions and to have reporters in areas where we do not have them today. If you look at our schedules, the amount of coverage and time devoted to the regions on Newsworld will remain at least as high as it is today. Ideally, we would like to see more than that and be able to have reports feeding in not only from large centres outside Toronto but also from other communities even more effectively than we have done up until now.

We will also be looking at doing more live coverage on Newsworld and breaking away from the schedule to provide breaking coverage of events as they take place. I think it will make Newsworld more timely and relevant to people in the regions.

Halifax plays a key role for us in terms of a national series such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Theodore Tugboat, and a number of other ones as well over the years. In terms of news, it also plays a key role. It will continue to be central to our planning in both areas.

Senator Forrestall: That is an interesting point. In Halifax, for example, how many regionally produced programs are being shown nationally?

Mr. Beatty: A large number of them are. I would have to get you the exact figures. In particular, if we are looking at both radio and TV, a significant portion of our schedule is regional. The goal is to ensure that we have a higher degree of regional reflection than ever before in our national schedules.

Going back to Senator Rompkey's earlier question, we recognize the impact we have had in terms of our ability to do local broadcasting as a result of reductions. We have tried to compensate for that by regionalizing our national schedules as we Canadianize to a higher extent than ever before. I would be pleased to get you the exact figures on that.

The Chairman: Will you please do that and forward that information to the clerk?

Mr. Beatty: I would be very pleased to do so. If you look at our most successful show on the English network, This Hour Has 22 Minutes - and Senator Rompkey referred to Mary Walsh and Rick Mercer, and to the Newfoundland roots of that program - it is shot in Halifax. That show demonstrates that you do not have to be based in Toronto to have programming that interests the whole country. We are very proud of that show.

Senator Forrestall: I am pleased that you have said that. However, the impression is that, perhaps slowly, it is all moving to Toronto.

[Translation]

Senator Maheu: I have been quite disturbed by some of your comments and I will tell you why. In what way does the CBC contribute to the goals of our cultural policy? You mentioned enhancing our pride in being Canadian and your role as a steward of Canadian heritage. You talked about reflecting the Canadian identity.

When I watch Radio-Canada in Montreal, could you explain to me what the CBC does to promote pride in Canada? The level of partisanship is shocking. This does not reflect the amount of money that Canadian taxpayers invest in the CBC's French service. How can you explain this state of affairs?

Ms Saucier: We have had criticisms from all sides over the years. The objective of the CBC is to be pan-Canadian throughout its programming. You mentioned, for example, newscasts. To us, it is absolutely vital in the long run to maintain the credibility of the CBC in the area of news. One of our basic requirements is to have balanced newscasts, that are perceived as balanced.

This is why we have established a few years ago the position of ombudsman, in order to allow citizens to complain when they are not happy with our programming and the balance in our newscast. This is absolutely critical. I mentioned in my statement that not only do we believe that we are pan-Canadian today but that we are going to try to be even more so in the future.

Francophones outside of Quebec told us we are not sufficiently close to their communities, especially on TV. Radio is much closer to communities. It meets their needs better. We may have on the francophone side the same problems as anglophones have with Toronto. Myself, I am from the Abitibi, and we don't get a lot of news on our region from CBC's French service. We must ensure in the future to better reflect all regions of the country. It is a commitment we make to the Canadian people and one that we intend to uphold by taking the required steps.

Mr. Beatty: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is and will remain absolutely non-partisan. This is absolutely essential for a news organization. It has been very interesting for me, during my visits to the caucus of different parties, to hear from time to time complaints about our newscasts, depending on the party involved. It is essential for us to remain absolutely non-partisan, because our journalistic credibility is totally dependent on our independence.

[English]

It is vital for us to be able to demonstrate that we are acting fairly and in a non-partisan way.

You asked how our French service creates pride in Canada and whose pride it creates. We create pride by telling Canadians stories about themselves and by reflecting their regions. We can always do more, and we should boost our regional reflections. We will be looking for ways of doing that. However, this is the only French-language institution that maintains francophone journalists west of Ottawa. It gives francophones across the country a national perspective on events taking place across the country. It is the one institution that maintains windows for regional programming to explain to people within Quebec what is happening in Manitoba or New Brunswick and elsewhere.

