Public service media: Countering the disruption and reinventing ourselves to appeal to the digital generation

Last week, CBC/Radio-Canada hosted the 25th annual Public Broadcasters International conference in Montreal. Senior executives from over 60 public TV and radio broadcasters in fifty-odd countries came to reflect on and debate the future of the media industry and how best to meet the aspirations of younger generations in the wake of the digital revolution.

How do you stay relevant and compelling for the under-35 set? There are many answers to this question, since the world’s public broadcasters are not all facing the same disruptions. Everyone is looking for the key to building an emotional connection and engagement with these audiences today and in the future. Globally, the resources that organizations have to inform and entertain depend directly on the country’s social, cultural and economic context. In Canada, the national public broadcaster has committed in its Strategy 2020: A Space for Us All plan to being more digital, more local and more ambitious in its Canadian programming. The federal government’s $675 reinvestment over five years will bolster our efforts to rethink the way we do business.

That’s why, at the opening of the PBI conference, our CEO Hubert T. Lacroix announced the creation of the Next Generation/Prochaine Génération project – “an experimental space, un espace de création, to be created by millennials and managed by millennials [to develop] new ways of enhancing and sharing news and public affairs content for digital natives.” You can read the interview that Hubert gave about it in Le Devoir (French only).

Around the globe, public media organizations are implementing initiatives to explore new content formats and counter the disruption. Google’s Head of News, Richard Gingras, even described this period as a “Renaissance” for journalism, given how much impressive digital work is being done today. Here are a few of my top picks from the case studies presented at PBI 2016:

  • The public network Franceinfo, launched on September 1 in partnership with France TV, Radio France, France 24 and INA, which includes TV, radio and digital platforms.
  • Kioski, run by Finland’s Svenska Yle, conducts “social experiments,” such as this man sitting in a park with a sign that reads “I’m HIV positive, do you dare touch me?” to illustrate a societal taboo.
  • Radio France International and France 24’s Info-Intox, which strives to debunk false rumours and conspiracy theories circulating online.
  • Snap’n mix, a show produced by the French hip-hop radio station Mouv’, which gets hosts and listeners to interact via Snapchat. Each Friday, Snapweek compiles the best snaps of the week on YouTube.
  • The Music Aid radiothon, produced by Sweden’s Sveriges Radio, shuts its hosts in a glassed-in downtown studio for six days. Each year, it supports a different cause related to a humanitarian crisis receiving little media attention.
  • TV5MONDE’s Les haut-parleurs puts a camera in the hands of correspondents around the world.
  • The Gammadda 100 Days project by Sri Lanka’s Capital Maharaja aims to provide a 140-family village with access to drinkable water.
  • The annual Hottest 100 public-voted music countdown produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Triple J radio network since 1988, and its listening parties held across the country.
  • Generation What?, a massive survey conducted in 12 European countries on millennials’ values and aspirations.
  • Other initiatives can be found in the PBI 2016 agenda.

These examples illustrate how public broadcasters contribute to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. As Hubert recalled, public broadcasting is about more than just making great content; it strengthens social cohesion, gives citizens a voice, and promotes greater tolerance, respect and diversity in a world that badly needs it. The PBI conference panels provided other possibilities to help us fulfill this mission and better meet the expectations of the digital generation:

  • Speaking authentically (the most recurring theme of the conference!)
  • Giving them “the keys to the car” and seeing how they can help us reinvent ourselves
  • Reflecting their interests and aspirations, and evolving with them through the various stages of their lives
  • Offering experiences that bring people together
  • Celebrating differences
  • Providing a space for discussion and interaction
  • Allowing ourselves the freedom to deliver the unexpected
  • Explaining the world around us
  • Having an impact on their lives
  • Building a sense of community

Broadcasters also have to deal with the increasingly rapid pace of technological change: fifth-generation mobile networks, ultra-high definition, virtual and augmented reality, connected cars, voice-activated interfaces, automated journalism, and artificial intelligence. To face this future, we need to take risks, allow ourselves to make mistakes, and learn from them to get better. I’m confident that the broadcasters left Montreal with their heads full of ideas. There are still many challenges to solve, but the conversation continues – and now we want to hear from you!

– Guy Aquin-St-Onge, Manager, Strategic Competitive Intelligence

This world-class conference was brilliantly organized by a committee led by Guylaine Bergeron and James Selfe from CBC/Radio-Canada French Services Communications. Together with their colleagues and representatives from public broadcasters around the globe, they succeeded in creating a high-calibre event with a thought-provoking agenda and plenty of opportunities for productive discussions. Congratulations to everyone! The next PBI conference will be held in 2017 in Romania.

This world-class conference was brilliantly organized by a committee led by Guylaine Bergeron and James Selfe from CBC/Radio-Canada French Services Communications. Together with their colleagues and representatives from public broadcasters around the globe, they succeeded in creating a high-calibre event with a thought-provoking agenda and plenty of opportunities for productive discussions. Congratulations to everyone! The next PBI conference will be held in 2017 in Romania.

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Polaris Music Prize

Canadian pop culture blogger, Lenny Wu,  made the journey to Toronto to cover the event. Here’s a selection of some of his favourite moments from the evening.

The Polaris Music Prize is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours and rewards artists who produce Canadian music albums of distinction. A select panel of music critics judge and award the Prize without regard to musical genre or commercial popularity. Jury members are selected each year by the Polaris Executive Director and the English and French Jury Forepeople.

For more photos from the amazing night, you can pop over to CBC Music.

