CBC cuts jobs, continues free music giveaway

CBC building at Front and John Streets, in Toronto. 2011. (QMI Agency, file)

CBC building at Front and John Streets, in Toronto. 2011. (QMI Agency, file)

Brian Lilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:37 PM ET

OTTAWA - Despite a parliamentary mandate to provide radio and television services to Canadians in exchange for an annual $1.1 billion subsidy, CBC says it will shift more of its resources to web and mobile productions while cutting core services.

The state broadcaster unveiled its new five-year plan in a town hall Thursday, one that will surely leave supporters and detractors upset.

Local supper hour newscasts will be cut from 90 minutes to 30, and successful markets will get 60 minutes of local news.

By 2020, the CBC could also shed as many as 1,500 jobs through retirement and attrition. The plan also calls for selling off as much as two million square feet of real estate.

Also on the cutting block are in-house documentary productions and remaining in-house television production.

The biggest shift will be from focusing on TV and radio, the formats CBC is mandated to provide, to online content.

"We used to lead with television and radio," Lacroix said Thursday. "Web came and then mobility came. We are reversing, we are inverting the priorities that we have.

"We're going to lead now with mobility, we're going to lead with whatever widget you use."

While CBC is cutting jobs there is no sign they are cutting other expenses outside of their mandate.

In 2012, CBC launched a free online music-streaming service that competes not only with private radio, but other commercial services offering similar products for a fee.

CBC Music streams top 40 hits, rock classics, and even rap and country.

While the service is free to listeners that doesn't mean it is free to taxpayers. CBC pays royalties for each song it plays.

Despite the misplaced spending priorities at CBC the union representing journalists slammed the Harper government and called for more tax dollars for the state broadcaster.

"The bottom line is CBC needs better funding. We are calling on the president and the board to take up that fight," said Carmel Smyth, national president of the Canadian Media Guild.TORONTO  - Canada's public broadcaster will continue to shrink in the coming years in the face of reduced funding, its top executive said on Thursday, as it cuts headcount and in-house production and focuses more on Internet and mobile users.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) has already scaled back its traditional television and radio operations following funding cuts by the country's Conservative government.

It has also been hurt by the same shifts in the advertising market that have hit other traditional broadcasters such as BCE Inc's CTV network and Shaw Communications Inc's Global network.

The CBC's chief executive, Hubert Lacroix, said the latest cutbacks, which include selling real estate and other assets, should put the broadcaster on a sustainable path.

"Every change we are making through this strategy is designed to ensure we put as many of our resources into great content as possible," he said.

The CBC is aiming to win over younger audiences with content suited to the devices they increasingly use to access news, sports and entertainment. The network will also be less likely to have produced that content, saving cash.

After reductions announced in April, the CBC employs about 7,500 people. It wants to cut that to between 6,000 and 6,500 by 2020, a spokeswoman said in an email.

In April, after losing lucrative rights to National Hockey League games that it had held for decades to Rogers Communications Inc, the CBC cut 650 jobs and said it would no longer seek rights to professional sports events.

By 2020, Lacroix said he expects the CBC to reach 18 million Canadians each month via bumped-up digital services. That's about double the current reach.

The government minister responsible for the CBC, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, said the arm's length corporation gets more than $1 billion from taxpayers each year and should adapt while operating within that budget.

 

 


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