Can we do the job better? Of course we can. No institution is perfect. If there are complaints or areas where we fall down, we should address those. Earlier, Senator Roberge very kindly referred to Marcel Pépin, our ombudsman. He passed away yesterday, which is a source of deep sadness for all who knew him. He exemplified the virtues of fairness and professionalism in everything he did. We are the only national broadcaster in the world to have an ombudsman to look into complaints about bias. That symbolizes the commitment we have made to fairness. We invite you to take advantage of our ombudsman and ask for an independent investigation of instances where you feel we fall short of the mark.

Senator Maheu: I have two questions. Concerning the finances, I am curious and the Canadian public might be curious to know how much it costs to run the entire sales branch operated by CBC for English and French services. My other question is a bit tongue-in-cheek: Mr. Beatty, did the Bloc complain to you as well?

Mr. Beatty: I can give you a non-tongue-in-cheek answer and say yes. The president of the CBC has the special privilege of being the complaints department for the corporation. I have some 30 million bosses or consultants to whom I report, because there is not a soul in Canada who does not have an opinion on what we are doing right or wrong. Very few of those people are shy about sharing their opinions. We welcome comments. They help us to stay in close contact.

About the cost of the sales department, I would be pleased to obtain those particulars and provide them to the committee.

Senator Grafstein: I am one of your critics and listeners. I have noticed that in a world of specialized radio services, the CBC has become diluted. When you turn to the talk portion of CBC Radio, as opposed to the music portion which is a separate question, it is diluted because it is interspersed with a lot of music. My understanding is that the way to penetrate the market is to be tighter and more specialized. My sense is that the news and the talk are diluted by music. Is that just my impression or is that a studied strategy of the CBC?

Mr. Beatty: No, it is not a studied strategy. I think it is just your impression, but I can ask for figures from Toronto in order to look at this. When we refocused Radio One and Radio Two, we wanted to ensure that each had a very clear personality. Radio One deals particularly with talk, journalistic information and so on.

Senator Grafstein: It would be useful to get the numbers to see what portion of CBC Radio One is music and what portion is talk. My sense is that there is more music, which breaks the continuity.

Mr. Beatty: I will try to generate the figures for you. In general, the focus of Radio One is primarily information.

Senator Grafstein: Let me move up a notch from that small point to a larger point, the theory that CBC is a pan-Canadian service. I want to focus on CBC Newsworld and its French equivalent.

I have the impression, as a viewer of both English and French CBC - I watch television in French to improve my non-existent French; it is very useful at least for comprehension - that both Newsworld and RDI are news from anywhere. When I watch these stations on an airplane, I cannot tell if they are Canadian. The Newsworld logo does not say that it is Canadian; neither does the logo for RDI. On a flight from France, people think this is a French service as opposed to a Canadian service. Has the management given any thought to putting the word Canada in the logos of both Newsworld and RDI? Without that indication one is left with the impression that the news is from anywhere. We have lost the branding. Why is that?

Ms Saucier: I am surprised that that is still the case. I had heard comments from people in France saying that except for the accent they would not know that the news was from Canada, but I thought that since then that had been corrected and that now they say something like "RDI" or "Ici Radio-Canada."

Senator Grafstein: I am not talking about the verbal message. I am talking about the brand name in the bottom right-hand corner.

Ms Saucier: I understand, but I thought it was written somewhere now that this news comes from Radio-Canada. I am sorry. I am advised that that change has not yet been made. It will be there soon.

Senator Grafstein: It would be my small suggestion to brand both and to have the word "Canada" on the screen all the time. People everywhere will understand that this is a pan-Canadian service.

Mr. Beatty: I appreciate the suggestion. It would probably be difficult to do on the burn, which is the small logo that appears on the side. It does not have a great deal of definition. The impact of the logo is visual but it is difficult to read words within it.

One of the significant changes over the last few years is to change the corporate logo from CBC/SRC to Radio-Canada for reasons of symmetry. Radio-Canada is a very proud name. Our employees are proud of that name and it makes much more sense to francophones than does the name SRC. Everyone knows CBC on the English side, but SRC is not known on the French side.

In addition, in identification of our French services, we have gone back to the designation, "Ici Radio-Canada." We are very proud to be a Canadian national broadcaster. We are pleased to be recognized that way.

Senator Grafstein: I accept that. Visually, having that stamp of Canada on the screen all the time would be useful.

Mr. Beatty: Given your background, I do not lightly dismiss any advice you give on advertising.

Senator Grafstein: I was never in advertising. It was a misappropriation of my volunteer career.

