CBC faces more cuts this week, watchdog warns

Apr 8, 2014

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting warns of layoffs and cuts to CBC programming which will be announced this Thursday.

Source: Toronto Star

In the wake of the loss of Hockey Night in Canada and the millions it generates, the CBC will announce additional layoffs and cuts to programming this week, an advocacy group warns.

Ian Morrison, the spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an independent watchdog group, said a shortfall in advertising revenue will result in cuts to jobs and programming on both the French- and English-language sides of the Canadian broadcaster.

“This is going to damage everything that people see and hear,” said Morrison, citing personal sources.

CBC President Hubert Lacroix is scheduled to announce details of the public broadcaster’s finances at a town hall meeting with employees on Thursday.

“The focus of that meeting will be about financial pressures CBC-Radio Canada is facing, and how we’re going to move forward,” said CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson. “Beyond that though, I cannot comment any more.”

Barry Kiefl, the president of Canadian Media Research Inc., estimated CBC would lose about $100 million in ad revenues in 2015 because of the loss of Hockey Night in Canada.

The flagship Saturday night sports program was poached by Rogers Communications Inc. in a $5.2-billion, 12-year deal with the NHL in November.

While hockey games will continue to air on CBC for the next four years, Rogers has editorial control and gets the money from the commercials. While CBC does not have to pay for the broadcast rights, it still foots the production bill.

Hockey Night drew weekly ratings of 1.7 million viewers, making it the most-viewed sporting event on the network.

The shakeup cost CBC one of its highest profile television personalities. George Stroumboulopoulos will become the new face of Hockey Night, which brings an end to his talk showGeorge Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, now in its 10th season on CBC.

Even before losing the NHL broadcast rights, CBC was coming to terms with a smaller operating budget after the 2012 federal budget cut $115 million in funding to the public broadcaster over three years.

CBC has shed hundreds of jobs since then in an effort to reduce costs. Kiefl said there isn’t much more that can be done to save money in technical efficiencies, which means the broadcaster will be forced to reduce staff for any additional savings.

“There’s nothing worse, in my experience, than waiting for the axe to fall, and knowing there’s going to be job cuts — maybe yours,” said Kiefl, who worked for the CBC for 25 years.

CBC’s English-language television draws 5.3 per cent of the prime-time audience, according to the most recent quarterly report. Radio One and Two collectively have an audience share of 15.3 per cent. The broadcaster’s news site, CBC.ca, is visited by about 6 million people every month.

This past January, Lacroix told CBC and Radio-Canada employees they faced “challenging times” ahead, Thompson said.

The Canadian Media Guild, the union which represents many CBC journalists and support staff, is bracing for bad news on Thursday.

“We don’t know yet what the announcement is, and we don’t know how our members will be affected,” said Jeanne d’Arc Umurungi, a spokesperson for the union.

CBC has already trimmed a number of television shows from the fall lineup: dramas Arctic Air and Cracked, cooking shows Best Recipes Ever and In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, and comedy program The Ron James Show.

On Friday, the broadcaster announced it would be renewing much of its television lineup for 2014-15, including Murdoch Mysteries, Dragons’ Den and Heartland.

© Toronto Star