Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications
Issue 17 - Evidence, May 1, 2013
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this
day, at 6:47 p.m. to receive senior management and officials of the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation to explain their decision to cut funding to Radio
Canada International services by 80 per cent.
Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: This evening we will begin our study of the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation's cuts to the funding of Radio Canada
We have the pleasure of having with us today Mr. Hubert T. Lacroix,
President and CEO; and Ms. Hélène Parent, Director of Radio Canada
Welcome to the committee. I would first like to thank you for accepting
our invitation. We will start with your remarks, Mr. Lacroix, and will
afterwards move on to questions from the committee members. I believe you
also have a presentation on the screen; would you like to start with that?
Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, CBC/Radio-Canada: What you
see here, Mr. Chair, is the RCI website, which we would like to use at
certain times during the questions to perhaps refer to certain information
you may find useful or interesting.
We will not use this as the main presentation. It will be the background
for questions, perhaps, and we will send you there if you have an interest
Mr. Lacroix: Thank you for your invitation. I understand that you
would like to talk about our decision to reduce the funding of Radio Canada
International. The chair has already presented Ms. Hélène Parent, Director
of RCI. We of course very much appreciate your interest in Radio Canada
While your focus today is budget cuts to RCI, you could equally be asking
us about our decision to seek advertising on our radio music stations, Radio
2 and Espace Musique; our decision to accelerate the shutdown of our
analogue television transmitters, to sell our specialty service BOLD, or
even our decision to scale back our 2015 strategic plan on Canadian
programming, our regional presence and our focus on new technologies.
These were all decisions we had to make in order to manage a $115 million
cut to our parliamentary appropriation. That cut, over three years, is
CBC/Radio-Canada's contribution to the government's 2012 deficit reduction
How did this come about? Like other organizations, we were asked to
provide the government with a detailed list of how we would implement a cut
of 5 per cent or 10 per cent to our budget. We spent nearly eight months
reviewing every aspect of our operations, as we had just three years earlier
when we had to deal with and manage a $171 million hit because of the
In 2012, as part of the DRAP, we made it clear to the government that
reductions of this size could not be done simply through efficiencies.
At the end of our fiscal year, we provided the government with a detailed
list of initiatives and services that would be affected under the two
scenarios we had been asked to prepare. The government then announced its
decisions in the budget of 2012.
The effect on CBC/Radio-Canada has been significant. Combined with
unavoidable investments and cost increases, we have had to reduce our budget
by $200 million. We have had to cut about 650 full-time positions, which
imposed an additional $25 million in severance costs. On top of that, last
fall the CRTC announced it was phasing out the Local Program Improvement
Fund, worth $47 million of revenue to CBC/Radio-Canada, and which helped us
create thousands of hours of local programming that did not exist before.
Across our networks some programs have fewer new episodes and more repeats.
We have had to reduce the number of live music recordings that we do on
radio. We cancelled popular shows like Connect and Dispatches.
We cancelled plans to launch a CBC children's digital channel. We scaled
back the production of French drama television and Radio-Canada's sports
broadcasts, and we have cancelled Première Chaîne's nighttime
Despite all these challenges, I am very proud of the way that
CBC/Radio-Canada has managed its budget reductions. We have contributed our
share to the government's overall budget objectives, and we have done it in
a way that maintains our commitments under the Broadcasting Act and that
protects, as best we can, our strategic priorities — Canadian programming,
regional services and reaching Canadians through new media. Yes, we have had
to end our use of shortwave, but we have transformed Radio Canada
International into a more dynamic, multimedia service that now offers
programming at any time of the day or night.
Our decision to end shortwave broadcasts of RCI and move the service to
the Internet was not an easy one, nor was it taken lightly. Like all of our
budget decisions, we looked carefully at the service, its cost, and how we
could best protect the value it provides to Canadians.
The reality is that the use of shortwave around the world has been
declining since the end of the Cold War. That, combined with the growth of
cellular phones, Internet, traditional radio and television, has led
broadcasters around the world to cut back on their shortwave services, if
they do maintain them at all.
