The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s $130-million budget cut has claimed its first high-profile casualty, with investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre announcing he will retire by the end of the summer.
Mr. MacIntyre, a 24-year co-host of The Fifth Estate with nine Gemini Awards to his name, said he felt compelled to leave in part to preclude the layoffs of younger colleagues he characterized as being vital to the broadcaster’s future.
“I just started to do the math,” he said in an interview Wednesday. With an editorial staff of about 20, the show is “sort of at bare bones, as far as associate producers and producers are concerned.” He believes his departure, which will leave the show with three co-hosts, would do the least damage possible while prompting viewers to register the severity of the cuts.
“If there’s 500-plus people disappearing, I’d like one or two of them to be recognizable. Because otherwise it’s just meaningless to people – to the taxpayers who are paying a big part of the freight. …
“So I offered to vacate my position.”
Mr. MacIntyre joined the CBC in 1976. This month, he celebrates 50 years as a journalist.
A handful of other CBC employees have voluntarily departed in the wake of the cuts, including Alan Dark, the general manager of CBC’s revenue group who was poached by Rogers Media last week to head up that company’s national sales team. But none have the visibility of Mr. MacIntyre, who is also a Giller Prize-winning author of fiction (for his 2009 novel The Bishop’s Man).
Last month, CBC executives offered a broad outline of how they would grapple with a massive revenue shortfall – dropping professional sports and high-priced reality shows, among other measures – but the fine details are only now coming to light as the broadcaster begins issuing redundancy notices to the 657 employees who are directly affected.
Unlike in the last two rounds of layoffs in 2009 and 2012, CBC is not offering early retirement incentives for senior employees. “It means old-timers are hunkering down – they just want to hang on long enough to get a bit more pension entitlement, or whatever,” Mr. MacIntyre said. “So the main brunt of this is going to be felt at the low end of the food chain, where [CBC’s] future lies.”
He added: “Associate producers happen to be the youngest and brightest and most energetic and creative.”
On Monday, CBC/Radio-Canada president Hubert Lacroix called for “a national conversation” on the CBC’s emerging role in a rapidly changing media landscape. “The public broadcaster must have the tools necessary, so that society can fully benefit from what we have to offer,” he said in an address.
Radio-Canada broadcasters penned an open letter to Mr. Lacroix last week, noting that the French-language division had lost about 20 per cent of its budget in the past six years and urging him “to act to preserve this public service we consider essential.” On Sunday, some of those journalists appeared on the popular public affairs program Tout le monde en parle to discuss the cuts. But their English-language counterparts have been less inclined to speak out.
Mr. MacIntyre said he didn’t want his resignation to be seen as a political act. “I want it to be seen as walking the walk as opposed to talking the talk.”
The executive producer of The Fifth Estate said he tried talking Mr. MacIntyre out of his decision. “We admire Linden, we love working with Linden, but it’s hard to argue with his genuine altrusim – which is evident in this decision,” said Jim Williamson. “We will miss him, but we will go on.”
Mr. MacIntyre said he expects to continue writing fiction, but is not anticipating further work with CBC.
“I feel a great sense of bereavement in that something I’ve done for a very long time – I’ve been 24 years at The Fifth. It’s almost like a family, and I’m leaving it. You can’t do that without a certain sense of melancholy.”
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