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  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - Pierre Nollet

From Disc Jockey to General Counsel

In a fast-moving, multi-channel and multi-media universe, the C B C has remained constant in its mission to serve Canadians and to reflect the Canadian way of life. It is a daunting task: the mandate circumscribes programming options, prevents it from bidding on blockbuster programs and otherwise stalls the broadcaster from adopting a wide-reaching constellation strategy. The net result is reduced revenue options.

Nevertheless, the CBC developed a five-year plan to address the challenges of the fast-moving multi-channel and multimedia universe. Central to this plan is a focus on English television, sports, transmission and distribution. The corporation aims to

  • tell Canadian stories reflecting the reality and diversity of their country
  • inform Canadians about news of relevance and interest
  • support Canadian arts and culture
  • build bridges among Canadians across the many regions and linguistic communities

Stay tuned for further developments. News at 11 (or, shall we say - 10?).

The Company: The CBC's permanent staff includes over 7000 employees across Canada, supplemented by more than 600 temporary staff to complete the team. The broadcaster operates four national radio networks featuring information, general interest programs, classical music and cultural programs: CBC Radio One and CBC Radio Two in English, and La premiere chaîne de Radio-Canada and La Chaîne culturelle in French. Two specialty cable television services feature news and information programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week: CBC Newsworld in English and le Réseau de l'information (RDI) in French. The CBC also broadcasts in eight aboriginal languages on radio and television services for Canada's North. Supporting Canadian foreign policy, CBC operates a shortwave service, Radio Canada International, which broadcasts around the world in seven languages.

The CBC continues to develop and offer new media programs. The CBC website,, and its French equivalent,, provide audio and video clips, current news items, upcoming program information and general information of interest to Canadians. CBC's pay audio service, Galaxie, offers 30 channels of commercial free music of all types 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over the Internet. The corporation has joined forces with the private sector in presenting applications to the CRTC for mandate-driven specialty channels. Also under review are other partnership strategies in non-core areas.

Corporate Counsel: Pierre Nollet, Head of Legal Services, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

Age: 42

Principal Outside Counsel: McCarthy Tétrault, Lafleur Brown ( now part of Gowlings ), and Heenan Blaikie

Other Significant Firms: Boyne Clark in Dartmouth, Spiegel Sohmer in Montreal, and Reynolds, Mirth, Richards & Farmer in Edmonton

The Law Department: The CBC's in-house legal services team currently includes 13 lawyers. In the coming months, 5 lawyers who currently work elsewhere in the corporation will be integrated with the law department.

The department acts, amongst other things, as a call centre for program media personnel across Canada. A number of the lawyers devote up to 50 percent of their time to providing legal advice relating to program broadcasts (mostly news and current affairs programming).

CBC's in-house counsel routinely handle contract and commercial matters (including contracts relating to the Olympics and other sports events, and entertainment contracts), intellectual property issues, employment and labor matters, and supervision of matters referred to outside counsel (mainly litigation and labour relations).

Recently the law department expanded its range of in-house services to include labour relations. As well, one lawyer has now become actively involved in hands-on litigation, working as co-counsel with outside counsel.

CBC outsources roughly 10,000 hours of work to law firms. Matters referred outside tends to be commodity-style work, i.e. which can be handled more efficiently outside the law department.

Litigation: The bulk of the work relates to media broadcasts, requests for information, as well as industrial relations matters.

Transactions: Mainly licensing agreements and joint ventures make up CBC's transactional work.

Management Challenge: In addition to the traditional duties of General Counsel, Pierre will head up a steering committee charged with multi-year intellectual property initiatives. Riding the crest of the new millennium wave, Pierre and his committee will explore the rich potential of knowledge management and asset mining.

The goals: set corporate standards and establish company-wide policies and procedures.

New Projects: CBC aims to establish new partnerships with private companies in the area of asset holdings or property management. In-house counsel will assist to ensure the success of these new ventures.

Improving Relationships with Outside Counsel: As is the case with all Canadian corporations, the cost of legal services purchased from law firms remains a paramount concern. CBC is encouraging its law firms to become proactive in managing litigation adequately, using the latest technology, and by streamlining file-handling procedures for cost-effectiveness.

Management Style: Pierre is a hands-on executive who likes to interact as much as possible with his team. He encourages his lawyers to focus on "staying ahead of the wave" as CBC forges ahead in new ventures and new directions. He is frank but fair, and favors direct dialogue. Passionately devoted to his work, he is an agent of change who loves to pioneer new projects and challenge others to adopt new ideas.

Career: Pierre's career began with the media, at CKSM Radio in Shawinigan as a disc jockey and then news journalist. In 1981, he embarked upon a legal career with Beaumier Richard Nollet & Perreault in Trois-Rivières. January 1990 saw him cross the Atlantic to France as Director of the Paris office of Goodman Phillips and Vineberg (GPV). Returning to Canada at the end of 1992, he joined GPV's corporate and commercial team in Montreal. On leave from GPV in 1993, he carried out a brief assignment as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs in 1993, where he oversaw the first review of lobbyist regulations and promoted the passage of amendments to the Patents Act. In August 1995, he moved in-house with Astral Communications Inc., as Director of Business and Legal Affairs and then General Counsel and Secretary. Pierre joined CBC in his current position in August 1997.

Family: Married to Christine Reux. The couple have a daughter, Sara, and a son, Charles.

Reading: A technology enthusiast, Pierre devotes most of his leisure-time reading to technology magazines.

Relaxing: Pierre enjoys computer-related leisure activities, and also plays hockey.

Lori D. Brazier, LL.B., M.B.A. is a partner with Catalyst Consulting, a national consulting firm serving law firms, corporate law departments and users of legal services. Her practice focuses on litigation and claims management, work flow analysis, service, reporting and billing best practices, and partnering between corporations and their legal counsel.

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