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CBC announced that the CBC and Radio-Canada would each be losing 250 positions in the lay offs and the remaining 300 positions to be eliminated will come from technology, infrastructure and other corporate divisions.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Facing diminishing advertising revenues and demands for budget cuts from the federal government, CBC/Radio-Canada announced Monday it would shed about 10 per cent of its work force and reduce production, in an effort to address a budget shortfall of $125-million in the next fiscal year.

Catherine Tait, the public broadcaster’s president and chief executive officer, said during a meeting with staff Monday afternoon that a total of 800 jobs, including 200 vacant positions, would be cut.

The broadcaster said in a news release that the CBC and Radio-Canada would each be losing 250 positions. The remaining 300, it said, would come from technology and infrastructure “and other corporate divisions.”

Some of the 600 union and non-union layoffs, it said, “will begin immediately,” with the rest to take effect over the next 12 months.

CBC spokesperson Leon Mar said the CBC and Radio-Canada employ around 7,600 people – about 3,000 on each side, with the remainder in technology, infrastructure, and corporate services.

The announcement arrives at the end of a grim year for Canadian media companies, as they continue to cope with shrinking advertising revenues that had already led to hundreds of layoffs.

“The Canadian French- and English-speaking media industry is in crisis,” Ms. Tait told staff at Monday’s meeting, a recording of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Ms. Tait added that about $93-million of the expected cuts are a result of higher production costs, competition from big tech companies, and a reduction in revenues from traditional television. Another $21-million stem from the expiration of certain public funding received annually since 2021. The remaining $11-million in reductions are from the “3.3-per-cent cuts requested from all federal agencies and ministries,” Ms. Tait added, an apparent reference to the March federal budget.

The public broadcaster has been operating under the spectre of further cuts. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, whose party has been surging ahead of the governing Liberals in public polls, has promised to pare down the budget for the CBC’s English services while retaining coverage for linguistic minorities – a proposal complicated by the stipulations of the Broadcast Act.

The law requires the CBC to provide programming in both French and English, and it does not give the government the ability to decide how resources are allocated to accomplish that.

Union leaders representing French- and English-speaking CBC workers said they were shocked by the scale of the layoffs.

“No one could imagine a 10-per-cent cut,” said Pierre Tousignant, president of the Syndicat de travailleuses et des travailleurs de Radio-Canada (STTRC), the union that represents CBC/Radio-Canada employees in Quebec and Moncton.

Naomi Robinson, the CBC branch president at the Canadian Media Guild, said in a news release that her bargaining committee had expected budget cuts, but did not expect to see this level of job loss.

In addition to the layoffs, the public broadcaster said in its release that it would cut $40-million in “independent production commissions and program acquisitions” from next year’s English and French programming budgets, resulting in fewer new series and fewer episodes of existing shows.

Defunding CBC would be ‘devastating’ to news in rural Canada, Catherine Tait testifies

Ms. Tait said during the staff meeting that the CBC would bear the brunt of the programming cuts, at $25-million, while Radio-Canada would lose $15-million.

The CBC and Radio-Canada said in the release that they began cutting an additional $25-million earlier this year in discretionary expenses, such as travel and sponsorships, and through “postponement of technology initiatives.”

Ms. Tait said the announced cuts were based on projections, and could change because of factors such as new legislation or changes in revenues.

Federal Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge told reporters the CBC and Radio-Canada were asked, like all federal ministries and agencies, to take part in a cost-cutting exercise. But she added that in the case of the public broadcaster no final funding decision had been made.

“My heart goes out to the employees that are facing uncertainty,” Ms. St-Onge said. “Like all the other media, CBC/Radio Canada is facing difficulties due to the media crisis and difficulties with their private revenues.”

Ms. St-Onge said it was necessary to “revise the CBC/Radio-Canada mission and mandate and make sure it fits the current situation,” and that she would work on this “as soon as possible.”

Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien told reporters Monday he was disappointed to see that cuts would affect French and English services in nearly equal measure, considering that Radio-Canada’s television offerings are much more popular than the CBC’s. He said he is afraid the cuts will mean the quality of news, especially in rural and remote areas, will suffer.

During Question Period, Mr. Therrien asked Ms. St-Onge when she had learned about the coming layoffs, and whether Ms. Tait’s mandate, which was extended for 18 months in the spring, was prolonged so that she could oversee the cuts.

Ms. St-Onge did not answer Mr. Therrien’s questions. She said the government needs “to do more to support the news and our public broadcaster.”

Last month, Ms. Tait told MPs on the Commons heritage committee that defunding the CBC would be devastating to its ability to meet its mandate to serve all Canadians, particularly rural communities.

In May, Pablo Rodriguez, who was heritage minister at the time, said he was looking for ways the federal government could boost funding to the CBC. His mandate letter from the Prime Minister says the goal of providing more public funding to the CBC and Radio-Canada is to eliminate advertising during news and other public-affairs shows.

Last week, the federal government and Google announced they had reached a deal, after months of fraught negotiations over the Online News Act. The tech giant has agreed to pay $100-million a year to Canadian news organizations.

Critics of the act, including Conservatives and members of the news industry, have warned that the CBC stands to gain the lion’s share of the fund, if the money is distributed based on the number of full-time journalists employed by each news organization.

In its 2023 fiscal year, the CBC’s television advertising revenues amounted to $288.6-million.

The CBC reported $515.5-million in revenues in its 2023 fiscal year, down nearly 21 per cent from the year before, when the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympic Games were held back to back, boosting revenues.

Its government funding totalled $1.27-billion in fiscal 2023, up slightly from $1.24-billion a year prior.

With reports from Robert Fife, Bill Curry and The Canadian Press

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