Massive CBC cuts anger Canadian Media Guild and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is planning huge cuts to its workforce as part of a new strategic vision.

And that has prompted a furious reaction from the union and a group that promotes Canadian broadcasting.

In a video presentation to employees, CBC president and CEO Hubert Lacroix said the Crown corporation plans to have 1,000 to 1,500 fewer employees by 2020.

"We will get there in careful steps by balancing the new CBC Radio-Canada with the impact these changes will have on people's lives," Lacroix stated.

CBC had nearly 7,000 permanent employees before it announced earlier this year that it would cut 657 positions.

The Canadian Media Guild, which represents CBC employees, has posted a statement on its website condemning what it calls a "scorched-earth plan for CBC".

“It’s terrible that a Harper-appointed board is ramming through a massive cut in a year before a federal election," CMG national president Carmel Smyth stated. "The bottom line is CBC needs better funding.  We are calling on the president and the board to take up that fight. Otherwise Canadians should rightly hold them responsible for the destruction of CBC.”

The new cuts are in addition to the previous announcement.

Lacroix stated that 1,000 CBC employees are eligible for retirement. Through attrition, he added, the Crown-owned broadcaster loses 300 employees per year.

He also said that "some fundamental shifts" are driving changes in the media. "First, the digital wave that we have experienced in the recent past is nothing to what is coming."

As a result, Lacroix mentioned that there will be a greater focus on reaching Canadians on digital platforms, noting that the Sochi Olympics provided a glimpse into the future.

"One in three Canadians followed the Games on a portable device and 2.5 million Canadians downloaded our Sochi app," he said. "Canadians are digitally sophisticated and hungry. With this plan, we intend to double our digital reach, which means by 2020, 18 million Canadians—one out two—will use our digital services each month."

He added that the corporation's objective is for three out of four Canadians to say by 2020 that CBC is "very important to them".

CBC has reported that as the public broadcaster increases its emphasis on reaching people through portable devices, there will be staff reductions in supper-hour newscasts and on in-house programming.

"Advertising revenues are shifting to global Internet players like Google and Facebook," Lacroix conceded in his video presentation. "Conventional broadcasters are not eligible for subscription revenues. And public financing—whether to the industry as a whole or direct support for public broadcasting—has decreased substantially."

Lacroix claimed in his videotaped statement that "conventional private broadcasters are not profitable", adding that the "system is broken".

To remain "sustainable", he said that the CBC will adopt a "mobile-first approach" and will not reduce its geographic footprint.

"We're also announcing a shift from producer to multiplatform broadcaster," Lacroix revealed. "This means significantly reducing in-house production except for news, current affairs, and radio. This transition will commence immediately at CBC."

He said CBC will "modernize and shrink operations", cutting its real-estate presence in half.

"Reducing our infrastructure costs also means reducing our costs in production facilities and equipment, IT, telecom, transmission and distribution, and mobiles [sic]," Lacroix said.

He emphasized that this transition will entail collaboration with the independent production community in a business relationship.

"Our basic sports offer will be multiplatform sports journalism," Lacroix stated. "In addition, we aim to continue, just as we did in Sochi, and as we will in Rio, to use a partnership approach to bring the Olympic Games to Canadians."

Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the Canadian Media Guild branch at CBC, called these cuts "irreversible", charging that they will "permanently change" public broadcasting.

"We are shocked and outraged that 25 percent of the staff and half the real estate are being cut over the next five years," Laurin said on the union website.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has claimed that CBC’s plan "is a retreat driven by the federal government’s deep budget cuts that will leave the national public broadcaster smaller and weaker".

“Lacroix should resign," Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison declared. "He is helping Stephen Harper drive CBC into the ground. Today he told CBC’s employees that the government is the shareholder. That’s false: all Canadian are shareholders."

For the first nine months of 2013–14, CBC revenues rose 6.9 percent over the same period in the previous year, whereas expenses only increased 3.8 percent.

However, government funding was down by nearly $63 million, wiping out almost all gains on the operating statement. 

In 2007–08 after the Conservatives took power, the parliamentary appropriation to CBC for its operating expenses was $1.07 billion (in 2014 dollars), according to Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. By 2014–15, that had fallen to $929.3 million.

The CBC board of directors is chaired by Rémi Racine, who heads a video-game company in Montreal.

