February 26, 2009

CBC may sell assets, merge TV stations

Canada's public broadcaster may sell TV and radio assets and merge TV stations to endure the current fiscal crisis, its chief executive officer said Thursday.

If we are to maintain our strategic momentum, we must protect, to the extent possible, our key assets -- our people and our programs -- but we too will be looking at reducing our services in the new fiscal year, which begins April 1, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. chief executive Hubert Lacroix said.

Possible cost-cutting includes introducing more American programming into our television schedules, downgrading or selling parts or the whole of some of our TV or radio services, increasing the advertising we accept on the air (and) shrinking our geographic coverage of the country by consolidating local stations, he told the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto.

The 73-year-old company will seek to increase revenues, but that alone won't be enough to survive the crisis, Lacroix said.

It must instead fundamentally examine what we do and what we can be. Bottom line: We can't be all things to all people, he said.

CBC/Radio Canada offers 29 services on television, radio, the Internet, satellite radio, digital audio and a recording label. These include programming in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages domestically and in nine languages internationally.

Lacroix said he asked to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to seek financial flexibility to get through the crisis.

The flexibility could include a government-authorized line of credit or an advance on future appropriations to pay downsizing costs in 2009-2010, and then reduce proportionally, over several years, the level of future appropriation, he said.