I want to deal with a fundamental issue now. You have been unable to convince the CRTC to expand your mandate with more speciality services. There seems to be an institutional bias against the CBC. Let me trace it for a moment as best I recall it.

At one time, when the act changed responsibility from the board of broadcast governors to the CRTC, there was a clear mandate that the CBC services would be given paramountcy. It was the premier vehicle of cultural expression in the country. Since we are granting to both public and private sectors room on the public airwaves, there had to be a priority, a paramountcy, given to the CBC services. That was in the original act that the CRTC brought in, in 1968, I think it was.

There was a shift in that mandate. I have not followed the dates. All of a sudden the notion of the private broadcaster was given an equivalency based on exposure. Essentially, the CBC moved from a position of paramountcy to sort of co-equal partner in the expression of culture using public airwaves. As a result, it seems to me from reading their decisions in the newspapers, that the CRTC now has a bias against the CBC. You have not, in effect, received your fair share of speciality services. The private sector has received more than its fair share and, one could argue, now has an undue concentration in some quarters.

If I am correct in my analysis, would you recommend that we rectify that? Should this committee re-examine the mandate of the CRTC to ensure that, in this world of 100 channels, as you said, the CBC gets its fair or a better-than-fair share? Specifically, I am talking about both radio and speciality services.

Ms Saucier: Senator, this is quite an important element. Both the government and the CRTC must decide what tools it retains to protect our cultural identity. We need a strong commitment to the public broadcasting system in this country for the very reasons I just mentioned.

Look at the overall environment. Cultural identities are attacked under globalization. If any country does not have very strong tools, their identity will be diluted. Under the WTO, different tools that are now used may disappear. What tools will be left for a country to share values, if not a public broadcaster?

Senator Grafstein: Ms Saucier, it seems that we are in violent agreement. I should like to hear Mr. Beatty on this. It is a structural issue.

Mr. Beatty: You asked about the act. As a former communications minister, I know the act very well. Indeed, I was minister at the time the act was proclaimed. The act today puts certain responsibilities on all of the members of the system. It conceives of the system, as we always have, as being a mixed public-private system. You are absolutely right that, initially, there was no question that precedence was given to the public broadcaster over all others. Indeed, at one time, the public broadcaster was the regulator for the system. Other, private broadcasters have increasingly changed the balance within the system.

I would not see us going back to the way that things used to be many decades ago, but it is a question of balance and equity within it. There is in essence a tie-breaking element within the act. In addition to having all of the responsibilities of every other broadcaster, the CBC, according to the Broadcasting Act, has special responsibilities conferred on it. The act also refers to cases where there is conflict between various points. The commission in such cases is obligated to take a decision to resolve the conflict on the public interest, based on the criteria spelled out in the areas defining the mandate of the CBC.

There is still within the system a recognition of the special place that the CBC holds. I do not believe it requires an amendment to the act to redress the imbalance you have mentioned. It is an issue of public policy.

We will be making the same case to the commission that we have made to you today and we certainly would welcome your help. We have demonstrated that, for very good economic reasons, a massive change is taking place in the whole structure of the broadcasting industry both internationally and in Canada with the development of constellations of services. If any broadcaster is locked into a model from the 1960s or 1970s, they risk becoming irrelevant and dying. The issue at stake here is one of policy and it is whether or not the public broadcaster will be the only broadcaster in North America who, as a matter of public policy, will not be permitted to evolve as the environment changes.

We have made a number of applications for speciality services to the commission. We expect the commission to make an announcement shortly with regard to French services. We believe we have made a very strong case. We are hopeful. We do not believe there is a bias or a prejudice on the part of the commission, but we do believe it is also important to talk, in a broader sense, about the underlying principles and about the need for a very clear indication of the future relevance of the public broadcaster and about whether it will be allowed to evolve as the environment changes and as Canadians' consumption of media changes.

Senator Grafstein: We will wait and see what the CRTC does and perhaps we can address it.

I share the concern of Senator Forrestall and others about the expansion of Radio Canada International. It should be a vital part of our domestic policy and certainly an invaluable part of our foreign policy to have Radio Canada International on the air waves. As I travel around the world and hear from people whose only contact with Canada is the odd program, it sustains my interest in seeing that Radio Canada International continues and flourishes.

Frankly, the government has been stingy in just giving you $15 million over three years to improve infrastructure. In my opinion, that is cheesy.

