President and CEO of CBC, Hubert T. Lacroix (above), gave his first public address today since going through some tough budget cuts. Speaking to the Economic Club of Canada in downtown Toronto, he addressed the main issues facing CBC today and spoke of the future of the Canadian public broadcaster.
"As Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin'," started Lacroix. Citing the surge of iPhones, iPads, Facebook and the fact you no longer need a radio to actually listen to radio broadcasts, he demonstrated how things have indeed changed, even just over the past four years since he took the job of President and CEO. This proved to be one of the main points of his speech: CBC, too, is changing with the times. For the better.
Take CBC Music, for example: "The kind of world class initiative that you should expect from your public broadcaster." Already, Canadians in every part of the country have streamed millions upon millions of hours of Canadian music on their computers, on their smartphones and on their tablets thanks to CBC Music and its forty genre streams. It plays a huge part in CBC's vision for the future.
CBC Hamilton, the first of five innovative new digital services, is another way that CBC is looking to move forward in the digital world, in turn connecting with as many Canadians as possible all over the country. The web portal features a "pinned" map of the city that acts as a physical representation of all of the stories and events happening in the area. There are traffic alerts, weather, things to do and - of course - local news.
Launching too in Kamloops, London, Saskatoon and the Waterloo region, these local services are just one of the ways CBC is collaborating and complementing "everyone and everything else that's out there to ensure that we are, and can continue to be, the first place that Canadians think of when it comes to the Canadian experience, Canadian culture and Canadian democratic life."
According to Lacroix, "anything short of that isn't good enough."
Despite the recent cuts, Lacroix said that "we will hold to our commitment to be more Canadian, more regional and more digital."
When it came to the money issue, Lacroix moved to dispel the argument that CBC shouldn't receive public support when the other networks in Canada receive none. Why? Because they do receive public support: "All media organizations benefit significantly, one, from sources like the Canada Media Fund and the Local Programming Improvement Fund and, two, through direct or indirect regulatory or fiscal advantages."
"Canadian programs cost a lot of money. So why keep producing them? Because a big, diverse, geographically dispersed country that doesn't have the means to tell its own stories, share its common experiences, debate its issues, doesn't stay knitted together for long. Television and radio might not be the only means of bringing Canadians together. But right now, for sure, they are the most effective and cost efficient ones."
"Without the public broadcaster, there would be fewer Canadian stories being told, shared and experienced, and the viability of the Canadian media production sector would be in serious doubt."
"We're all in this together. While it's clear that we play different roles, we have a mutual interest in keeping Canadians connected and satisfied, and we should recognise that as such."
We've heard how the budget cuts will be offset - by doubling digital revenue, increasing advertising on television and radio, and leasing excess real estate - but that's not going to let the vision for the future change: "Where we are going has never been clearer; getting there is our focus," said Lacroix. "Public broadcasting is today at the centre of Canadian cultural and democratic life, and it's pushing ahead the way a modern public broadcaster should - quickly and in concert with Canadians' evolving expectations."
CBC love to hear from the people of Canada and what they want, and that's what Lacroix says we're delivering, and will continue to deliver for future generations and whatever may evolve in this digital world, despite financial plight. CBC has a huge place in the heart of many Canadians, and, according to Lacroix, "together, we can continue to create and nurture that culture and that democracy that we want to see."