POLITICS

CBC president says broadcaster can't 'be all things to all people'

06/07/2012 01:27 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The beleaguered CBC is seeking tenants for office space it owns across the country in a bid to generate revenue that would help it cover a multimillion shortfall.

Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, said Thursday the broadcaster hopes to generate $50 million through various measures that include putting ads on Radio 2 and leasing more than 74,000 square metres of real estate by 2017.

"There's a lot of square footage that is not used because of the cuts over the years," Lacroix told reporters after delivering a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto.

"What we're trying to do right now is look to tenants. We've already started doing this. We would like to think that we can package some square footage in our buildings to actually invite tenants into our building."

Lacroix added that he has no intention of selling CBC properties.

The CBC already leases space to Disney and Boston Pizza in its Toronto headquarters, a sprawling landmark that takes up prime real estate territory near the city's entertainment district.

He said there is potential for more rental income across the country, noting the goal is to "maximize" use of CBC buildings.

He pointed to CBC's Halifax operations as an example. He noted the bureau uses seven floors of two buildings.

"That's not very efficient," he said.

Lacroix noted in his speech that punishing budget cuts will have "a significant impact" on staff and programming and that the public broadcaster cannot "be all things to all people."

That said, he added that the public broadcaster still aims to "mean something very special" to Canadians.

Earlier this year, the federal government said it was slashing about 10 per cent of CBC's subsidies over the next three years, amounting to about $115 million.

Lacroix said "unavoidable cost increases" are forcing the CBC to reduce its annual budget by $200 million over the next three years, plus find $25 million for severance.

The broadcaster has already announced plans to shave 175 hours of original programming from its TV schedule, including "Battle of the Blades," "Redemption Inc." and "Being Erica."

Lacroix said Thursday that 475 out of 650 planned job cuts will be complete by the end of July.

Other austerity measures include plans to sell the specialty channel Bold, reduce news, sports and music programming, and shift shortwave broadcasts of CBC's international radio service entirely to the web.

CBC's application to put ads on Radio 2 and Espace musique is currently before the CRTC. Lacroix said it was a key part of the broadcaster's plan to generate $50 million.

"We think that we are conservative in the hypothesis that we have put on the table and we hope the CRTC will listen to us," he said of the expected revenue it would generate.