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Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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 - Wednesday 21 November 2018

Jean-Pierre Picard

Cry me a river, Mr. Lacroix

CBC/SRC's CEO and boiling frogs

Hubert T. Lacroix, président-directeur général de SRC/CBC

Hubert T. Lacroix, président-directeur général de SRC/CBC

I thought cynicism had some boundaries. It seems I was wrong. On September 10th 2015, at the Public Broadcasters International Conference in Munich, CBC/SRC’s CEO, Hubert T. Lacroix, declared, “we (public broadcasters) are at fault, for not speaking loudly enough about the threats we face… Like the proverbial frog put in cold water that is slowly heated, we’ve resisted telling people that we risk being boiled to death.”

Well, Mr. Lacroix, the frog has been screaming for quite some time now in Canada. Haven’t you heard the numerous voices across the country expressing their concerns for the future of our public broadcaster? Haven’t you noticed those people who took to the streets or the signs “Vote CBC” in front of many Canadian homes? In Saskatchewan, the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise has denounced the “slow execution of CBC/SRC”.

Mr. Lacroix, you really didn’t see it coming? Hard to believe when we look at your track record. From 2000 to 2005, you were Executive Chairman of Telemedia Corporation, the Quebec media empire that was dismantled during your reign. You were the ideal hatchet man for this job since for 20 years your legal practice was concentrated in business law, mostly in mergers and acquisitions of public companies, and securities. With this expertise, it’s quite unlikely the government chose you to spearhead a new era in public broadcasting.

Something doesn’t seem right when you declare, we have failed to make a compelling enough case for public broadcasting.” Why “we”? Many of us have tried.

On 12 may 2014, on SRC’s public affairs program Pas de midi sans info, you said “I don’t believe in making headlines with a crusade to take on the powers that be in Ottawa (…)”. ( « Je ne crois pas à une bataille sur la première page du journal avec les personnes qui sont en poste à Ottawa et qui ont un ascendant sur le radiodiffuseur public. »)

Indeed, your struggle, if any, has made no headlines. Neither was there any raucous behind the closed doors of CBC/SRC’s Board of Directors. This should come as no surprise considering that all its members have very close ties to the Conservative Party.

The cost of slashing 25% of CBC/SRC’s workforce has been high. World-class public affair programs have been put on life support and some have croaked. It’s harder and harder to see a difference between our public broadcaster and private broadcasters.

One could be tempted to commend you for stating that a broken funding model cripples our public broadcaster. It is true that you’ve been fighting for a multi-year funding policy for CBC/SRC, à la BBC. But while you struggle with “how” the money is allocated, you don't put up a fight for "how much".

And all this time you were claiming that CBC/SRC was simply reinventing itself for the 21st century. Your regional minions have defended your strategy faithfully. During a public consultation in Regina, in November 2014, the director of French services for Western Canada said “everything is  fine and will even improve with the new generation of journalists and their iPhones whose reports will be broadcasted on our smart watches”.

You affirm wanting to put CBC/SRC on the digital track, which is the right thing to do. However, this venture requires more funding, not less, to make sure our national broadcaster is able to cruise at a decent speed on the information Highway.

Meanwhile we see too many journalists frantically twitting information tidbits while in depth analysis is taking the back seat.

It’s clear that your employers in Ottawa dictate your mission. Unfortunately, their disdain for the media, and especially for CBC/SRC, is well known.

You’ve masterfully orchestrated the government’s strategy to spread the budget cuts, raising the water’s temperature slowly enough to numb the public opinion. So please, spare us your sob story of “darn, it might be too late”. 

P.S. : What colour is your parachute? 

 

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