You should ask the government to amplify that because it strikes me that while we are doing serious things overseas, in Kosovo and other places, we are not giving the foreign elements around the world a close understanding of what goes on in Canada. Radio Canada International is the slender reed that does that. I support you strongly on that.

Senator Adams: I wish to congratulate the CBC for its work on the Nunavut celebration. The technicians were on strike at the time, yet the CBC did a very good job. Even other countries were watching our celebration on April 1.

You were asked about Radio Canada International. I recall that when you were still in the House of Commons, our Transport and Communications Committee had a great debate on RCI. The Department of Foreign Affairs was funding it and they wanted to cut funding. Does Foreign Affairs still fund Radio Canada International?

Mr. Beatty: Yes, via the Department of Canadian Heritage. The government was very helpful in dealing with that problem. When funding was cancelled for Radio Canada International, we simply could not continue because we wanted to give priority to domestic services. The restoration of funding for RCI allowed us to operate on a stable basis. We are going through rebuilding and reinvestment in capital facilities. It will be here for a long time.

Senator Adams: That is good. I am also glad to see all the local culture on the radio. Over the last few years, CBC has improved local radio. We now have technicians in our communities who work in both Inuktitut and English.

When Francis Fox was minister, the CBC had a funding agreement with the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. How does the funding work now? Is it guaranteed, or is it being cut back? Does it come from Treasury Board or from the CBC?

Mr. Beatty: I must apologize, senator. I will have to refresh my memory on that. When I write to the committee, I will be pleased to give the details on the exact funding arrangements. I remember that when I was a member of Parliament it was a source of considerable pride to see the expansion of services for people in the North.

Senator Adams: I have heard about a new aboriginal station in Winnipeg.

Mr. Beatty: That is not a CBC service. However, CBC has added radio facilities at Cambridge Bay in the last year or so.

Senator Johnson: Over the past year, our committee has been studying Bill C-55. Our subcommittee on communications has been working on technology and culture. In every respect, we have been grappling with the question of what constitutes Canadian content. Currently, broadcasting uses a point system based on the nationality of the inputs - the writers, the actors and the directors. In your view, does this system lead to distinctly Canadian programs? Can you offer an alternative definition of Canadian content that would be useful to us in our further deliberations on these matters?

Mr. Beatty: Senator, I am well aware of the system used to define Canadian content. I remember the controversy when I was minister over a song of Brian Adams not being designated as Canadian content. That system is a work in progress. The commission regularly revises the criteria it uses to determine what constitutes Canadian content.

Is everything that meets the technical criteria on Canadian airwaves identifiably culturally Canadian? No, it is not. I am pleased that the Canadian Television Fund has recently tightened the criteria for access to the fund to try to ensure that programming funded is more conspicuously culturally Canadian.

I would not attempt here today, off the top of my head, to give you a rigid definition of what is Canadian. I know it when I see it. I know that the standard to which the public broadcaster will hold itself will go well beyond what we expect from anyone else. Our goal is to ensure that our programming is not simply industrially Canadian - that is, that it employs Canadian technicians and actors and so on - but that it also reflects Canada, speaks to who we are as Canadians and gives Canadians a sense of our values, our geography, our institutions, our history and our challenges.

I recognize as well the difficulties private broadcasters have in assembling the financing they need, particularly for television, and making a profit out of the Canadian market alone. As a consequence, when they are producing their Canadian content, they often do so with a view to what revenues they can generate from the international and American markets, which sometimes results in programming where Toronto is disguised as New York or where Montreal is disguised as New Orleans or some other community. I am not critical of them, but I believe that the public broadcaster should hold itself and should be held to a higher standard.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: I really appreciate all the CBC has been doing in the past and continues to do to foster understanding among Canadians. Obviously, it is an institution made up of human beings. It is not perfect, but it provides an immense service and has made enormous strides forward. I remember two, three or four years ago hearing Gilles Vigneault from Natashquan say that in his youth, his main radio station was Charlottetown with Don Messer and his Islanders. We have come a long way since then.

What are your future plans for minorities in the Atlantic provinces? What are your plans for using the Internet to serve francophone minorities in Canada?

Ms Saucier: I am from your part of the country. I am always sensitive to these comments. At the CBC, services to our French minorities outside of Quebec have special importance. Indeed, we have increased in New Brunswick and Newfoundland in the last couple of years the services we provide to these groups. We are fully aware that for them we are a link that ties them to their original culture.