For example, BBC World closed five language services and has eliminated
shortwave broadcasts to Canada, Australia and the United States. Voice of
America has curtailed its short and medium wave broadcasts to Albania,
Georgia, Iran and Latin America, along with English-language broadcasts to
the Middle East and Afghanistan. In Switzerland, Swissinfo shut down its
shortwave in 2004 and now only broadcasts on the Web. Five days after RCI
ended its shortwave-based broadcast, Radio Netherlands did the same.
The trend is clear. While it is difficult to measure worldwide audiences
to shortwave, a 2009 study by former BBC shortwave expert Graham Mytton
identified a significant drop in shortwave listeners to Radio Canada
International, beginning in the 1980s and continuing through the 1990s. He
attributed the decline to the limited types of content offered and the very
limited number of broadcast hours. In fact, that is one of the key
advantages of moving RCI to the Internet.
In your folders, you will find a chart comparing RCI's previous shortwave
service with what is now available online. Because RCI did not provide
round-the-clock programming on shortwave, listeners had to tune in at the
right time during the day or night in order to catch the one hour of
programming each day in English or French; the 30 minutes a day in Arabic,
Mandarin, Spanish and Russian; and the 30 minutes each week in Portuguese.
We would repeat these programs depending on the market.
On the Internet our programs are available anywhere, at any time. They
can also be downloaded and listened to later. We believe that transforming
RCI into an interactive, Web-based service actually increases its value for
Canadians at a lower cost.
In fact, we have asked the clerk for an Internet connection and these
monitors before you today. We are hoping to use them to show you some of the
things RCI can now provide as services from its website.
We know that in certain markets, shortwave broadcasting is still
relevant. We are trying to reach those audiences in more cost-effective
ways. For CBC/Radio-Canada, with our fiscal realities, maintaining a
shortwave infrastructure was simply not a viable option.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, radio is still the
primary source of news and information. In that country, Voice of America,
the BBC, and Radio France International (RFI) provide news and information
on shortwave and FM bands. RCI has FM radio partners in Africa who download
its programs for rebroadcast in their local line-ups.
While the Internet access rate in Africa stands at about 3 per cent,
mobile technologies have a 41 per cent penetration rate, and radio stations
on the FM band have large audiences. By combining our Internet programs with
local FM partner broadcasts and mobile technologies, RCI is reaching African
audiences in a more efficient way. RCI has similar agreements with radio
stations around the world.
Furthermore, in countries where governments attempt to block access to
foreign websites or shortwave transmissions, our local partners can download
free audio content from a dedicated server. RCI also offers a daily
cybermagazine available by email. You will find samples of these
cybermagazines in your folders.
I can assure you that RCI's mission has not changed. RCI will continue to
reflect and showcase Canadian society for listeners around the world in
French, English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. But now, it is a dynamic,
interactive service that can actively engage its audiences through social
media. RCI now offers web magazines, original co- productions, a multimedia
space which showcases the work of Canadian artists and filmmakers, and
current affairs blogs which supplement national and international news.
Frankly, it is a better service.
Hélène and I will be happy to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lacroix.
For the benefit of the audience and for senators, I just want to bring
back the terms of reference on which we are sitting here tonight, that the
Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications be authorized to
receive senior management and officials of the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation to explain their decision to cut funding to Radio Canada
International by 80 per cent — particularly in view of the importance of
Radio Canada International as the voice of Canada around the world and
because shortwave radio is oppressed in regions worldwide that are denied
access to the Internet — and that the committee report to the Senate no
later than June 30.
I am giving that explanation because you are the only witnesses who are
authorized according to these terms of reference to be witnesses in front of
the committee. We have had requests — and I know some people who made the
requests are probably listening to us tonight — to appear, but the terms of
reference were very narrow, and we did not have permission to accept other
witnesses besides you.
Even though the CBC can be a very exciting subject for everyone around
this table, today's topic is the concept of Radio Canada International.
That is what we are subject to. I am always, as you know, a charming
chair, and I will accept all the decisions you make, but as it stands now, I
would appreciate questions being addressed on the subject that has been
referred to us tonight.
