Hubert T. Lacroix: Answers to a few of your questions
March 31, 2009 - Last week was a long and difficult week for all of us.
I know that you got, and are still getting, more details on how the changes will affect our operations from your respective management teams. We still have a lot to work through and talk through. We’ll keep doing that.
On financial flexibility
People have been asking if we still would have had to cut jobs if we’d received a $125 million bridge loan from government. Our shortfall was too important ($171 million) to only handle it through this bridge loan. The only way for us to not have seen job cuts would have been to receive new, additional and permanent funding to make up for the loss of our advertising revenue and the other budgetary pressures I talked about. We knew that additional funding wasn’t in the cards and wasn’t realistic, particularly in this Canada-wide financial context, so we did not ask for it. We built a plan to show that we could reimburse our requested loan over a five to seven-year horizon based on conservative and thus achievable revenue projections. That’s how we determined our $125 million request: we were, and still are, very confident that we could borrow $125 million and repay it over that time period and not risk endangering our corporation even more.
Our bridge loan would have helped us reduce the effect of the shortfall on our people and our programs. If received when requested, we could have implemented our reorganization plan sooner and accelerated its savings; a simple calculation shows that the cost per week of this reorganization not being started is about $3 million per week (remember that there is $158 million of budgetary pressures in the $171 million; take this $158 million and divide it by 52 to get the cost per week of not acting on the plan).
The alternative of selling our assets is also less attractive because it means that money we would be receiving over the next few years will disappear. We will be taking it now to provide our own bridge.
How many less jobs? How many programs saved? Frankly, I can’t answer that question exactly. Best way though is to start from 800 and work backwards. Cuts would have been important but it would have been easier to manage the downsizing and reduce its effects.
Strategic investment and re-investment
A second issue I wanted to touch on is whether, if our financial situation improves and can be sustained, we will reinvest it in the places we’ve cut. The answer is yes and no. Not a really good answer but let me explain.
All funds would (and should!) be directed toward things that push our strategic direction forward: in things that enable us to become a content company, to become the most important creator and distributor of Canadian content across all platforms, and to be deeply rooted in the regions.
These are the principles that will guide future investment and re-investment. So, would we invest and re-invest, for example, in our regional roots, presence and visibility? Absolutely. Would we necessarily reinstate a particular program or position in a particular place? Not so much.
Would it mean that we would reinstate the same number of positions in each station, exactly as we were staffed before the announcements? Not exactly. Some stations, some centers would perhaps get their resources back sooner than others, depending on markets, other media alternatives, strength of ad revenue potential, fairness between the communities served by CBC/Radio-Canada, costs relative to re-staffing, etc.
Would it mean that we would necessarily reinstate a particular program? Same yes or no answer as above, for the same reasons.
But I would again state: impossible for us to be a national public broadcaster without being deeply rooted in the regions. I know that some you are looking at the choices we made last week and saying: “Lacroix, we don’t believe you anymore! How can you say this when you cut 17 positions in Nova Scotia, or 13 in Windsor, or 8 in Sudbury, or the only person in La Ronge?” You won’t like my answer: because we had to make difficult cuts and attempted, as best we could, to keep our presence in the regions. And we thought that we would do this by protecting our footprint.
The $60 million envelope
In case you haven’t heard about it, our Minister has now confirmed that CBC/Radio-Canada would in 2009-2010 be receiving the $60 million in non-recurring funding for programming initiatives that it has received each year since 2001. This amount was already included in our 2009-2010 budget. This confirmation doesn’t improve our current situation but not having received it would have been catastrophic. We are grateful for this announcement.
Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program
Some of you have also been asking about the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program, which the Minister approved last Friday. About 780 of you are eligible for it, so I won’t get into the details here, but you can find out more here. And, if you’re eligible, you can also expect to receive a personalized information package in the mail.