Without going into details, you can rest assured that the Board of the CBC is looking frequently and closely at this file. We think it is one of the CBC's main role to link minority communities to their main culture.

Mr. Beatty: One year ago, we added a transmitter in northern New Brunswick for the culture channel. We also made an important change for francophones in Newfoundland. Now, they receive the show Ce soir from Moncton rather than Montreal.

You asked about using new technologies to improve services to Francophone minorities.

[English]

It is indeed our intention to do that. We have an important presence today on the Internet for our francophone services.

[Translation]

This includes our services in New Brunswick. I believe all of our Ce soir shows from Moncton are available on the Internet. We intend to increase our French-language Internet service.

We have applied to the CRTC for an info-radio license. There will be an info-radio transmitter in northern New Brunswick. We intend to use these new technologies to improve our service throughout Canada as well as to project Canada's image abroad. This is a very important concern of ours.

Ms Saucier: The role of the CBC on the Internet should be even larger. We are and should be a major producer of francophone content on the Internet generally, because French is presently a minority language on the Internet.

Senator Robichaud: A small minority -

Ms Saucier: I think our role should be greater.

Senator Robichaud: It is not only in a minority position, it is almost absent.

Ms Saucier: We should ensure there is French-language content. The CBC is well placed to support French content.

[English]

Senator Spivak: I apologize for not being here for your presentation. If I ask a question that has already been covered, just tell me and I will read the Hansard.

First, I wish to congratulate you both and the CBC. In my view, the content of CBC and Newsworld has improved immeasurably. Some programs are truly wonderful. If you spend any time in the United States and look for content, you begin to appreciate the CBC.

Looking at the strategic plan, however, I am a bit concerned. I read in the press the other day that there is an intention either to eliminate or to shorten some of the best programs on Newsworld, such as Big Life and Pamela Wallin. I am expressing this concern as a normal citizen. When we begin to get used to something, you take it away. Could you comment on the plan for Newsworld?

I will then ask about the expansion of stations, although you may have covered that. I wish to know about the six new stations and how you see that. It has been trashed in some places and applauded in others. I am interested in that.

Mr. Beatty: It was alluded to earlier in a question by Senator Forrestall, but not in the same sort of detail as you raised about the schedule.

We are reorienting Newsworld to put a higher emphasis on news, to put news back into Newsworld. First, we want to increase the availability of news on Newsworld. Second, we want to go more frequently to breaking events; that is, we want to be able to move away from a rigid schedule and do live coverage. We feel that recently we have been held too rigidly to a fixed schedule. We are also trying to disburse resources more fully into the regions and to give even better regional coverage than in the past.

Without commenting on specific shows, each year changes are made in the schedule. I appreciate your comments about the individual shows that you mentioned. I hope that Pam Wallin will be back with us next year and I expect that she will be. She is a certainly a very valuable asset to us and a very distinguished journalist. We are proud of much of the other programming that we have, but presently there is an orientation under way to put a higher emphasis on news, particularly breaking news, in the future.

Senator Spivak: When I look at the coverage, I get the impression that you are moving to more of the CNN format. That is good, but they have a particular perspective that is not always our perspective. Sometimes, it is quite shallow and not as analytical as, perhaps, we might be. Given the kind of cuts that we are looking at or the continuing reduction of funds, will you be able to accomplish that? It is one thing to have breaking news, but you can watch CNN. Will you have enough analysts and foreign correspondents to deal properly with breaking news? If not, I would prefer to see Big Life and Pamela Wallin and so on.

Mr. Beatty: Yes, we will. There is never all the money you would like to have to provide services. Foreign coverage will be a critical area for us in the future. Increasingly, we will be looking for creative ways, through cross-appointments between radio and television and French and English services, to maintain and possibly increase the number of sources of information to our various services.

Senator Spivak: Will there be any cross-pollination of programs in CBC Newsworld?

Mr. Beatty: There is a difficulty in terms of our licence. We are limited to the amount of programming that we can simulcast on the two.

Senator Spivak: Why is that?

Mr. Beatty: It is a condition of license from the commission to ensure that there is varied programming between the two.

Senator Spivak: Would that not help in your funding if you could do that?