Senator Mercer: Thank you very much for being here. We appreciate
it. I am a huge fan of CBC/Radio-Canada. I was jokingly telling people the
other day that I own three cars and about eight radios and every one of them
is dialed to a CBC station.
Mr. Lacroix: Thank you for that.
Senator Mercer: I know I am joined by millions of Canadians.
Reducing your budget by $20 million is a huge undertaking, one that I am
sure when you started the process you were not excited about. Then 650
full-time positions had been cut. There is that cost, in addition to $25
million in severance costs.
I want to look at the effect of those 650 full-time jobs. Can you give
the committee and our viewers and listeners an idea of where those 650 jobs
were geographically located across the country? I know they were not all in
Ottawa, Toronto or Sackville, New Brunswick, but they were spread across the
country. Could you tell us where they were?
Mr. Lacroix: I do not have the exact drop-down number that you
might be looking for. We might give you that information later on, if you
want, but I will give you a very good sense of how these cuts were made.
Of the 650 jobs — we call them full-time positions — about 500 were done
in media services, in English services and French services, about equally
mostly at the network. We tried to protect the regions, so mostly at the
network level, which means Toronto and Montreal.
The other 150 positions were all corporate positions, again in the major
centres. One of the principle thrusts of Strategy 2015, which is our
strategic plan, is about Canadian programming, and the number two thrust is
about regions and being very present in them. That is how the 650 positions
actually lined up.
Senator Mercer: It would be helpful if perhaps later you could,
via the clerk, provide us with details as to numbers by region and by
location so that we could see the actual impact it would have locally. The
impact of cutting 500 jobs from the network in Montreal and Toronto, and if
we could for the sake of argument say 250 in each, those are significant
cuts. However, in the cities of Montreal and Toronto, 250 is not as
significant as 50 might be in a place like Sackville, New Brunswick. That is
why I want the numbers.
Also, in your presentation you said that across your networks some
programs have fewer episodes and more repeats. This is a concern that those
of us who are avid CBC listeners and viewers have, particularly from radio.
One of the methods you seem to have chosen for reductions in costs, both at
Radio Canada International and at CBC/Radio- Canada itself, is to offer more
repeats. Shows that I hear on Sunday, I can hear again on Wednesday.
Mr. Lacroix: Absolutely.
Senator Mercer: This is obviously a strategic plan. How much has
that been able to save you in overall costs?
Mr. Lacroix: Let me put in perspective, senator, how we went at
trying to find $200 million after having faced a $171 million shortfall a
few years before, because that will put in perspective the number of places
in the organization that were tested and actually contributed to our
The first place we looked at was trying to increase our revenues. The
funding amount that we inherited and that we have to live with is that we
get X dollars from government, which will represent in 2015 about 60 per
cent of our budget. Forty per cent comes out of what we generate from our
own activities, advertising on television, and a number of other initiatives
that we have to generate revenues from our own activities.
We figure that was going to be about $50 million. Then, we took out the
analog television transmitters — I told you about $10 million. We took $10
million out of RCI, because after we looked at revenues we looked at the
services that are now less used or the platforms that do not have the kind
of relevance to Canadians that they used to, not only to Canadians but to
the world. Television, which is now digital, and shortwave, which is not
used as it used to be, are two pieces that contributed another $10 million.
Then there is about $100 million of additional efficiencies and
reductions in costs. The last $30 million was slowing down the strategic
plan that we have, what we call the 2015 plan, and some of the stuff we
wanted to do in the regions through new digital stations and, frankly,
connecting with about 6 million Canadians who we think are either
underserved or not served by CBC/Radio-Canada.
That is the overall picture. When we look at repeats, that is a small
fraction, but it is an important fraction of a big, big puzzle that has
eight months of work in it. All told, 150 people at CBC/Radio-Canada worked
at this plan. As you rightly pointed out when you asked me to come here, you
saw that we did not do this proportionately, 5 per cent or 10 per cent
across the board for everyone, because we are now into strategic cuts. We
had done a lot of the proportionate stuff in 2009-10, when the financial
crisis hit the world. This time around what we looked at is whether we can
protect our mandate. Can we protect our strategic direction through 2015?
