Source : Canadian Press
TORONTO - Hubert Lacroix, a Montreal lawyer and one-time basketball colour commentator, has been named president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Radio-Canada.
Lacroix, 52, assumes the position on Jan. 1, the day after Robert Rabinovitch, who has served as president and CEO for the past eight years, officially finishes his second term.
"I am a huge fan of the CBC," Lacroix, who was approached for the job by a head-hunting firm, said in an interview Monday. "I grew up with it, I worked for it, so it's pretty exciting to actually now join this team, which is an incredible one, and try to help CBC/Radio-Canada move forward."
Lacroix, senior adviser with the Montreal law firm Stikeman Elliott, "possesses the necessary experience and skills to lead Canada's national public broadcaster," Heritage Minister Josee Verner said in a statement.
"I am confident CBC/Radio-Canada will be well-served by the leadership of Mr. Lacroix."
A lawyer for 30 years, Lacroix's legal specialties include media and publishing, as well as mergers and acquisitions, and securities and corporate governance.
Lacroix, a one-time basketball coach at his alma mater, McGill University, worked for Radio-Canada as a basketball colour commentator during the Olympic Games in 1984, 1988 and 1996.
He was also a regular weekly contributor to the Saturday evening sports show Hebdo-Sports on the radio network of Radio-Canada, where he reported mainly on amateur sports.
Lacroix was once a senior adviser to Telemedia Ventures Inc. after spending several years as the executive chairman of Telemedia Corp. He sits on the board of directors for several companies, including printing and media giant Transcontinental and the SFK Pulp Fund.
The head-hunting firm of Egon Zehnder International was hired to seek out potential candidates and make recommendations for the CBC post, but the final decision was made by the government.
Lacroix, whose spouse is expecting his first child - a girl - in February, said he has no personal relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"I don't know the prime minister and never met him in this interview process or whenever - I have no connection," he said.
Nonetheless, the Canadian content watchdog Friends of Canadian Broadcasting was critical of the choice, saying Harper ignored a Commons Heritage committee directive of a few years ago that said the president should be hired and fired by the CBC board of directors, not the prime minister.
"The problem is if you're named to that position by a certain party, do you feel an obligation to that party?" said Ian Morrison. "We'd like the president of the CBC to have a responsibility to the board of directors and be accountable to the board, not to the prime minister."
Andrew House, director of communications for Verner, said the CBC board strongly influenced the decision.
"The board of the CBC was involved extensively in what was a very transparent selection process," House said.
But Morrison also suggested that Lacroix's CV was lacking in significant broadcasting experience.
"Could you imagine the head of CTV being someone who had almost no television production or scheduling or marketing experience?" he said. "I just wish there were more people near the top at the CBC who knew television as well as the senior executives of CTV know television."
But Lacroix, a lawyer for 30 years, said he was well-prepared for the task. He said the public broadcaster faces two significant challenges: to stay relevant to a changing population and to raise funds that will keep that audience watching and listening.
"I am going to work very hard to get as much money as we can ... if we are constantly compelling and relevant, we're going to try to get revenues from every single possible source to plow it back into programming," he said.
"My job and the mandate that I have taken is clearly to try to make this company evolve in terrific changing times and to create the sense of urgency that I know everybody else around, in every other company competing with CBC/Radio Canada, has."
The CBC has a budget of about $1.5 billion, of which $950 million comes from the federal government.
The longtime basketball nut - at six-foot-one, he played avidly during his university years but says now he runs to keep fit - joked that he'd try to use his might to get more basketball on the air.
"Jokingly a few minutes ago I said I wished that we'd see 82 games of Steve Nash every year but I'm sure that's not going to happen ... I'll leave it to the programmers to make that decision," Lacroix said.
Rabinovitch has been president of the CBC since 1999. His tenure was marked by the development of Internet services and a number of labour conflicts, including a seven-week lockout in 2005.
© Canadian Press
Related Documents: November 20, 2007 - Memo - Letter from William Chambers, CBC Communications VP
Memo from Ian Morrison to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting Steering committee regarding a letter from William Chambers, CBC Communications VP.
November 5, 2007
- News Release - Appointment of Hubert Lacroix as CBC President & CEO
FRIENDSsays Prime Minister Harper has ignored a recommendation of the House ofCommons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in appointing HubertLacroix as President of the CBC.