CBC Embarks on New Directions

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CBC Thunder Bay
Members of the CBC Thunder Bay team take a breather from a busy day at the studio.

CBC Radio
CBC Radio’s Lisa Laco interviews the first CBQ 800 Station Manager in Thunder Bay as the station celebrated in September 2013.

Times are Changing at the CBC

THUNDER BAY – Local CBC Radio in Thunder Bay has been impacted by cuts at the Canadian broadcaster. The station and the region is losing the afternoon radio programing.

Last week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced its new strategy for taking the public broadcaster to 2020 and beyond.

CBC Thunder Bay
Members of the CBC Thunder Bay team take a breather from a busy day at the studio.

In a media statement the CBC states, “It will transform the Corporation from the traditional to the modern, and aims to better serve Canadians, through three fundamental shifts: the digital, the individual and the sustainable”.

CBCThe cuts come as a result of losing the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast rights, and the resulting revenue losses. The new strategy is called “A space for us all”.

A space for us all is a strategy to make CBC/Radio-Canada the public space at the heart of our conversations and experiences as Canadians,” said Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada. “We want to be a part of daily life. In the home, in the car, at work, and at play – CBC/Radio-Canada will be at your fingertips.”

A space for us all is about modernizing the public broadcaster to bring it closer to its audience. The strategy outlines CBC/Radio-Canada’s plans to:

  • Intensify its relationship with Canadians through the delivery of relevant, distinctly Canadian content and services, offered through modern distribution methods, with an emphasis on digital and mobile services;

  • Preserve its geographic presence, to be even more local, but at a reduced cost;

  • Significantly reduce in-house production – excluding news, current affairs and radio – while continuing to promote acquired or commissioned entertainment content from Canada’s independent creative sector;

  • Lighten its technology and real estate footprint across the country, focusing efforts and resources on content rather than infrastructure;

  • Become a scalable and flexible company with the appropriate tools, resources and people to deliver its strategy; and

  • Develop long-term, sustainable ways to manage its financial health, and the ability to invest in the future, as market conditions and audience habits evolve.

“In the past seven years, the most painful and frustrating task for me has been to implement one round after another of reductions to respond to a changing environment and balance the budgets,” commented Lacroix. “We need to find a path to sustainability. This time, these changes – and some of them will be difficult – will allow us to end up in a better place. They will allow us to ensure that we build a new CBC/Radio-Canada that will be a great place to work, that will be a champion of Canada, and it will be sustainable.”

Ultimately, the strategy aims to better position the public broadcaster to meet the fundamental shifts that are transforming the media universe, and consequently how it connects with Canadians. In order to better measure success, the Corporation has established two key targets:

  • By 2020, the public broadcaster will have doubled its digital reach. 18 million Canadians, one out of two, will use CBC/Radio-Canada’s digital services each month.

  • By 2020, three out of four Canadians will answer that CBC or Radio-Canada is very important to them personally.

“Implementing the strategy will require careful steps, balancing our relationship with Canadians and the needs of a new CBC/Radio-Canada with the impact these changes will have on our people,” continued Lacroix. “And we will ensure we develop and retain the skills necessary to thrive in this new era. Every change we are making through this strategy is designed to ensure we put as many of our resources into great content as possible. The creativity and passion of our workforce will always be critical to our success.”

“The strategy itself doesn’t have all the answers, but it provides a solid framework that will allow us to face new challenges and seize new opportunities,” added Lacroix. “I am confident that, come 2020, we will have secured our ability to serve future generations of Canadians, and we will be a model of modern public broadcasting worldwide.”

Increasingly, ours is a digital world. Hours of video are placed online every minute of everyday. While there once was an information gap or time lag, today, social media moves far faster than any traditional media outlet possible could.

We are in an era where social media has made it possible for everyone to be ‘media’. It is a paradigm shift that is evolving at the speed of light. The move by CBC at the Canada-wide level toward more digital media is good.

However it also means that the corporation needs to keep in its thoughts that many parts of Canada are not moving as fast as downtown Toronto. Regions across the North are not as connected as major centres. A shift into fully digital media that will likely work best in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal may not work as well for Thunder Bay, Saskatoon and Kamloops and will especially impact many rural regions of Canada where often news coverage is far more sparse.

For all in media, the simple message from the CBC is that to quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing”.

Canadians have massive choices in their media, Making local media more relevant is a pathway to success. Reaching out into the communities that they serve is likely to make a huge difference as the media evolution if not revolution continues.

CBC is taking a large chance with its change, and likely is going to either make or break the corporation.

Time in an ever evolving media world will tell.

James Murray