The only director whose biography lists any deep connections to the cultural community is Marlie Oden, founder of Bridge Communications in Vancouver. She's president of Vancouver TheatreSports League. She's also been on the board of the Arts Club and won a City of Vancouver arts award.

Last year, the National Hockey League signed a 12-year deal with Rogers Sportsnet for $5.2 billion, transferring control of Hockey Night in Canada to the private broadcaster.

CBC will still carry hockey games but reportedly won't generate any profits from the show.

In an interview with the Straight in 2012, the former head of CBC's English-language services, Richard Stursberg, said that NHL hockey "made some good money for the CBC".

"So it would lose the profit," Stursberg said at the time, "But most importantly, you would lose about 400 to 450 hours a year of a primetime Canadian show. Then the question is: what are you going to replace it with? They don't have any money to replace it with anything new and original....It might turn from Hockey Night in Canada to Repeat Night in Canada."

The NHL's deal with Rogers appears to have averted that fate, but the loss of hockey revenue and the Conservative government cutbacks underlies today's announcement by Lacroix.

Morrison described Lacroix's public statement as "shameful" and "a betrayal of the values of public broadcasting".

"This new plan will also make CBC less accessible for many Canadians, especially older people who tend to vote," Morrison added.

Comments (19) Add New Comment
MarkFornataro
Re: CEO Lacroix enabling this travesty on behalf of the Cons and then saying "that the corporation's objective is for three out of four Canadians to say by 2020 that CBC is 'very important to them'"-this has to be the height of cynicism.
And re: "Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the Canadian Media Guild branch at CBC, called these cuts 'irreversible'"- they need not be if we kick the Cons out of office in 2015.
35
57
Rating: -22
Ben Sili
CBC duties is of providing unbiased news to Canadians. Right now, it does not do this, it takes sides on every issue, be domestic, politics, international events, science, art. Everything CBC offers is biased when it should bring all ideas on the table and let people decide and think. That's what taxpayers funded public broadcasting should be. The CBC now and for many years is and has been failing badly.
52
72
Rating: -20
Harperhoid
The public broadcaster is no more, will cease broadcasting,
and has volunteered to commit digital seppuku.

