CBC 5-year plan includes more regional service

CBC plans to boost its service to the regions in the next five years, adding new local radio stations and expanding digital services.

CBC plans to boost its service to the regions in the next five years, adding new local radio stations and expanding digital services — an expansion that is part of a strategy released Tuesday by the public broadcaster.

President Hubert Lacroix outlined the new strategy for CBC that includes a doubling of investment in digital services over the next five years.

"What we'd like to do is expand our presence in the regions," Lacroix said in an interview. "You can't be a national broadcaster — I've said this since the moment I walked in — without being deeply, deeply rooted in the regions."

This may mean new radio stations, new local websites and more programming from the regions that goes beyond news, he said.

Lacroix also pledged a stronger commitment to innovative, high-quality Canadian content and to active engagement with audiences.

"We can't be all things to all people, but we can and must in some way be something for and mean something to every Canadian," he said in a news release.

Part of the strategy is to roll out 10 signature events annually in English and French that are delivered on multiple platforms. These events would be similar to Live Right Now, the focus on healthy living currently engaging Canadians on television and on digital platforms.

He also said most primetime programming on CBC-TV would be Canadian.

More Canadian primetime

Kirstine Stewart, the executive vice-president of CBC English Services, has spoken publicly about replacing Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, currently running in the early evening on CBC.

"That's a direction she wants to take and it's in line with the corporate plan to do less and less American programs in primetime and replace it with more Canadian programs," Lacroix said.

According to a background document released to the media, over the next five years, the CBC plans to:

  • Offer more homegrown stories, humour and culture.
  • Build a music service dedicated to promoting Canadian talent.
  • Produce programming that fosters debate and contributes to a shared national identity.
  • Increase regional television news during the day.
  • Increase regional programming on all platforms.

CBC will increase its spending on new technology to maintain "a leading competitive position in the digital media environment," Lacroix said.

Referring to the financial constraints faced by the CBC, he said it would be necessary for the broadcaster to grow its ad revenues at 2.8 per cent a year — which is beyond industry forecasts — and to double revenue from digital platforms to meet its goals.

Lacroix said CBC also has plans to launch more specialty channels, including SENS, a French channel devoted to science and nature programming with a proposal currently before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

English specialty channels in sports, children's programming and arts are also being considered — with the proviso that they would need a strong business model that does not draw on public money.

"As we double our budget for new platforms, we are going to look at specialty channels because we have a very strong brand and we have a way of telling stories that is known," Lacroix said.