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CBC/Radio-Canada CEO asked to explain 'bonuses'

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The President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, Catherine Tait, responded to questions from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

  • Rania Massoud (View profile)Rania Massoud

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The president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, Catherine Tait, testified Tuesday before a federal parliamentary committee which called on her to explain the “bonuses” paid to executives, while the public broadcaster must reduce its budget of $125 million.

In early December, CBC/Radio-Canada management announced that it intended to cut 600 jobs and eliminate 200 vacant positions , or nearly 10% of its workforce domestically, over the next 12 months.

One of the issues that was still outstanding was that of bonuses paid to executives.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, under the Access to Information Act, show that $16 million was paid in bonuses by CBC/Radio-Canada in 2022.

At the start of her speech before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Tuesday, Ms. Tait addressed the issue of so-called bonuses, saying that the public broadcaster awards some of its employees [so-called] at-risk compensation, based on performance.

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According to her, this is an amount which constitutes a key component of the overall compensation of our non-unionized workforce of approximately 1,140 employees.

We compare this compensation to the average compensation paid for similar positions in government bodies, other state-owned companies and industry, she further explained.

Ministries and Crown corporations all use performance-based compensation. It constitutes a lever to achieve our public interest objectives and surpass ourselves in order to achieve great ambitions.

A quote from Catherine Tait, President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada

According to her, the value of this incentive remuneration is decided by the board of directors at the end of the financial year, therefore by the end of March.

Ms Tait also explained that the job cuts were announced due to inflation affecting goods and services, and the decline in revenues from advertising and television subscriptions.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In 2018, the structural deficit stood at $21 million a year, Ms Tait said. Today it stands at 36 million. What this means in practice is that each financial year begins with budget reductions.

We are well aware of the uncertainty and concern that this creates among our employees and among Canadians who rely on our services, said Catherine Tait. We will manage these cuts so as to minimize their impact on our jobs and services, and if our financial situation improves, we will adjust.

Ms. Tait has repeatedly reiterated that she is not the one who decides whether or not incentive compensation will be paid to CBC/Radio-Canada executives, but she wanted to emphasize that it is important to respect the process in place in the allocation of these compensations. Otherwise, it would be chaos, she assured.

We must retain our talented executives. It's not about end-of-year gifts, it's about performance compensation.

A quote from Catherine Tait, CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada

Asked if she plans to change the process for granting this compensation, she says that all options are on the table.

During her testimony, Ms. Tait was closely followed several times by the Conservative members of the committee on the question of bonuses.

Several Conservative MPs, including Rachael Thomas and Andrew Scheer, pointed out that CBC/Radio-Canada's audience share had declined, and asked Catherine Tait if she thought she had achieved the objectives allowing her to receive a bonus. To which Ms. Tait replied: Absolutely, yes!

She explained that the decline in audience share is not a question performance, but a market trend that affects all media and not just CBC/Radio-Canada.

I do not control the number of Canadians who no longer watch television and follow the news online.

A quote from Catherine Tait, CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada

The work we do, with the few resources we have, is not nothing short of a miracle, she later indicated, recalling that CBC/Radio-Canada faces chronic underfunding.

According to Ms. Tait, no other public broadcaster provides its services in a country as large [as Canada], which spans six time zones and has two official languages ​​in addition to eight indigenous languages.

Yet at $33 per Canadian, or 10 cents per day, CBC/Radio-Canada is one of the least well-funded public broadcasters in the world, four times less than in the Kingdom -United and in France, and eight times less than in Germany.

Finally, according to Marco Dubé, head of transformation and senior vice-president, People and culture, of CBC/Radio-Canada, who was present alongside Ms. Tait before the committee, around a hundred layoff notices have been sent since the announcement on the cuts in early December.

These opinions concerned CBC a little more than Radio-Canada, he clarified, adding that 250 people leave their jobs voluntarily every year.

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