This is how we came to the cuts we just talked about.
Senator Mercer: We know that one of the major sources in revenue
in advertising for CBC/Radio-Canada is Hockey Night in Canada. The
contract is up soon. What happens to CBC/Radio-Canada if you are not
successful in maintaining that major source of revenue?
Mr. Lacroix: CBC — because it is not Radio-Canada in this part —
has always been close to the National Hockey League. As you clearly pointed
out, the importance of hockey for Canadians on our network is key. We
invented the way we deliver hockey to Canadians. This is the sixtieth year
of Hockey Night in Canada. Even if it is a shortened season, everyone
right now is pretty interested in knowing what will happen to the Toronto
Maple Leafs, the Senators, Vancouver. You will want perhaps a result during
the evening, and that will happen for the next weeks on end.
Senator Mercer: Can we have it on while we are doing this?
Mr. Lacroix: We can do that also if you want.
We intend to be a player. I think that rights for sporting events and the
way they have increased in the world might mean that the way we do hockey
and the relationship and the contract we have with hockey might change, but
we intend to be there.
I would like just to point out that if we were not successful, although I
think we will be, Radio-Canada went without hockey and is now without
hockey, and it is still a very relevant service for people who watch
Radio-Canada. However, our intention is to be a player in hockey and to make
sure that we continue doing for the brand of hockey in the NHL what we do
Senator Greene: Tell me if this impression I have is right or
wrong. You cut 80 per cent of the budget of Radio Canada International, but
my impression is that the cut of 80 per cent has not diminished the service
by 80 per cent because you have skilfully been able to expand your Web
presence, et cetera. In terms of service delivery of Radio Canada
International, where is it now, if you could estimate, in percentage terms
with respect to where it was?
Mr. Lacroix: You are absolutely right. I will ask Ms. Parent to
come in here in a second. We think we are a much more relevant service
because now, through social media and the Internet, we can actually know who
the audience is. We can count clicks and we can count the presence. It was
nearly impossible to do that in the shortwave world.
I will ask Ms. Parent to explain to you to what degree this service has
become more dynamic, what we used to do before and what is now Radio Canada
International's strength. She will use this screen to help you.
Hélène Parent, Director of Radio-Canada International,
CBC/Radio-Canada: Good evening. Thank you very much for listening to us
An 80 per cent budget cut is very big. This cut led to a 75 per cent
staff reduction. There used to be 65 of us working for RCI, and now only 23
are left. For us, that means five language divisions. We reduced the number
of languages and we went from seven to five, keeping only English, French,
Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic.
What we want is to have a greater international presence, because Graham
Mytton's study told us that in 2009, Radio Canada International was no
longer a relevant player over shortwave, and even recommended that we go
over to the Internet. A few years later, especially given the cuts, this
change had to be implemented faster.
We ended up with the sum of $2.3 million. One might say that this is not
a huge sum, but by the same token, one might also think that it is a great
deal of money. What can one do with $2.3 million? That is the question we
asked ourselves. Surely we could find something to do with this amount
provided by Canadian taxpayers.
So, we rolled up our sleeves, and at RCI, I can tell you we have
extremely proud and hardworking staff who did their utmost. Over the last
year, we developed a new website that was launched three weeks ago. So what
you see here is brand new. This is the new RCI website developed internally
with the CBC team. Everything was redeveloped.
To give you an example, what we now have is extremely innovative. If you
look at the top of the screen, you will see four boxes. Those are headlines
that we currently display in our sections in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and
English, since we are presently in the French section of Radio Canada
International. At the top you can see the choice of languages; you can
browse and look for the language you wish.
The broadcasts we offer at Radio Canada International are not
rebroadcasts, but original content. If you look over here at the first three
subjects, those really are the three subjects produced during that day.
Those are stories and interviews that were created by our producers and
Each day, different content is on offer. There are blogs on current
affairs and the Canadian perspective on what is going on across the world.
