TORONTO – The topics of change and evolution dominated CBC/Radio-Canada’s fifth annual public meeting Wednesday at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto while in the backs of many minds were thoughts of ice, pucks and sticks.
Noting that the public broadcaster was at the midpoint of its five year strategy ‘2015: Everyone, Every way’, president and CEO Hubert Lacroix said that CBC/Radio-Canada is now “more present in the regions, more connected with our audiences” than at any point in its history. “We’re changing, we’re evolving. We’re challenging the status quo. We want to create a one-on-one relationship with our listeners”, he said. “As Canada’s public broadcaster, we are more than just a media company. We are a part of the communities we serve, and we believe we have to play as big a part in Canada’s future as we’ve played in its past."
However, a big part of the role CBC plays with Canadians has been Saturday night hockey. For more than six decades, the NHL has held a feature role in the CBC schedule and in the lives of Canadians - and it accounts for over 200 hours of the network's Canadian content annually. Its current broadcast deal comes to an end after the current season. Speaking with reporters after the formal part of the meeting, Lacroix expressed hope that the CBC would work out a new deal with the National Hockey League, so that Hockey Night in Canada would continue beyond this, its 61st season, but he also acknowledged the Corp. is confronting possibility that something else might be on next winter's Saturday evenings.
“I still think that we are a smart environment for the NHL. We’re a good partner for the NHL, but like any other smart management team, we have plan B. We’re not going to go to plan B though, because we’re still negotiating with the NHL," Lacroix said.
“Obviously, the point in the decision tree of yes or no with respect to hockey triggers different consequences and we are evaluating both sides of it. We think we will have an answer (from the NHL) within the next weeks - and it’s important because obviously it affects budgeting processes, content processes and how we will replace the hours of programming that Hockey Night in Canada brings to us.
“We’re not the only ones having this conversation. We’re negotiating with (the NHL). We know they’re negotiating with the other networks and we’ll see where that goes.”
Lacroix also told reporters that they can expect the broadcaster to continue to experiment with new initiatives, such as the CBC's all-digital Hamilton presence. As we have reported, the CBC is about 20 months into operations at its Hamilton news outlet and the CEO said he is not ready to make any pronouncements about CBC Hamilton, saying the broadcaster is "learning from it every day.
“We think this has a lot of potential, a lot of future, (there are) adjustments to be made... Still too early to make a call," he said. "We’re still adjusting to it and I think that you might see more of these kinds of environments." But, he added, the whole experience, from the site through its social media environment has to be fine-tuned and consistent. "We have some work to do still," he added. “Right now, (there's) no timeline on that partoicular project because we think that is a way for us to evolve -- and they’re labs. They’re experiments. We’re still going to be investing some time in it.”
Also during the meeting, vice-president and CFO Suzanne Morris added that for the first quarter of 2013−2014, the Corp.’s results on a current operating basis were close to break-even, and that it is on track to meet its financial plans for the year.
The annual public meeting also featured a panel made of up of CBC/Radio-Canada radio personalities who debated how new technology is enriching the conversation on radio. Panellists included Matt Galloway, host of Metro Morning, CBC Radio One; Rebecca Makonnen, host of Circuit Makonnen, Espace musique; Steve Patterson, host of The Debaters, CBC Radio One; Jean-Sébastien Bernatchez, host of L'heure du monde, ICI Radio-Canada Première; and Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current, CBC Radio One.
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