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Sharing Dance: It’s a Movement

“To be a part of Sharing Dance – you don’t have to be a ‘dancer’ or have any dance experience. As long as you want to move to music, everyone and anyone is welcome; it is such a great chance to be a part of a ‘super group,’” – Dorothy (Dot) Gordon, Sharing Dance Participant

It’s Day 105 of the Countdowsdd-2016-participants-posen to 2017 and the folks at Canada’s National Ballet School held a couple of Sharing Dance activities at Open Streets in Toronto, including one that   encouraged individuals to dance don’t walk your way through street intersections, and the other offered culturally diverse dance classes for the public.

The Sharing Dance program demonstrates how dance is more than just movement, but rather it is a movement. Dance crosses all cultures, abilities and generations with benefits to the mind, body and soul. You can tell a story verbally, but there is nothing more beautiful than seeing dance as storytelling. Let’s learn more about Sharing Dance and what it has done for Dot as well as what it can do for all Canadians willing to get up, get out and dance.

What’s Your Story?

Dance isn’t just for kids. Sharing Dance participant, Dorothy (Dot) Gordon is 90 years young. She hasn’t been dancing all her life, but she’s probably been dancing for all of your life – she’s been sharing her love of movement for 66 years and is still going strong.

sdd-2016-kevin-ormsby-dancing-routineDot has participated in every kind of dance she can. To say she’s never met a dance style she doesn’t want to try is no exaggeration and that’s how she found her way into Sharing Dance. Dot says she loves the variety of dance styles and music found in the program. She particularly loves the diversity of ages in the Sharing Dance community, and can attest to the many health benefits of dance; she sincerely believes that dancing keeps her young and her brain in good working order.

Through the Sharing Dance program, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) and its partners encourage people like Dot – Canadians of all ages and abilities – to participate in free, healthy, fun and creative dance activities. Each year, Sharing Dance provides a new dance routine, opportunities to rehearse, and online learning resources, culminating in an annual nationwide dance event called Sharing Dance Day.

The celebration of Sharing Dance Day 2017 will take place on June 2nd to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary through dance. The event will see communities from across the country join together to dance Canada into its next 150 years, inspiring others to experience the power of dance.

To find out how you can get involved, please visit If you are interested in bringing Sharing Dance to your community, please email us at

Tell us your great dance story using #CBC2017

Story written by:
Joanna Gertler, Director, Marketing & Communications
Canada’s National Ballet School

Carolyn Bissett
Specialist, Public Relations and Communications

*** In the words of singer/songwriter Justin Timberlake “got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good song in my feet . . . nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance.” Hello! Benefits of dance, indeed!

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A Town that Really Tweaks Your Beak

The tweet on the street is that Sackville, New Brunswick is for the birds, birders and bird aficionados alike. I’d go so far as to say that the town welcomes these fine feathered friends with open arms.

CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canada 150 Federal Secretariat are counting down 150 days leading up to 2017 with activities happening across the country. We want to share these stories with you, along with inviting Canadians to be active participants in the storytelling process by sharing  “What’s Your Story?” and what defines Canada for them.

We thought that we’d check in with how the Countdown is coming along…

The Migratory Bird Convention Centennial and Art Exhibition Unveiling

Day 109 of the Countdown to 2017, Canadian Wildlife Services (CWS) and the town of Sackville, New Brunswick have a unique story about the importance of birds and how preserving our flora and fauna ensures that species continue to inhabit the land . . . or at least take the time to make it a short stopover.

So here’s their story…

The Bay of Fundy offers an important stopover for shorebirds with the protected Tantramar Marshes as one of the many key habitats that shorebirds call home as they migrate across international borders between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The interpretation centres offer a viewing place for birders and the curious non-birders where they can watch and experience the migratory stopover without interfering with flight patterns. On top of this, Sackville adorns the town in bird-themed decor including duck-neck armrests on its benches, mallard-shaped lights that come out during the holiday season and bird-inspired street names and restaurants. Dare I say birds of a feather flock together?

But wait, there’s more. On September 14, 2016, Sackville celebrated an important milestone for the town as the Migratory Bird Convention commemorated 100 years of wildlife conservation for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats.

Mount Allison University launched an art contest for Fine Arts students at the University to create art that demonstrates appreciation for migratory birds and their habitats. A total of 16 original pieces were unveiled that include paintings, embroidery, multimedia projects, glasswork sculptures and more. The collection will be showcased in CWS offices across the country throughout the year before returning to the local office and University.

So that’s the word, bird? What’s your story? Tell us your take on this milestone, unique town and the bird-inspired artistic creations. Tweet about it using: #CBC2017

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CBC Development Workshop for Diverse Creators goes digital doc

This fall is gearing up to be a big one for these 15 diverse, Canadian creators with the third CBC Development Workshop for Diverse Creators just around the corner. This intensive program brings together emerging creators from all over Canada and offers them the chance to receive coaching and insight from a variety of professionals in the industry. At the end of the program, the participants are given the opportunity to pitch their concept with the chance to produce a digital short for CBC!

As with past workshops, this one has a unique theme. Volume 3 focuses on Unscripted content, tailor-made for creative storytellers with a special interest in short-form digital videos.  For fans this translates to programming that you could potentially enjoy through CBC Arts or CBC Docs: Short Docs.

Programs like these are critical for many diverse creators who are still somewhat fresh to the industry. This program also helps Canada’s public broadcaster offer more relevant and reflective programming on air thus intensifying our connections with Canadians.

Without further ado, we’re thrilled to announce this session’s talented creators!

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-Sarah Lue, Social Media Advisor, Enterprise Communications

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