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CBC: The Cuts Expected by All

If the fed­eral bud­get con­tained some sur­prises, the cuts to the CBC weren’t one of them. It has been a num­ber of months that we have been expect­ing these cuts to the crown cor­po­ra­tion. Min­is­ter James Moore has con­tin­ued to reaf­firm that the CBC needs to make cuts between 5–10% like all the other agen­cies. You didn’t need to be psy­chic to pre­dict the cuts of approx­i­mately $115 mil­lion. You also have to add to this the oblig­a­tion to absorb the increased costs of doing busi­ness, just like at the Depart­ment and its agen­cies and societies.

The Cuts

Here’s where the major cuts will happen:

  • Loss of 650 jobs;
  • The end of RCI on satel­lite and shortwave;
  • And the end of pro­duc­tion of news bul­letins at RCI;

Effec­tively RCI’s bud­get is cut by 80% and 40 employ­ees, 65% of the employ­ees have received their notice of termination.

  • Intro­duc­tion of ads on Radio 2 and Espace Musique. A request for this has already been sub­mit­ted by the CBC management;
  • Rent­ing a large por­tion of the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cen­tre in Toronto and sale of some of their real estate;
  • And accel­er­a­tion of the shut down of ana­log tele­vi­sion trans­mit­ters. “Con­tin­u­ing to oper­ate 620 trans­mit­ters to reach 1.7% of the pop­u­la­tion would not be an effi­cient use of our resources at the best of times; it is cer­tainly not viable given the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.” [1]

Like the cuts at Tele­film and the NFB, some of the cuts will have reper­cus­sions for artists and inde­pen­dent producers.

  • Increased reruns – six fewer orig­i­nal Cana­dian series in prime time, 175 hours less orig­i­nal programming;
  • Reduc­tion of the num­ber of live musi­cal pro­duc­tions on the radio (new objec­tive: 100–150 record­ings per year)
  • Elim­i­nate dra­mas on Radio One;
  • And cost cut­ting in infor­ma­tional pro­gram­ming: can­cel CBC News Network’s Con­nect and CBC Radio’s Dis­patches.

CBC Radio

  • Can­cel­la­tion of evening pro­gram­ming on Radio One and reduced pro­duc­tion bud­get for Espace Musique;
  • Opti­miza­tion of rights management;
  • Fewer num­bers of episodes pro­duced and a revi­sion of inter­nal and exter­nal pro­duc­tion costs for some tele­vi­sion programs;
  • Cost cut­ting at RDI in Mon­treal and in regional centres;
  • Cut­ting the regional broad­cast­ing time on Espace Musique in half;
  • And tem­po­rary reduc­tions in the fund­ing of dig­i­tal and online services.

The Reac­tions

The reac­tions came from the usual sus­pects. Friends of Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing pub­lished a press release on March 29th say­ing, ”Today’s bud­get sin­gles out the CBC for vin­dic­tive cuts that break the Conservative’s elec­tion promise to main­tain or increase fund­ing to the national pub­lic broadcaster…”

The Writ­ers Guild of Canada affirms, “…fed­eral bud­get cuts are severely com­pro­mis­ing CBC’s abil­ity to deliver on its man­date under the Broad­cast­ing Act to reflect Canada to Canadians.”

In Que­bec, Ray­mond Bac­hand, the Min­is­ter of Finances has said that he was con­cerned about the sig­nif­i­cant cuts to the CBC and Tele­film. Québec Sol­idaire and the unions have also expressed out­rage at the scale of the cuts. A sit-in took place on the 10th of April in Mon­treal in front of the NFB cinéro­bot­h­èque to protest the cuts to the three audio­vi­sual agencies.

We are already see­ing the col­lat­eral dam­age. The unions like the Guilde des Musi­ciens and l’Union des Artistes are already expe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­culty in nego­ti­at­ing with the pub­lic broad­caster, which seems to have low­ered expec­ta­tions. The pres­i­dent of L’Union des Artistes, Ray­mond Legault, said to the Devoir on April 20th, “I under­stand the sit­u­a­tion well, but I don’t think the salaries of the employ­ees or man­age­ment will decrease at the CBC. It will hap­pen more through attri­tion. So is it more accept­able to dimin­ish the fees of the artists? The cuts will already affect pro­duc­ers who then pass off to us. If dra­mas go from 13 to 10 episodes, that’s already less work for our mem­bers, self-employed work­ers in pre­car­i­ous situations.”

In a sur­vey from Léger Mar­ket­ing pub­lished in the Devoir on April 7th, con­firmed that 70% of Cana­di­ans are sat­is­fied with the $5.2 mil­lion cuts announced in the bud­get (20% are dissatisfied).

If Cana­di­ans seemed appre­hen­sive about the cuts to pub­lic ser­vices, the 10% reduc­tions to CBC and CBC radio has split the pop­u­la­tion in two equal groups to a lesser extent than pub­lic ser­vice jobs. In CBC’s case, Man­i­toba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the most enthu­si­as­tic about the cuts to the CBC. That’s the blow that hurts most for the CBC. Every­day Cana­di­ans didn’t react to the cuts because they didn’t see them as that significant.

Pro­fes­sor Pierre Bélanger from the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Depart­ment of the Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa com­mented, “We have a gov­ern­ment that has a good dia­logue: the bridges are falling into the water, the debt is grow­ing, we must estab­lish our pri­or­i­ties and make choices. The objec­tive is to reduce the debt for the future and pro­tect future gen­er­a­tions. The gov­ern­ment opts for cuts where it does the least harm. Where it does the least harm polit­i­cally.” We must admit that this dia­logue works here.

Some stake­hold­ers also noted that the bosses at CBC announced cut­backs with­out crit­i­ciz­ing the cuts. They seemed to accept their fate. Accord­ing to Niet­zsche, the only way to free our­selves is to love what hap­pens to us. Per­haps this is the phi­los­o­phy of the senior man­age­ment of CBC. Why climb the barricades?

About lay­offs at the CBC, the Min­is­ter of Cana­dian Her­itage told CBC’s George Stroum­boulopo­los that sev­eral posi­tions were already sched­uled to be elim­i­nated by man­age­ment with or with­out the fed­eral bud­get. “More than half the jobs that are going to be lost at the CBC in the com­ing few years, more than half of them were going to be cut even if we didn’t touch the bud­get of the CBC. These plans were being made inter­nally in the CBC regard­less of the fed­eral budget.”

Pierre Bélanger says again: “We can’t rejoice cuts to Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. But I would say that, unlike in pre­vi­ous years, there are chances to rein­vent itself. In the last cuts, dig­i­tal media was in its infancy. It has now taken off and CBC has a much bet­ter con­trol. If you think of Hamil­ton whose cov­er­age is now done via the Web, or Tout.TV which is very pop­u­lar, there are already sig­nif­i­cant advances.”


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