Der Fathead has won.
34
44
Rating: -10
Don
Looks like the largest cuts came during the Liberal era of Jean Chretien.
43
40
Rating: +3
Mike Vanier
Who cares, CBC is a Toronto institution. When was the last time they made a show about BC. I hope it goes down in FLAMES!!!!!!!!!!
47
68
Rating: -21
Pat
Government spending on the CBC was worthwhile in the early days of radio and TV. The CBC is irrelevant now in the age of the internet. Let's spend the money on health and education instead.
40
55
Rating: -15
aaron
yes it is very good ,cuts should be bigger . one off the many reasons is ,that the cbc and the media are always ,yes always on the Liberals side . Thank you Prime Minister Stephen Harper .
39
53
Rating: -14
Katrina
Harper and his conservative cronies hate to be challenged by good reporting. I am sad and disappointed in the damage this conservative government is doing to Canada. Disgusted. Shame on these self serving politicians.The CBC has been sold out.
45
47
Rating: -2
Chron
Completely agree with cuts. Biased CBC must not operate on tax money
30
42
Rating: -12
@aaron
There are only two private media outlets with broad-based reach in Canada, Bell and Rogers, both of which hare hyper-conservative to the point of being fascist. At least the CBC, despite its right-wing leanings, provided some balance to this media oligarchy.
39
39
Rating: 0
Dennis Ryan
Years ago, my wife and I hooked up with Bell, and took all channels; recently, we decided to cutback to basic because of the garbage, especially the "reality" TV shows. Kindly turn off your brain to watch them. Can someone point out how "for profit" programming is somehow superior to public? I live in Toronto, and my basic channel lineup still has TVO, which I'm happy to have. TVO's motto is "Makes you think", and they're right! CBC has made its share of mistakes, but so have they all. Our ideologically-driven prime minister will kill CBC, count on it. Why? Because he can.
28
25
Rating: +3
mike
The CBC is so limited in its appeal. I have never listened to cbc radio, watch CBC only for hockey and occasionally news but that is it. For years they spent like drunken sailors to buy expensive programming like Olympics then did a crummy job of broadcasting instead of letting a network that could handle it well and pay for it. Revamp or implode it, does not matter but no more money. They have not grown with the tastes of the country, god only knows how much is wasted on CBC french. Time to go
22
43
Rating: -21
blah
CBC does sports badly. And the Canadian Media Guild is part of the reason for the downfall of CBC. I must know at least 20 people who are on outrageous pensions after getting early buyouts from CBC.
28
40
Rating: -12
Karin
CBC's Chairman's comments are so out of sync with the present reality of Canadians. He seems to have struck a sweet deal with the Conservatives. Good for Peter Mansbridge to show them some integrity!
23
31
Rating: -8
ex-Haney guy
Most of the immigrant Canadians I know, learned about Canada through the CBC; it connected Canadians from each coast; it was intellectual and hokey and modest, like a majority of Canadians. The Harper government is has put in anti-CBC in charge and this is the result. Every other english-speaking country admires the CBC-and Harper the peice sh!t traitor that he is, is directly respnsible for this. All you anti-CBC types get to wave the Stars and Stripes twice next week; on Friday of course and also on Tuesday. I would be difficult to make up this ignorance....
17
42
Rating: -25
Xtina
If you ever live in the non-urban areas of Canada you quickly come to appreciate CBC radio. CBC television gave us "The Nature of Things" which is respected globally being translated in 26 languages and a grade school science staple for budding brains. The CBC is too loved to be destroyed by a radical government!
28
31
Rating: -3
Pearl Davie
The CBC is important to the country as a whole as it transmits to many areas which would not otherwise receive radio. I listen to CBC radio daily, and find it informative, stimulating and interesting - even in repetition due to budget cuts. CBC news is presented well and relatively unbiased which helps to offset CNN and other US stations. Canadians need to have reporters on the scene, both nationally and internationally in order to ensure more balanced information.
As far as private, commercial radio broadcasts, the key word is commercial- bombarding the people with trivial and misleading advertising. It is obvious that news presented on these stations must be carefully edited so as not to offend the advertisers.
The Canadian government is becoming the Conservative/Harper dictatorship and obviously does not know what the majority of Canadians want or need. The CBC outreach to new Canadians is very important to build up their interest in becoming more involved in their new country.
Without CBC investigations and reportage, Canadians would not be as aware of such matters as aboriginal concerns, as this type of coverage is not of interest to commercial broadcasters.
As for the rising costs of staff and programming is not the government aware that costs of everything that matters are rising - food for example.
CBC is a traditional and valuable public service. It is strange that a Prime Minister so interested in returning the "Royal" to our armed forces as a tradition, should totally disregard the tradition of the CBC in the past lives of Canadians. But of course he disregards the value of parliament and prefers undemocratic actions and omnibus bills to sidestep the traditional processes.
CBC must live on for the sake of the Canadian nation.
16
24
Rating: -8
JR
As a Canadian citizen who lives in a community that doesn't have cell phone etc access the down sizing of our access to what's happening in our country/world is a major concern.The CBC was to link ALL citizens in the country. Those living in the south with all your device access who support this limiting legislation must try and realize that there are many Canadians that depend on the CBC to inform and link the more remote regions of this country. We need the CBC to keep us informed.We don't need to be cut off any more than we already are. Please support a stong voice through the CBC
18
20
Rating: -2
Tim Chisholm
CBC Radio 1 here in Vancouver is EXCELLENT! The afternoon drive show "On The coast" with Stephen Quinn is perhaps the best radio I've heard in years...and I worked on-air in commercial radio for over a decade.
Stephen himself says it best, courtesy of the Georgia Straight: Why should people tune into On the Coast weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.?

"Because we're the best damn show on radio. Because you get everything you need to know at the end of the day, and whole bunch of other stuff that will make you sound smart and interesting by the time you get home. Because we're not beholden to the news agenda of the day. Sure, we cover the news, but we also talk to musicians, film-makers, writers, politicians, athletes and everyone else--ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary stories. Because you'll hear some cool music you haven't heard anywhere else, we'll make you laugh, and we'll give you some ideas on what to do with your evening and your weekend. Because we're honest and authentic and we sound like Vancouver. You can tune in on CBC Radio One 690AM and 88.1FM."
20
22
Rating: -2
Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.