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 International.


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 International’s service.

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 action plan.

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 crisis.

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 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 $200-million challenge.

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 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 evening.

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 International’s favorites.

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 website.

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 this section.

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 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?

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 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 productions.

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 available.

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 them.

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 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 International.

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 traditional way?

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 creative thinking.

Senator Verner: Congratulations. Frankly, your product is very impressive.

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 listenership.


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 question.

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 radios anywhere.

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 ownership.

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 there.


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.)