In each section, you will find these things. There are also Radio Canada
While I am here, let me also tell you that Radio Canada International has
been nominated for some Webby Awards. We are among the finalists for the
five best sites dealing with religion.
Also, Média Mosaïque has just given us an award in recognition of our
efforts on diversity through the website called Moi, le musulman d'à côté,
in English Me, the Muslim Next Door.
On the Radio Canada International website, you will note — and this is
important for us — a link for our listeners. We are appealing to Internet
users. On the right hand portion of the screen they are invited to share
with us their comments as well as photos they take of Canada. As you know,
our mandate is to raise Canada's profile around the world.
We also have a Facebook page, which we did not previously have. Last
June, we had a little over 2,000 Facebook friends and we now have 7,418. We
have made fantastic progress in moving to the Web. We are on Twitter. People
can access our cyberzine.
We also do radio. We are still producing one half-hour show per week in
each of the languages, based on content we have collected over the week. All
of our stories and interviews are audio-based, so our teams develop one show
a week which can be listened to on the web. People can listen to them as
podcasts, or download them. We also offer, as a showcase for Canada,
Radio-Canada and Radio One, CBC music and Espace Musique. People also have
access to a news feed to find out what is going on in Canada through
CBC/Radio-Canada newscasts. People have choices and can surf through the
You have all of that available in all languages, but the contents vary
from one language to the next. We do not translate from one site to the
next. Many of the international sites translate the same subject. In our
case, every language, every section, deals with topics that are relevant to
As for the subjects that you see there at the bottom, that is not really
the same thing. Some aspects are the same, but most of the daily content
varies from one language to the next because the markets are different. Our
Arabic team focuses on a clientele that is much more interested in what is
going on in the various regions of the world. The French teams know that
Africa is significant, so every section focuses on world regions.
There are some in-depth sections containing the main CBC International
files for our Web documentaries. I discussed these earlier.
What is special about our new site, and I say this with a great deal of
pride, which I think you will share with us, is the new section
Discovering Canada. This did not exist beforehand. We have a mandate to
ensure that Canada is discovered, and so we developed this section where you
can visit each region of Canada and obtain information about each province.
There is also a fun questionnaire in this section where people can test
their knowledge by answering 10 or so questions.
Lower down, you have the ability to travel Canada by car, boat, plane,
train, on foot and through space. I am going to give you a little idea of
what we can do with the space section. It is, simply put, fantastic. The
image is not great on the screens at the bottom; so this section deals with
all of the work done by Canada and its involvement in space, but it also
includes, if you turn to the tabs, everything that we have done in orbit.
There is also a telecommunications aspect. This shows how Canada has
become known internationally in the area of communications. So you have, for
each aspect, information depending on whether you were going by boat, or by
plane. This is really available in five languages. We are extremely proud of
You know, I do get carried away, because we have worked so hard. And I
should tell you that CBC International employees are telling me, and remind
me from time to time, that we do not want to go backwards. We are extremely
proud of the successes we have achieved so far and we want to ensure that
Canadians get the most for their money. We sometimes think that what we have
achieved is just short of miraculous, and we are proof that miracles do
exist. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Lacroix: To answer your question, Senator Greene, you heard we
are more connected to the audience in order to have the ability to follow
the audience, to understand and connect with them so that we get feedback.
When you transmit shortwave, there is no way in the world to know whether
people are actually listening and whether they are on their little set at
the exact time that your 30 minutes or hour is going through. We think this
is a neat way to transform RCI, not to have made it disappear but to have
transformed it into something that is easy to access, vibrant and in tune
with the digital virage.
Senator Greene: Were these changes in your plans for the long term
and you just brought them forward a bit earlier?
Mr. Lacroix: Not all of them, but they were clearly precipitated
by the request from government.
Senator Greene: Thank you very much, and congratulations.
Mr. Lacroix: Thank you.
Senator Eggleton: It is very impressive what you are demonstrating
to us, but I want to go back to the topic of shortwave. I notice that a
number of other broadcasters are reducing their shortwave, but some of them
are keeping some of it, and I sense that it might be because there are
people you cannot reach through these means. You pointed out, Mr. Lacroix,
in your comments that in Africa, Internet access is only about 3 per cent.
