Hello Radio folks!!
Now that we've had a few days to digest all the news, I thought a note with some context around the changes to radio might be helpful. I know it's all very new, and our challenges many, but first I want to thank you for being so patient and professional over the last couple of days. We’ve got a lot of work to do as we weather this storm and it’s going to require a lot of energy and creativity and positive thinking to be successful. You are no doubt still feeling bruised from the news of last week, but it's precisely the same kind of positive energy and creativity that you pour into our programming already that will help to achieve what we've got to do.
Our plan was created on the basis that CBC operates as one content company. As radio, television, online merge ever more closely to become a multi platformed content company, we see our future more clearly and are reminded that it’s our job to serve Canadians not only with the most robust, thoughtful, innovative and compelling content ever, but deliver it wherever, whenever and however they want it. And we're really good at it! As you know, we're experiencing higher than ever audiences. We do it in English and French, in 8 aboriginal languages, across the time zones and round the world and we do it with increasing costs, no new $, in the midst of an economic meltdown, practically standing on one foot!
And yet, there are critics who think we’re fat. They think we’re over resourced and bureaucratic and slow. But I have to tell you, in my tiny tenure here, I’ve had a moment to look under the hood, and compared with my experiences elsewhere, FAT, WE ARE NOT! What you manage to produce in radio from coast to coast and is comprehensive and impressive. I apologize that I haven’t been able to meet you all at this point, but I expect you know now what I've been up to since I arrived - looking at numbers, reading the research, pouring over the data, and endeavouring to be a positive force at the table.
You should know that as this financial challenge was faced, the process was deep and consultative. All managers/media lines/regions and networks came together to tackle the problem together. It was all hands on deck across the company where hours were spent together collectively to formulate a plan. In Radio, Chris and Ted and I joined with the managers of the programming units and the people who lead the stations. We put our heads down with all your MD’s across the regions and we wrestled with the challenges. Not only with ourselves but between media lines.
We decided that across the board cuts would downgrade ALL our programs equally, and were not strategic. So what to do? The approach was to stay on strategy and protect the core of what Canadians value and position ourselves for the future.
That there are no easy solutions is an understatement. So we looked at everything. We looked at what value metrics we would make decisions against. We reminded ourselves of what aspects of our programming Cdns hold dear and looked at ratings and reach and share. We looked at where our highest audiences were vs the overall cost of the program. We looked at program areas that we provide that no one else does and we looked at WHERE we provided it – from tiny populations in the North to coastal towns to big cities hugging the border. We looked at the breadth and depth of content that CBC radio provides as journalists, storytellers, and communicators and did an overall inventory of our resources and our programs. We asked ourselves if the balance seemed right? Ultimately we decided that putting some programming resources on subsistence level was far preferred to cancellations and closures. We endeavoured to cut in such a way that hopefully, one day, we might be in a position to rebuild across the regions.
We looked at the network but found we couldn't get all the savings we needed, so we had to move to the regions. You should know that the discussion around impacting the regions was very vigorous and the MD’s were there and heard. To be frank, the size and seriousness of this financial challenge was such, that there was a moment when the complete closure of 13 small and medium markets across the country was on the table. The discussion ultimately underscored and reaffirmed the importance of the regions and who we are as a public broadcaster. I’m very glad about that. Local CBC radio is in the DNA of who we are as Canadians and the glue that connects our small communities to each other and to Canada as a whole. We protected the North, and while there are cuts there too, no bureaus in the North will close. We will shrink and it will be difficult but WE WILL NOT disappear and we hope one day to reinvest - perhaps in existing communities where we can, but also into new regions across the country that have grown to a size that deserve local CBC radio coverage but we haven’t had the resources to go there yet.
And so, you've now seen the plan. This is a lot of change. The next months will be very difficult. It will be hard for our colleagues who’ll be leaving and for those of you who will carry on. I know you’re sad and frustrated and you'll look hard at the choices, agreeing with some and disagreeing with others. I would like to reiterate what I think I said at last week's town hall, which is, please guard against 'Us vs Us'. It's not Radio vs TV or Entertainment vs News, French vs English or Network vs Regions. If we spend too much energy venting our frustrations and pointing fingers, the less successful we will be. We need solidarity now more than ever before.
The climate is not good . If you take even a cursory look at Blogs or letters to the editor there's some nasty invective and even more scary ambivalence out there. I've heard politicians practically spit out the words 'One Billion Dollars' . It's an inflammatory figure especially when you consider that it's actually approx. $34 per Cdn a year. For just $3 a month ( compare THAT to your cable bill! ) you get CBC TV, Radio Canada, CBC.ca, Newsworld, Radio One, 2, 3, RDI, Premier Chaine, French and English, in 5 ½ time zones, in 8 aboriginal languages, foreign journalists and much, much more!!. CBC IS THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY! As well, we're one of the lowest resourced public broadcasters in the world. Many have asked me for the info on that, so I've attached the graph and a link to the annual report below .
I know you’re proud of what we do. We stand for journalistic integrity and diversity and community reflection and depth and context and analysis, all the things we need from media now more than ever. After many months of number crunching, there is a plan and we can now start to talk together about how we are going to move forward. We'll re-imagine the ways we work and strive to offer our content in all the new ways available to us.
We may have less resources, but our mission remains the same. To serve Canadians as a strong, vital and vibrant public broadcaster. And there's no question we can do it. Those of you that I’ve had a moment to spend time with, are some of the most capable and talented and fun and full on people I’ve ever met. I’m buoyed by your endless creativity and respect the absolute integrity of your work. Thank you ALL, and remember if it falters, no one will build it again.
Keep the Faith,
For the record, I trust Denise.
Oh, and here's the graph that was added to the email (CBC is the red bar, obviously):