Sunday, September 21, 2014

CBC unveils still more cuts

TORONTO—The CBC is slashing some 20 percent of its workforce over the next five years while cutting back evening newscasts and in-house production and raising the possibility of selling its flagship headquarters in Toronto.
During a heated town hall with employees yesterday, the broadcaster announced its five-year strategic plan.

CBC president Hubert Lacroix unveiled sweeping changes designed to shift the CBC’s priorities from radio and television to digital and mobile services.
By 2020, CBC plans to cut 1,000-1,500 positions (the broadcaster says it currently has 7,500 employees).
It says that goal will be fulfilled, in part, by retirements and attrition, and that roughly 500 of these jobs will be eliminated over the next 12-15 months.
“Over five years, you are going to get a smaller broadcaster,” Lacroix said in a conference call with reporters.
“It’s not about job cuts,” he stressed. “It’s about a vision.
“It’s about a financial model that is sustainable.”
The new job losses are in addition to the 657 the broadcaster announced in April.
The CBC is grappling with a $130-million budget shortfall due to federal cuts, declining advertising revenues, and the loss of hockey rights to Rogers Media.
The broadcaster also will cut its real estate presence in half by roughly two million square feet.
In Montreal, there will be a reduction in square feet while the Toronto studio will acquire new tenants, Lacroix noted.
But he also suggested to reporters that the CBC was open to selling or leasing the flagship 1.4-million-square-foot studio on Front and John streets.
Lacroix faced calls to resign during the raucous town hall. He told staff the broadcaster must transform itself from a “producer to a multi-platform broadcaster” in order to stay afloat.
The CBC is aiming to double its digital audience so that 18 million Canadians—or roughly half of the country—use its online or mobile services each month by 2020.
“As the media universe becomes more crowded, Canadians need a space they can call their own,” Lacroix said.
“We will be at the heart of that space.”
He said the broadcaster will not close any stations across the country, but 90-minute evening television newscasts will be cut to 30 or 60 minutes.
The move to “significantly” reduce in-house production will not include news, current affairs, or radio.
Rather, executives said each existing in-house production—such as afternoon talk show “Steven & Chris”—would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Heather Conway, executive vice-president of English Services, said fewer documentaries are going to be directly produced by the CBC.
She would not say whether in-house documentary production would be eliminated entirely.
“Mark [Starowicz] is the head of docs, and how that unit is going to be shaped going forward is going to be a matter of conversation between he and Sally Catto, the head of programming to whom he reports,” Conway told reporters.
CBC personalities including Peter Mansbridge, David Suzuki, and Linden MacIntyre have signed a petition to executives opposing the cuts to documentaries.
Lacroix said the challenges the CBC faces are not unique as private broadcasters also are struggling with falling television advertising revenues.
At the same time, Canadians are watching more television—from 22 hours per week in 2000 to 27 in 2013, he noted.

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