Then there is the question of oppressed countries, where people are denied
Internet access. Throughout history, certainly modern-day history, one
associates the ability to get to these people using shortwave means as being
very important in expressing what Canada is about by getting Canadian
stories and messages through hopefully to many of these people living in
You also said that because they have more radio possibilities, there
could perhaps be audio content from a dedicated server. I am not sure what
that means, if that covers off the kind of people I am talking about in
You also said maintaining a shortwave infrastructure was simply not a
viable option. I am wondering if you could expand on that, the costs
involved and also what the dedicated server is about. How do we get to
people in oppressed conditions who do not have Internet access?
Mr. Lacroix: Senator Eggleton, you have a lot of parts to your
question. I will try to address some of them, and I will ask Ms. Parent to
address others. If I forget something, just throw the question back at me.
One of the things we started from was the basic premise that we needed to
find $200 million in our budget after being challenged by a $171 million hit
in 2008-09. That was the premise from which we started.
We have to make sure that in protecting our broadcasting, protecting our
mandate under the act, protecting our strategic direction and continuing to
deliver what Canadians want, which is interesting, differentiated
programming from a public broadcaster, we start from there, we protect the
core and then we look at whether there are services that are perhaps no
longer as relevant or ways for Canadians — not only Canadians, but other
services that we deliver — to use our services that are not on platforms
that are not very useful. That is where Radio Canada International gets on
the radar screen, and we have a conversation that Ms. Parent just described,
as to how we can transform this, reduce this budget and make RCI a more
You talk about reaching people in these countries. We think that through
the ability we have of delivering stuff through mobility and partnerships
with local radio programmers in those countries — I will ask Ms. Parent to
tell you more about this as well as the famous dedicated server. The numbers
we have right now indicate that 3,000 hits — I am going to look for my
number. People are coming to our site and downloading — here it is. Between
September and November of 2012 on this famous dedicated server — which is a
server available to our partners. If you are a partner of ours, let us say
an organization in another country, you can come here, it is free, you
download it and add it to the program that you have in your own country as
programs coming from CBC/Radio-Canada. To show how relevant we are, we had
3,000 clicks from our partners where they downloaded this and incorporated
that programming in their own stuff.
Ms. Parent: It is truly an accessible server. People submit their
requests by filling out a form because we want to ensure that they are
defending democratic values. We then send them a password, they have access
to the server and can connect when they want to, free of charge. They
Moreover, they have requested shorter productions. Currently, our
productions vary between 5 to 15 minutes in length. We have all the same
received 3,000 visits from our partners in 70 days, which is excellent. We
are very proud of this, things are working well. Earlier you mentioned
shortwave, which is still useful for certain populations. That is true, but
the CBC International penetration rate for shortwave leads us to believe
that the audience we are reaching is really small.
A little earlier, Hubert gave you some information with regard to the
penetration rate of the Internet in Africa from 2009. This morning, in La
Presse, the International Telecommunication Union published new figures.
Today, three or four years later, that rate has gone to 16 per cent in
Africa, which is a really significant increase.
But what works well in Africa are mobility and mobile phones. In 2009,
there was already strong market penetration, and I can tell you that our RCI
mobile app will be ready by mid-May. The Radio-Canada team is working on it
as we speak. The mobile version for people in Africa and elsewhere will soon
Mr. Lacroix: Senator Eggleton, that is very significant.
How do we get to these people in regions that are challenged by the
Internet, et cetera? Mobility will be the key, and we will be able to
deliver this on their phone or the widget of their choice. As you heard from
my numbers, those numbers are very high, even in Africa. That is how we will
Senator Eggleton: Yes, because I would not think the dedicated
server would necessarily work. These are countries that share democratic
values. However, I am talking about the countries that do not and getting
through to the people who are oppressed, which has traditionally been what
shortwave has helped to do.
