CBC supporters and news junkies took to social media Thursday to lament the loss of 657 jobs at the CBC, as the public broadcaster announced how it would deal with a $130-million budget shortfall.
Much of the tone, on Twitter especially, was sad, and highly critical of the Conservative government for cutting the CBC’s parliamentary allocation. (The CBC is in the third and final year of a $115-million cut to its grant but is also suffering the loss of advertising revenue from hockey games that have moved to Rogers Media.)
Very concerned about #cbccuts and effects on my beloved news,especially local news, and radio.— Jane Ledwell (@janeledwell) April 10, 2014
The CBC News Facebook page was filled with criticism of the government for not sufficiently funding the CBC, but also drew some vocal detractors who said the public broadcaster should stand on its own feet.
Close observers of the CBC, meanwhile, reacted with less hand-wringing and even some surprising optimism, hoping the cuts would force the broadcaster to concentrate its efforts.
“I welcome them. I would have cut 1,500 jobs [although] I have enormous sympathy for people who get caught in change,” said Michael Levine, chairman of Westwood Creative Artists and an executive producer of film and television. “… I think [cutting] hockey was a favour to them and these cuts are a favour to them if it doesn’t go so deep they can’t make quality programming. Their sweet spot has got to be good news [programming] – but a lot leaner – good drama and some documentary and arts programming. ... I feel they must be distinctively different to survive.”
Meanwhile, Denis McGrath, executive producer of the Canadian sci-fi series Continuum on Showcase, wondered if the CBC has the leadership to stop in-fighting and cut management instead of programming.
“So we hit another catastrophic cut, and the same tired things come out: News wants everything but news to be cut. CBC Radio argues that TV should be cut,” he said. “There has never been leadership or vision to attack the things in CBC that truly need changing – the absurd layers of management that don’t exist in other, leaner broadcast outlets. ... People like the idea of the CBC – but more than not, they don’t like what it does. And no matter how many rounds of cuts we go through, that fundamental issue never seems to get addressed.”
The IDEA of #CBC is so important for Canadians who care about drama, comedy, radio, AND news. I hope there's wisdom in the reorganization.— D.McGrath (@heywriterboy) April 10, 2014
Still, like many observers, McGrath is not ready to give up on the CBC: “I'm terrified that the CBC will go away, or be crippled. But it's a place that's harder and harder to love -- because there's no real greater whole than the sum of the infighting parts.”
Others pointed out that the CBC is very poorly funded compared to European public broadcasters and suggested the continual budget cuts were creating a vicious cycle, making the broadcaster less relevant and thus easier to cut.
“Instead of strengthening it and building it they are doing everything to make it irrelevant.” said actor Peter Keleghan, who starred on the CBC series 18 to Life. “I believe we should be going the other way, expanding our heritage, expanding news, expanding [coverage] of native people.”
NDP culture critic Pierre Nantel made a statement calling the cuts worrisome and wondering whether the CBC could fulfill its responsibilities under current conditions. “Conservatives have chosen to undermine and weaken it with ideological cuts, even as the CBC has had to deal with an increasingly difficult and competitive market,” he said in the statement. "Despite the efforts of our public broadcaster, the federal government clearly has no intention of helping the CBC to make the technological turnaround necessary to ensure the corporation’s future.”