THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT AND
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met
this day at 6:45 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.
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 International.
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 in it.
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 economic
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 radio programming.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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 $200-million
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
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 now.
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 this
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 directors.
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 it.
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.
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.
Thank you very much, and congratulations.
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 oppressed situations.
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 oppressed societies.
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?
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 vibrant environment.
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 download
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 be
Mr. Lacroix: Senator Eagleton, 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 reach
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
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 net.
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 step forward.
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
Senator Verner: Congratulations. Frankly, your product is
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
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 their background.
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 were broadcast.
Ms. Parent: You have a map in your folders showing where
we were broadcast.
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 helpful.
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 from
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.)