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The Globe and Mail

Federal budget pledges $675-million in CBC funding

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will get a $150-million boost to its bottom line after enduring years of deep cuts, as Tuesday's federal budget earmarked cash to help drive the public broadcaster's continuing shift to digital platforms.

A $675-million pledge by the Liberal government – which includes $75-million in new funds for the rest of this fiscal year followed by an extra $150-million annually through 2021 – is the anticipated centrepiece of an array of new cultural spending totalling nearly $1.9-billion over the next five years.

But the increased funding may come with strings attached. While Tuesday's budget promises the government is "reinvesting and re-engaging" with the public broadcaster to ensure its "long-term sustainability," it also requires that the CBC work with government "to develop a five-year accountability plan," the details of which are not yet clear.

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"We are humbled by this important support," Hubert Lacroix, the CBC's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The increase in the CBC's budget more than reverses a $115-million annual funding cut imposed by the previous Conservative government, which contributed to budget shortfalls at the CBC. Faced with a major revenue gap, the broadcaster cut 657 jobs in April of 2014, then returned two months later with a five-year plan to slash another 1,000 to 1,500 staff by 2020.

That same strategy envisioned a smaller broadcaster that would aim to sell some of the corporation's valuable real estate, scale back local evening newscasts and in-house documentary-making, and shift resources from television and radio to mobile-friendly digital content.

Now, the CBC is promising to "reinvest in key areas important to Canadians, and in new digital jobs," but will wait to give further details on its plans in the coming weeks.

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