The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced Thursday that it is cutting another 244 jobs over the next six months to save $15-million annually, as part of its five-year plan to eliminate up to 1,500 positions by 2020.
The public broadcaster's English-language services will lose 140 to 150 positions from its local operations, including 37 in Alberta, 25 in British Columbia and 30 in Ontario, while the French-language operations will cut about 100 positions.
At the same time, CBC will add 80 new positions in digital news as it ramps up a shift toward mobile and digital platforms and away from its traditional radio and TV services.
According to accounts of a staff meeting held in Vancouver, the broadcaster's board insisted that no locations be closed and no radio programming be cancelled in the current round of cuts. In a memo, CBC's top news executive, Jennifer McGuire, told staff: "We will still have more than 1,100 people in 29 stations across the country, plus our service in the North."
Thursday's news follows a plan announced last December that will see CBC slash many local supper-hour TV newscasts across the country to 30 minutes.
In an interview following the announcement, Ms. McGuire, the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News and Centres, outlined how the broadcaster hopes to do what she called "more with less" by shifting its resources to where Canadians are increasingly getting their news and information.
"Right now, our local services really are a destination, supper-hour television presence; obviously our strength in local radio; and we have some web presence – but it's not updated to the degree that we want – and certainly mobile to the degree that we want, locally," she said. "In the new world, we'll have a mobile service that's active and hot 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We will have smaller shows, in the context of supper hours, but more local connection points through the day. So if you're sitting in Calgary during the floods or in Moncton during the shootings, we will be touching base with you in that community locally, in a different way than we are now, but more frequently. Less long, more frequently. And we're doing it for less money than we're doing what we're doing now."
The union representing CBC's English-language employees decried the move. "The continued deep cuts to Canada's main news organization is an attack on local news-gathering across the country, at the very time that the (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) has acknowledged its importance to all Canadians," Marc-Philippe Laurin, Canadian Media Guild president at CBC, said in a statement. "Survey after survey, before the CRTC and parliamentary committees, Canadians have been clear that local news is very important to them, and CBC plays a huge role in that. These cuts are a major blow to Canada's biggest, independent news organization."
In a recent Angus Reid Institute survey, 80 per cent of respondents said they had a favourable view of CBC. Thirty-one per cent said they tuned in to CBC-TV news and information at least once a day, while 17 per cent tuned in to CBC radio news and information at least once a day.