Mr. Lacroix: They can access our sites and the information we will
deliver to them through the mobility. The dedicated server lets them come in
and allows a local station in Africa to take this. In those countries, there
are a number of partners we have that deliver our content through their
local radio programming. They simply add our stuff. That is the way for us
to reach them.
Senator Eggleton: I heard you say that. I asked you a question
that I would still like an answer to. How much would it have cost to
maintain the shortwave infrastructure?
Mr. Lacroix: It would have cost $2.3 million per year. That is the
cost of that particular environment. Without taking into account the shared
services, meaning HR, corporate stuff that supports RCI —
Senator Eggleton: Just the infrastructure.
Mr. Lacroix: The total budget was $10 million or $12 million. It
is now down to $2.3 million.
Ms. Parent: In RCI's budget, the cost of maintaining the shortwave
service was $1.2 million per year. I don't know if that answers your
question. And the total cost for maintaining all of Radio-Canada's shortwave
services was $2.1 million per year.
Mr. Lacroix: The difference is that we had revenues coming from
partners that were dwindling because as our shortwave facilities were being
used by other ones, we generated some revenues. That is why that was the
Senator Verner: Thank you for your opening statement. It was clear
and removed the drama which could have come with the cutbacks which were
announced in the supplementary estimates for Radio-Canada and Radio Canada
What happened to you almost constitutes good news. I don't want to
exaggerate, but what you have achieved is fairly extraordinary. My question
follows on those asked by my colleagues.
We know that in Africa mobile phones really are the best way to connect
with others. In your opinion, do you reach more people this way than the
Ms. Parent: That is our objective and we firmly believe that we
are going to reach more people. We also broadcast on the FM dial. Our
partners broadcast on local radio stations. BBC and Voice of America can
confirm this. But what is very important in Africa today is to be a presence
on local FM radio. These radio stations broadcast our productions, and, for
us, the fact of being available on mobile phones is really a significant
Senator Verner: The fact that you were asked to make cutbacks in
your budget in fact accelerated the process, because ultimately, when you
look at what came of that, we could almost be tempted to ask you whether it
should not have happened earlier.
Ms. Parent: I believe the team from Radio Canada International was
thinking about this thing for many years. Moving to the Internet, on the
recommendation of Graham Mytton, was something we had started to do. This is
not without precedent. We did have a website before, but it was a complement
to our programming. But sometimes it is important to resort to creative
Senator Verner: Congratulations. Frankly, your product is very
Ms. Parent: Thank you.
Senator Unger: Thank you for your presentation. I would like to
know a little bit about the audience that RCI had in terms of numbers,
composition, age, region, country, et cetera, and how that has changed. You
have been the voice of Canada for years, so I am just wondering about who
these people are that will now be served by this new technology that, quite
frankly, at my age, I would never be interested in.
Mr. Lacroix: I will ask Hélène to tell you about our current
It is difficult for us to tell you what it was before because we could
not count. It was very difficult to count the number of people picking us up
on shortwave because there was no connection. We had to rely on data that
came and was delivered to us in a very incomplete way.
With this technology, we can actually count now, and Ms. Parent will tell
you who the audience is and whom we speak to. About 55 per cent are
Canadians in Canada, and about 45 per cent are outside of Canada. Perhaps
Ms. Parent can elaborate.
Ms. Parent: Forty-five per cent of our listeners are abroad. We
have not identified the profile of our Canadian listeners. People who listen
to Radio Canada International are between 50 and 65 years old. They are
educated. In fact, they are basically the same people who listen to
CBC/Radio-Canada, but to be precise, 31 per cent of Canadians are aware of
Radio Canada International, which is excellent, given the fact that Radio
Canada International was not very wellknown and did not have a deep
penetration rate in Canada in the past.
It should said that with shortwave radio we were not broadcast in Canada
and Canadians from diverse backgrounds did not have access to RCI content;
now, we focus on people who know little or nothing about Canada, no matter
We focus on citizens of the world because with the Internet there are no
borders. We still target the same audience, people around age 35 and older,
people who want to educate themselves and learn, who have that ability to
reach us. We are aware that for some, it is important to have a certain
level of income, especially for Internet lines, except for wireless where
now, in Africa, it has become accessible.
