Citizens group petitions CBC to restore local newscasts

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      A national citizens group that advocates for public broadcasting.has started an online petition to force the CBC to restore local newscasts across the country.

      The CBC announced on March 18 that due to the coronavirus pandemic it would be replacing local dinner-hour and late-night newscasts with the national CBC News Network until further notice.

      Local journalists would still contribute some news to the new "core, live, breaking news service" by the CBC, it said in a statement. CBC North local programs, radio, and digital services will continue as usual. Local radio and digital programming and social-media services will also carry on.

      The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a Toronto-based nonprofit started 35 years ago to protest cuts to the CBC, issued a statement calling on Canadians to contact federal heritage minister Steven Guilbeault and demand he provide the necessary cash infusion to restore local news services nationwide.

      "CBC just cancelled all local TV news broadcasts across Canada, citing insufficient resources," the Friends petition webpage states. "The timing just couldn’t be worse. Every day, our leaders and health experts take to the air to keep us informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. They tell us what's happening, how to stay safe, and what we can do to help fight this virus. Shutting down CBC local TV news gives us less of this vital information at precisely the time when we need more of it.

      "In this moment of uncertainty, knowledge keeps us safe and reassures us that we’re in good hands. The last thing we should do right now is cut off our most trusted source of local information.

      "We need to do everything we can to get CBC local TV news back on the air. Please tell Heritage Minister Guilbeault that he must give CBC an emergency cash infusion to keep our local services operating at full capacity during this pandemic."

      CBC News editor in chief Brodie Fenlon said in a March 18 statement that the new live service would incorporate CBC National News, the flagship The National news program, and local contributions.

      He noted that although the CBC is an "essential service...this is not business as usual".

      "A story of this magnitude—one that changes by the hour—places incredible demands on our staff and our infrastructure in order to get the most accurate and up-to-date information to audiences," Fenlon said. "Television is especially resource-intensive, and many jobs are difficult to do at home. Our systems are overtaxed, and we had to make adjustments as a result."

      The Friends petition page claims to have garnered 3,568 signatures so far.