Globe and Mail Update
March 27, 2009 at 2:25 AM EDT
They may be CBC's prime-time darlings, but The Border, Being Erica and Little Mosque on the Prairie aren't escaping the cuts announced by the broadcaster this week. All three shows are being told to produce fewer episodes this season.
"When we approached television, the thing we wanted most to do is to maintain the prime-time schedule," Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of English services, told staff yesterday. "[But] for a lot of the big shows, the real beef of prime time, we are going to have to reduce the costs for them."
But the sacrifices demanded of these jewels in the public broadcaster's television crown pale in comparison to those of radio programs The Point, Out Front, The Inside Track, In the Key of Charles and the weekend edition of The Signal, all of which will be cancelled.
CBC executives provided details of its planned cuts in meetings yesterday with staff of both English and French services. The $171-million in cuts unveiled Wednesday include 800 job losses.
Of those, more than 100 cuts will involve staff in regional radio — 68 jobs from local programs and 33 from regional network programming for a combined savings of $9.3-million. The job losses are targeted at Windsor, Ont., Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Quebec City, Moncton, Saint John, Sydney, N.S., Corner Brook, Gander and Grand Falls, Nfld.
Eighty jobs will be cut from CBC News, with investigative TV programs The Fifth Estate and Marketplace being hit. Amateur sports programming will be eliminated. Television will lose 109 jobs and about $28-million, mostly targeting programming outside of prime time, and sales and services will lose another 80 jobs.
Mr. Stursberg held a town hall meeting in Toronto yesterday, where he stressed that job cuts were not decided based on "internal equity," but on the economic realities facing the CBC's many components.
"Some of this is pretty devastating," he said. "Nobody is happy with the outcome because there is no happy outcome. What we've tried to do is do it in the least bad way possible."
But the meeting was thick with tension, as staff repeatedly attacked some of the choices. One CBC employee from Sudbury, which is set to lose six to eight of its 16 employees, said regional staff are feeling "cut loose" a day after the CBC pledged to sustain its regional footprint. And Mr. Stursberg repeatedly came under fire from employees for the cuts to The Fifth Estate, which many staff members cited as a flagship program. Mr. Stursberg testily replied that he was against labelling one branch or program as more important than another.
Financial support will increase for the development of new multimedia platforms. "That's clearly where the growth is," Mr. Stursberg told staff.
The cuts to French services are being gradually revealed to the branch's five separate unions. Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild, confirmed that 318 of the French arm's 336 job cuts will be shouldered by the CBC's four Quebec and Moncton unions. And 86 per cent of the cuts will be targeted at network shows, with a 14 per cent cut from regional programs.
Alex Levasseur, president of the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada, said the Réseau de l'information, the French-language equivalent of CBC Newsworld, is facing 84 job cuts. The regional French stations will lose 40 jobs and technical production services, 90.
He said most employees do not feel the French services are bearing an unfairly large burden when compared with their English.
"But our people are very knocked down by the announcements," Mr. Levasseur said.
Other specific cuts:
Less spending on children's television programs
Regional radio noontime programs reduced to one hour
Reduction of music recordings by 50 per cent
Reduction in radio drama
Closing of one-person bureaus in La Ronge, Sask., and Thompson, Man.
Budget reductions at CBC North
Reduced number of one-off specials such as Canada's Next Great Prime Minister
Dakar bureau closed, job cuts at Paris office, and Radio Canada International services in Ukrainian and Cantonese eliminated
Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts eliminated
Morning radio and Saturday French-language shows out of Windsor cancelled
Overnight network music programming from Edmonton, Vancouver and Windsor cancelled
Regional Ottawa noontime news program cancelled
Supper-time regional television newscasts in Quebec City, Ottawa, Moncton and Sherbrooke reduced to 30 minutes from 60 minutes, and lunchtime newscasts eliminated
Program Zeste put "on hiatus"