We are targeting a much larger audience and we are targeting a Canadian
audience, in addition. We did not have access to Canadians. You know, we are
pleased to say that focusing on Canadians of diverse backgrounds is
important, especially when there are events like the Shafia case. We at
Radio Canada International think that if the Shafia family had visited the
Radio Canada International site we have now, they could have understood
Canadian values and what it is to live in Canada.
In the Discovering Canada section, we have a complete feature on
the Canadian democratic system. I did not show it to you, but the whole
parliamentary system is also described. We have an educational mission to
help Canadians and non-Canadians discover what Canada is and we have to
focus on that whole group.
Mr. Lacroix: I would like you to remember from Ms. Parent's
intervention also that in the past we could not speak to Canadians in Canada
about RCI and what was going on. People who land in Canada and choose to
live here now have access to us in this way because they can now access the
Internet and they can discover Canada as they are growing and becoming
citizens of this country through RCI.
Senator Unger: Is CBC Radio readily available outside of Canada? I
also wondered about the demographics of people in oppressed areas. Who are
they and what countries are they in, primarily?
Mr. Lacroix: Do you mean where Radio-Canada was before?
We could give an idea of our shortwave radio, of the countries where we
Ms. Parent: You have a map in your folders showing where we were
Mr. Lacroix: If you look at the map, you will see.
Senator Unger: Thank you very much.
Senator Housakos: Congratulations on the initiative and the
presentation. I have mostly a comment to make, which you can speak to, and
then I have a question.
It is amazing how you have become innovative and efficient with 80 per
cent less money and one third of the employees. You have managed to reach
out using modern-day technology and technology that, over the last decade,
has established itself as the way of the future. The question is, though,
why did it take so long.
The other question is that, as parliamentarians and as taxpayers, we
would like our Crown corporations to be looking for initiatives to be able
to become more efficient and the most cost-effective possible without having
to have governments send down draconian envelopes to force our Crown
corporations, be it the VIA Rails of this world or the CBCs of this world,
to take cost-saving initiatives. This is an example of how a major, drastic
cost cut has spun out to great innovation and positive results. That is a
comment from my point of view.
The other question I have, and forgive my ignorance, is how many
shortwave radios were sold in Canada in the last year? What would be the
number of shortwave radios that Canadians would possess living in the Middle
East or Eastern Europe or wherever?
Mr. Lacroix: Frankly, I have no clue. I cannot answer that
Senator Housakos: The last time I walked into Future Shop or any
one of the electronic stores, it does not seem that they sell shortwave
Mr. Lacroix: They could not pick us up here, so that would not be
Let us go back to why not before. You have to admit one thing. Five years
ago, did you have iPads? Did you have the kind of widgets you have in your
hand? The answer is no. That is how modern technology helped us. That is
why. We could not have done this a couple of years ago. Yes, we were looking
at it and thinking about technology, but the stuff that we do now at
CBC/Radio-Canada and the digital turn that we took, and when I talk to you
about Strategy 2015 and the third thrust being how important we are in the
digital world right now, that is the result. That is an example of what we
were able to do in this kind of environment.
I would like to remind you also that, to survive at CBC/Radio-Canada, we
have to be more efficient every year. From the numbers we have, it has been
since 1973 since we have had more dollars. We make do with what we have in
order to be able to deliver services to Canadians. Technology helps, as do
efficiencies; we take square footage out. If you look at the TBC, the
Toronto Broadcast Centre, and what we will do in Montreal to the Maison
Radio-Canada, we will shrink in size. We have new tenants; we reorganized
ourselves. In Halifax, for example, we have two buildings, and we will move
out of those two buildings into an area that we lease. We are going away
I can assure you, senator Housakos, that at CBC/Radio Canada, every
single year, when we start, we start with efficiencies and we work from
The Chair: Mr. Lacroix, Ms. Parent, thank you very much for your
presentation; I have no further questions. If we may — it will take a few
seconds — we will go in camera, I will ask a few questions and then we will
say goodbye to you.
(The committee continued in camera.)