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The firing of former CBC sportscaster Chris Cuthbert has taken a nasty turn.

Elliott Kerr, Cuthbert's agent, said yesterday all efforts to reach a severance settlement with the CBC have proved unsuccessful and that the time had come to take legal action against the network.

"We've been told, at this point, that CBC Sports is not prepared to offer anything for compensation," Kerr said. "So we will take legal action."

The CBC fired Cuthbert, 47, in late February even though he was regarded as the network's best, most versatile sportscaster and the likely heir apparent to Bob Cole on Hockey Night in Canada.

Nancy Lee, the head of CBC Sports, terminated Cuthbert's contract, citing budget cuts caused by the cancellation of the National Hockey League season. Cuthbert, however, had offered to take a pay cut and even go on sabbatical to help ease the network's financial difficulties.

That he was let go prompted speculation of a personality conflict with Lee.

Whatever the reason, Kerr said there were still contractual matters that needed to be settled.

"CBC's position has been it has to reduce expenses. But there's a responsibility factor," Kerr said. "To treat someone like Chris, who has worked there 21 years and is recognized as one of the best sportscasters in the country, is this the new standard of conduct at CBC? They should be embarrassed."

CBC media-relations spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles said the CBC's decision to terminate Cuthbert's contract "was a difficult one" but insisted: "In doing so we respected all the terms and conditions of his contract with us. Chris was a valuable member of our team and in an ideal world he would still be here."

Kerr's response to the CBC's decision not to negotiate further was one of disbelief and disdain.

"It's like when I got the phone call [from CBC]saying Chris had been let go. I'm shocked. There's enormous disappointment and now it's turned into disgust for the lack of honour. It's beneath the dignity of the CBC. . . . Chris doesn't deserve this."

Cuthbert won a 1999 Gemini award for his calling of the 1998 Grey Cup game. He handled the rowing and canoe/kayak events at the Athens Summer Olympics and was selected the 2004 broadcaster of the year by Sports Media Canada. He was also scheduled to call the 2005 world figure skating championships in Moscow.