cbc job cuts

CBC Culls Content and People

I've always wanted to work for the CBC. That is, until recently... because in the last few days comments from distressed employees, wondering if their jobs are safe, flooded Facebook and Twitter.

They found out on Thursday afternoon whether or not they still worked for the public broadcaster, after the CBC announced deep, sweeping cuts to news, drama and sports programming, and almost 400 jobs in English language services.

Goodbye award-winning Outfront and baseball games. We can also expect less investigative news, local programming and Canadian content. Hello reruns of Being Erica.

Hubert Lacroix, CBC's president and CEO, says the public broadcaster needs to cut 800 positions across Canada to make up for a $171 million shortfall. Lacroix unsuccessfully approached the federal government for bridge financing to help balance the CBC budget in a lagging economy.

"I'm distressed to hear that the solution to the funding crisis, which we all knew was coming anyway, is not more creative," said Janice Neil in a phone interview. Neil worked for the CBC and now teaches at the Ryerson School of Journalism since 2007.

Neil thinks the CBC is missing an opportunity to remodel itself. She says it's hard to maintain the publicly funded argument when CBC television competes with private broadcasters for advertising dollars and for American programming like Jeopardy!. Though Jeopardy! brings in needed cash, Neil likened it to wearing a cheap suit when you're use to fine Italian garb.

Relying on the federal government isn't working either. CBC is one of the most under-funded public broadcasters in the developed world. At a speaking event in February, Lacroix said the CBC receives about $35 per Canadian in a year. The BBC gets almost $140 per Brit. Maybe the CBC should look to other public broadcasting models that don't depend heavily on advertising or government handouts.

I'm a fan. My radio dial is stuck on 99.1 FM and I'm giving CBC television a chance after canceling my cable. Love it or hate it, it tries to narrate Canada, and to reflect us to ourselves. Saturation of American radio was one of the reasons the CBC was born 73 years ago.

Things haven't changed that much. And with regional closures of news media hit by plummeting advertising revenues, there are even fewer places that tell our stories.

Photo by Adam Finley

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