Mr. Beatty: Yes, in specific areas. We do that today, for example, with the CBC Morning News, where we simulcast in the two. However, we are limited in terms of what we can do. For example, one of the things of interest to me to explore would be whether it makes sense, when television goes off the air at night, to pick up the Newsworld signal and run it on the main channel. Or perhaps there are other instances where it might make sense for us to do that.

Although I understand that the commission wants to see a separation in order to see as much variety as possible, we would hope to be able to take decisions based on what makes programming sense for us.

Senator Spivak: On the other hand, you can watch Friends on three or four different channels at once. I do not know why that is.

Some of the programs on Newsworld are directed towards a younger audience, for example Hot Type and Big Life. Are you still attempting to shift to have more emphasis on a younger audience?

Ms Saucier: Our mandate is to share values amongst Canadians. If we cannot reach this younger audience, how will we share values tomorrow? We need to bring them aboard with us. It is quite important to have new voices that will speak to them and relate to them.

Senator Spivak: You have to have special tricks to do that, given the technological breakthroughs where everything is fast and glitzy.

Mr. Beatty: Related to that, it might be of interest to you that we have also indicated our intention to apply to the commission for Radio Three, aimed at young Canadians. It would be an English-language service conceived from the outset as programming at midstream, because it will involve a high degree of multi-media using the Internet, telephone and other means of reaching people and getting interaction.

Senator Spivak: Will it use MP3s?

Mr. Beatty: I do not know about MP3s. The industry is still sorting that out. I use MP3s. They are an exciting development. There are new technologies in addition to MP3. However, MP3 is another example of where we might be able to use our Web site to provide exposure for young Canadian artists who have not been signed to a label and who might get exposure that they might not otherwise receive.

Radio Three will be a combination of conventional radio and interactive radio aimed at young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 25. It will offer alternative music that you and I probably would not have as our first choice for our home but that many young Canadians would have. This will give a clear alternative to what is available in the commercial sector and will allow us to serve a new generation of Canadians.

Senator Spivak: I do not know much about it, but I am interested in the portal question and how Canadian content can be directed through portals the way AOL and others do it. I understand the big struggle in the industry currently is who will control the portals and the billing. How will the CBC get in on this act? Is the CBC a vehicle or a way that we can get Canadian content in these search engines and portals?

Mr. Beatty: Yes, that is our strategy. You will have read in today's paper, as well, that Bell has expressed an interest in merging Sympatico with Canoe; they have holdings in both. We are looking at partnering with others to ensure that the high-quality Canadian content that we have on CBC sites is made available and that we are able to drive traffic from portals onto CBC sites.

One of our goals is to become the premier site for information about Canadian culture, news and public affairs. We have developed programming that is unique to the Web, including programming like CBC for Kids and Infoculture, which provides a national cultural magazine from across the country. We are delighted with the market reaction. Year over year, the number of hits has grown by over 100 per cent. We are streaming at about 7,000 hours of audio and video every day. We are seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of traffic going through our Web sites.

We will partner with others to extend our reach and to make the Canadian content that taxpayers have paid for more available.

[Translation]

It is essential for us to promote a greater presence of French-language content and to project the image of Canada abroad. It is an important part of our Internet activity.

Senator Roberge: You state in your presentation that you would like greater legal and fiscal flexibility to purchase equity positions. What exactly do you mean by this?

Ms Saucier: We will have to consider what our strategy will be for the future. Specialty channels are often partnerships. Just look at the Chaîne des arts with Bell and Arte. It is in the interest of the CBC to enter into this type of agreement and to seek cooperation with the private sector where possible in order to optimize our financial resources.

At the present time, that process is very complex. We need approval of the Treasury Board and it is a time-consuming process. You cannot do business this way. If we want to establish more links with the private sector, we will need that same operating flexibility. Otherwise, we will always lag behind and we will never be able to properly do business.

Senator Roberge: I agree on the principle. However, even if you have this flexibility, it will not necessarily mean that you will have the funds without going back to the Treasury Board.

Ms Saucier: One of our conditions of licence is that our specialty channels must be self-financing. We are not using public monies for long-term financing. Presently, Newsworld and RDI are self-financing, as required. It is one of our conditions of licence.

[English]

The Chairman: We thank you not only for your presentation and your answers to the many questions, but for the amount of time that we have taken. As you can see, we still have quite a few questions that we would have appreciated continuing to discuss with you. Thank you for appearing today before our committee.

I will ask senators to stay. We will continue in camera.

The committee continued in camera.