Update on Board meeting, and town-hall planned for March 25th

The Board met in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday to focus on the plan for next year and, more importantly, for managing our way through this financial crisis. The discussions were demanding and complex, and everyone around the table understands just how much is at stake for the public broadcaster, its people, programs and services. The Board has approved the plan, as submitted by management, to guide us through the coming year. It assumes that the government will authorize our sale of enough assets to finance our way through this without deeper cuts.

I know that many of you are anxious to know what’s in store. I appreciate your patience over the last few months. Over the next few days, SET will talk through the Board’s discussions at length, and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on our consolidated plan. We have also committed to again touch base with the unions before we make any announcements. I intend to honour that commitment.

We’ll be able to talk more next week. I know that you’re asking, why wait until next week? Simply, it isn’t feasible to speak with you this week while many of your colleagues in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia are on March Break, combined with the time we need for SET to finalise documents, and carry out briefings with managers and the Unions. Together with the Senior Executive Team, I am planning to give you an overview of our financial situation, strategy and the changes to come next Wednesday, March 25th. This will be high-level and strategic, rather than operational. You can then expect your respective Vice-Presidents and their management teams to start rolling out specific operational announcements within 24 hours of that briefing with more information about how the changes relate to your component specifically.

There are a few things, however, that I feel I should share with you right now:

We are going to safeguard the non-commercial nature of our radio services.

We are also not planning to increase American programming in our English television schedule.

On the compensation front, executive salaries are being frozen at 2008 levels for 2009-2010. Potential bonus payouts for executives in 2009-2010 will be reduced by 50 percent. This means that the compensation for each of our eighty or so top managers will on average be reduced by 10 to 20 percent next year. I thought that you should know that management cares, and cares enough about CBC/Radio-Canada that it needed to send a clear signal that we will do our part.

The Board approved a targeted voluntary retirement incentive program, which you will hear more about starting next week. It will be subject to Ministerial approval. A few of you had raised that possibility with me in recent months.

I know these are anxious times. I have received and tried to answer on a timely basis emails from more than 200 of you. As unfortunate as our situation is today, I truly appreciate how well you have collectively been able to maintain your focus and determination to get the great results we’ve been giving Canadians across all platforms. I want you to know that both I and the Senior Executive Team value that, and that we will get you as much clarity as we can as fast as we can, starting on the 25th.

In the meantime, expect to continue to read a lot of speculation in the media. That’s natural, but remember it’s just that – speculation – and as such, we will not be commenting on it, neither via memos to staff nor press releases. We haven’t and won’t be sharing our plans with the media until after the meetings on March 25 and 26th. Our employees will be informed first.

Finally, I will only say that I would not lend much credence to the rhetoric in the press that pits us against the Minister of Heritage. I have had a fair amount of contact with our Minister over the past few months. I like him. I think he is someone we can work with and who understands the role that public broadcasting plays and must play in this country.

Talk to you on the 25th.


1 comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “You can then expect your respective Vice-Presidents and their management teams to start rolling out specific operational announcements within 24 hours of that briefing with more information about how the changes relate to your component specifically.”

    I can hardly wait to hear the operational announcements from the Vice President of the Real Estate Division.
    We all know the U.S. economy is in really bad shape. Maybe the VP RE will buy a bridge in Brooklyn.

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