‘Adapt we must, and adapting we are,’ says CBC prez

CBC president Hubert Lacroix tells audience at public meeting that the Canadian pubcaster will renew its focus on Canadian, regional and digital content.
October 21, 2010

Having steadied the ship after last year’s job and programming cuts, CBC president Hubert Lacroix signaled a renewed focus on Canadian, regional and digital content as the public broadcaster enters increasingly choppy waters to 2015.

Addressing a public meeting from the CBC broadcast center in Ottawa that streamed live online, Lacroix said a two-year ‘financial recovery plan’ plugged leaks from lost ad revenue and, with asset sales, balanced its 2009-2010 budget.

But more icebergs lay ahead, including rivals CTV, Global Television, Citytv and TVA Group, shortly to all be in ownership of major cable or satellite TV carriers.

‘CBC/Radio-Canada has been forced to rethink the way we do business in this evolving world. Adapt we must, and adapting we are,’ he said.

CBC CFO Suzanne Morris said the $171 million budget shortfall last year was compounded by a 13% fall in ad revenue to $309 million in 2009-10 brought on by the industry-wide TV ad slump and the ad bonanza a year earlier from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games coverage.

That ad revenue collapse brought the CBC’s total operating budget for 2009-10 to $1.71 billion, against a budget of $1.79 billion in 2008-2009.

To make up for the budgetary shortfall, the CBC raised $154 million by selling off Ontrea Inc., a real estate vehicle, for $133 million and Stingray Digital for another $21 million.

On the plus side, the CBC’s Morris said the federal government’s roughly $1.1 billion appropriation for the public broadcaster has remained relatively intact through current challenges, falling $44 million in 2009-10, compared to a year earlier, due to timing differences rather than budgetary chops.

During a Q&A session following the main executive presentations, Lacroix denied the CBC was ‘dumbing-down’ its main English language radio and TV offerings, and repeatedly said last year’s cuts to programming would be made up with an expanded digital presence to reach out to Canadians everywhere.

‘We’re much more than a broadcaster that creates content for people to consume. We are a space, an instrument that allows people to connect with one another,’ he said.

From Playback Daily

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